Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

The art of really good beer: Revelstoke brewery celebrates 25 years

Mt. Begbie Brewery owners Bart and Tracey Larson reflect on their company’s history

When Bart Larson was 16 years old, his dad bought a beer brewing book. The two decided to try a recipe for blacksmith’s beer. They brewed it in a large green garbage bin, not even using brewers yeast.

“It was horrible,” said Bart.

Bart continued to refine beer recipes during his studies at university on the nuclear spin transfer of helium 3. However, sometimes he would sneak away to Chicago to attend brewing classes.

Eventually, Bart had to make a decision. Either take a nuclear physicist job in New Mexico at Los Alamos, where the first atomic bomb was created or start a microbrewery in his home town of Revelstoke.

In the end, beer won.

Bart and Tracey Larson during their first year of operation in the mid-1990s. Within their first year, they produced the iconic Begbie Cream Ale, Tall Timber and High Country Kolsch. (Contributed)

Bart and his partner Tracey started Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. in 1996. The company is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“It’s all gone by really fast,” said Tracey.

READ MORE: ‘People didn’t know that beer had flavour’: 23 years of brewery success

When the company started, there were only a handful of other breweries in the province. Back then, Budweiser was the drink of choice. Now, there are 167 breweries in B.C.

Because the bank would not support such a risky venture, the two got funding through Community Futures. To save money, Bart built his own fermenting tanks and his mom painted the tap handles.

“We could barely pay ourselves,” said Tracey.

The first keg the brewery produced — which was the Begbie Cream Ale — went to the Regent Hotel. Although the owner said he really liked it, he asked if its flavour could be taken down a notch or two next time.

As people’s taste buds have vastly changed in 25 years, the Begbie Cream Ale is the company’s lowest hopped beer and considered one of the easiest to drink.

“It’s crushable,” Tracey said.

One Tracey’s proudest beers the company has brewed is the High Country Kolsch. She said Mt. Begbie Brewing was one of the first Canadian companies to produce that style — a light, star coloured beer with a clean, dry finish.

“At first people were scared of it. It had a troublesome German sounding name,” she said. “But we stuck with it.”

The beer has since won 10 trophies, including one at the World Beer Awards in 2017.

Tracey said if people want to judge a brewery, try their lightest beer as it’s hard to hide mistakes in it.

Over the years, the company has moved three times. It first opened on Victoria Street, where Judy Designs in now located. A few years later it moved to the building that now houses Bighorn Auto. Lastly, it moved to a larger facility in 2016 near the Hill Crest Hotel in Johnson Heights.

READ MORE: Inside Mount Begbie Brewing’s new brewery

While the company produces cans of beer for distribution across B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan, a significant portion of their revenue is draft beer for restaurants and pubs — a sector that has been severely hammered by COVID-19.

“We’ve had quite significant losses. It’s hard for us to pivot,” Tracey said.

COVID-19 is the longest and must uncertain challenge the company has faced.

“It’s hard to plan for the future. Do we hire or lay people off?” asked Bart.

Regardless, the company plans to release an anniversary beer this month with part of the proceeds going to charity. Other coming changes this year include a new modernized logo and no more plastic rings for six packs of beer.

“We strive to be better, not bigger,” said Bart.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC Craft beerBusiness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Bart and Tracey Larson enjoying a Begbie Cream Ale. The couple have been together for 40 years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)

Bart and Tracey Larson enjoying a Begbie Cream Ale. The couple have been together for 40 years. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)

Just Posted

In a special ceremony, former Armstrong Elementary School teacher of 41 years, Helen Sidney, centre, donates $100,000 to the school. (SD83)
Retired Armstrong teacher continues tradition of supporting students with $100K donation

Helen Sidney, who taught at AES for 41 years, made an incredible donation ahead of the school’s centennial

(Black Press file photo)
Detour ahead for Vernon’s 18th Street

The week-long detour in the Crescent Park area will be in effect starting Monday, May 10

Lake Country firefighters assisted the RCMP on Kalamalka Lake Tuesday, May 4. (Fire Department file photo)
Lake Country RCMP interrupt houseboat break-in

Pair in their 30s arrested but no charges laid after alleged Kalamalka Lake incident

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

The Allan Brooks Nature Centre in Vernon will hold a two-day plant sale fundraiser, run completely by the centre’s volunteers, Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16. (ABNC photo)
Vernon nature centre pots plant sale fundraiser

Two-day event by the Allan Brooks Nature Centre runs Saturday and Sunday, May 15 and 16

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The Primary Urgent Care Centre on Martin Street officially opened on March 31, 2021. (Brennan Phillips)
Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District reverses funding decision on care centre

Approval now granted to fund $1 million for Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Penticton

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
New temporary outdoor shelter in Kelowna opens

The new area on Richter Street and Weddell Place replaces the Baillie Avenue site

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read