Last week we took a family vacation up to Terrace and Prince Rupert. I have never been to BC’s Pacific Northwest before, and besides exploring our provincial rivers, lakes and oceans – I also love visiting our breweries. So I took this as an occasion to visit BC’s 2 most northern breweries – Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse in Terrace & Wheelhouse Brewing Co. in Prince Rupert.
Both of these breweries are similar in age & share comparable northern struggles of shipping, packaging and entering a region, which is traditionally, large supporters of Labatts and Molson. Nevertheless both of these breweries are not only surviving, they are thriving.
Sherwood Mountain was my first stop, located perfectly next to downtown and the beautiful Skeena River. This “midsized small brewery” is crafting clean, crisp, straightforward beers. Darryl was nice enough to invite me over for a day so I could see personally how they brew their beer. Which is so cool because I have never worked on a system such as this before.
I was surprised to see how similar the process was to brewing at home. There is hot water, a mash tun, a kettle, fermenters … It’s just on a bigger scale. Also interesting to see how the brew schedules work around fermenting times, conditioning and the bottling schedules. Oh my – bottling, labeling and packaging all by hand. A true labour of love.
The next time you are in Terrace, you must stop in for a fresh beer on their patio.
Our second stop was at the ocean in Prince Rupert. For real. Wheelhouse Brewing is literally steps away from the ocean. And if you have been here before, you know what a special & unique space this is. It’s a beer cave / brewery / sliding puzzle / retail store all in one.
The brewmaster Craig has been a good friend of mine forever … and he definitely took me to beer school that day. From opening until close – I got to do everything. There was milling, mashing and moving fermenters. I even stacked kegs for the first time in 5 years.
I learned about double brewing and crashing techniques – as well as provincial beer legislations. Yes, the provincial laws, rules and red tape extend all the way to Rupert. And probably beyond. But nothing seems to stop this group from making some of the very best beer in the entire province.
Next time you go for the fishing – make sure you stay for the beer.
I will take away two souvenirs from this trip.
The 1st is everywhere I have travelled, from near to across the world, I always find a healthy beer culture. Young, old, male, female, traditional styles or new creative brews … Beer speaks to people from everywhere.
The other realization is that brewing beer is very similar to barbeque. Proper temperatures, regional ingredients and longstanding practices are used to create your flavour profiles and desired products. Plus there are many moving parts of the production phase which are all happening together, and separately, all at once. And that’s what most people do not get to see. 85% of the magic happens behind the scenes.
Thank you to the Sherwood Mountain team and the boys at Wheelhouse Brewing Co. for a wonderful adventure.