BC Ale Trail: The Best Craft-Beer Routes Around British Columbia
If you love beer, British Columbia has something for you. Introduced in 2016, the BC Craft Brewers Guild launched the BC Ale Trail which groups together notable breweries in seven regions for suggested road trips that pair craft brews with stunning local scenery.
“We intended it to be the most comprehensive resource for craft beer in BC,” said Joe Wiebe, who is the director of content for the website and the author of Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to BC Breweries. With input from the guild that represents the province’s craft brewers, the website has a searchable database of BC breweries and maps out seven self-guided brewery tours.
As any craft beer lover knows, sampling is more fun at the source. Visiting the breweries in person allows you to talk to the people who make the beer and get to know the community behind it. Plus, it’s an opportunity to try limited edition casks and beers on tap that never make it into a bottle or can.
For example, “if you want Cumberland beer, you’ve got to go to Cumberland,” says Wiebe of the funky community on Vancouver Island, just over an hour north of Nanaimo in the Comox Valley. Part of the experience of visiting this brewery is checking out the neighboring heritage buildings on the main street.
The former mining town with a population of 3,400 has recently been revitalized as young families relocate from cities like Vancouver to escape the high cost of living. It’s a good base for outdoor activities like mountain biking and snow sports at nearby Mount Washington Alpine Resort.
Cumberland Brewing is part of seven breweries on the Nanaimo-Comox Ale Trail. The BC Ale Trail website lays out self-guided tours that cover areas as diverse as the rugged Kootenay Rockies and suburban Port Moody, with options for walking, biking, or bringing the car.
The Port Moody Ale Trail is accessible by transit from Vancouver thanks to the SkyTrain Millennium Line Evergreen extension. “Port Moody has a street with four breweries on it in a three-block stretch,” Wiebe noted. “They have a really cool, dynamic beer scene, and they’re all working together.”
The Kootenay Rockies may have some lesser-known breweries, but the region is well worth a visit. “There’s this amazing combination of beautiful wilderness, history, interesting stories, and friendly people there,” Wiebe said. The guide maps out one Ale Trail for the Kootenay Rockies West, including Nelson Brewing Company and Rossland Beer Company. There’s another trail for the Kootenay Rockies East, including Revelstoke’s Mt Begbie Brewing and Fernie Brewing Co.
The remaining ale trails cover Whistler, the Sunshine Coast, and Victoria, where BC’s craft beer movement got its start. Links to accommodations and local attractions round things out, as well as tips on signature pours for each brewery and beer-themed festivals and events. More tours will be added in the future, expanding the reach around BC.
Wiebe believes BC beer can hold its own on the global craft-beer scene. “The bar keeps getting raised in terms of quality and variety of what’s produced. BC’s brewers are very proud of what they do,” he said. “There are beer meccas around the world like Munich, Portland, and Belgium, and we want to put BC on the map.”
Thirsty? Discover more about BC's best brews at the BC Ale Trail website.