Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. is featured in the Winter 2011 issue of the Revelstoke View, a new quarterly arts, entertainment and lifestyles feature available for free at shops, restaurants and public places in Revelstoke
My goal was to uncover the grand unified theory of beer and physics.
Bart Larson, brewmaster at Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie Brewing Co., is well-known locally for holding a PhD in nuclear physics. Did this knowledge of the very nuclear structure of beer guide the brewery to wins at major brewing awards, including their best English India Pale Ale at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards for their Nasty Habit IPA? Was it the secret behind their silver at the same contest in the Kölsch section for their High Country Kölsch?
I sat with Larson at the tasting bar in their First St. West brewery, questioning him on his career in physics, and its relation to beer. He studied at UBC and SFU in the Lower Mainland, experimenting at the TRIUMF lab. He shot lasers at pressurized helium targets. He eventually took his experiments to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico – most famously home of the Manhattan Project. His forte was experimentation and technology. Larson tells me of a time they made pressurized vessels for gas out of glass about 0.1 millimetre thick. “I miss that part of the work, really,” he says. Soon the decision was upon him; move down south permanently or choose a life closer to home. A “B.C. boy,” Bart chose to come back to Revelstoke, founding Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. with wife Tracey in 1996.
He continues to be a hands-on technologist, rolling up his sleeves to solve technical challenges in the brewery. A firm grasp of chemistry also guides his decisions, he says.
Over 15 years, the brewery has won its share of awards, and has also grown and developed into a local institution. Their line this winter (pictured above from left) includes: 1. Their original signature Mt. Begbie Cream Ale, a golden ale with delicate, fruity flavour and a hint of honey. 2. The Powerhouse Pale Ale, a traditional full-flavoured pale ale driven by a big helping of lightly-roasted malt, with a caramel hint. 3. The Tall Timber Ale, their most popular brew. This moderately-hoppy, full-bodied English Brown Ale brings caramel undertones and some residual sweetness. 4. The Nasty Habit IPA features a blend of rich specialty malts and a hoppy profile that brought home the first place at the 2010 Canadian Brewing Awards. 5. The winter seasonal Bob’s your Dunkel is a dunkelweizen, an unfiltered wheat beer packed with chocolate and Munich malts. 6. The High Country Kölsch is a light, mildly-hopped beer originating in Köln, Germany, using Kölschbier yeast. Mt. Begbie has won several awards for this delicate and drinkable beer.
So, does an intimate knowledge of physics drive Begbie’s award-winning brews? Not really, says Larson, but: “It sure helps.” What’s really behind it is a lifetime of beer appreciation. While the other teenagers were downing Lucky Lager, Larson was acquainting his palette to a range of Belgian-style beers. Before there were U-brews, he was experimenting with home brewing “since I was allowed to,” he says.
So, no grand unified theory of beer and physics, but it’s assuring to know that many of us beer drinkers have chosen the faster track to brewmaster status than studying physics.
Mt. Begbie Brewing Co. is located at 521 First St. West. They do scheduled tasting tours. Call 250-837-2756 for info.