Good Beer, Proper Pizza Puts Squamish’s Backcountry Brewing on the Map


I recently paid a couple of visits to Backcountry Brewing, a voluminous new brewery and restaurant on Commercial Way in Squamish. It was launched April 1st by a group of five beer enthusiasts, among them head brewer John Folinsbee and Ben Reeder, who – rather conveniently – also owns Maple Bay Hop Farm on Vancouver Island.

Co-owner Ben Reeder | photo: Michelle Sproule

Spread out across 7,000 sqft (with mezzanine office/meeting space), the operation is ramping up production from its 3,000 hectolitre start, offering memorable brews like Hot Laps Double IPA, Ridgerunner Pilsner and Trailbreaker Pale Ale, among several others. I guess they kind of have to since sales have been much higher than they had originally anticipated; Reeder told me sales were about 75% higher than hoped for — a nice problem to have.

Communal tables | photo: Michelle Sproule

The Sea-To-Sky town has definitely seen its population explode in recent years, and I’m sure it helps that a fair number of the newcomers are enthusiastic about beer. It’s certainly great to see the local community respond well to a big effort like Backcountry. Many of our Squamish friends have been raving about it since its Spring launch. One of Scout’s writers, Shaun Layton — a recent Squamish import, pulls the occasional moonlighting shift here. The 2010 Bartender of the Year pulling pints!

Counter service area and bar | photo: Michelle Sproule

While I trust its popularity is overwhelmingly on account of the good beer and proper Neapolitan-style pizza, design also plays a big role here. Lending a large production facility of any kind some mentionable character is no small task and I think local designer Tanja Nargang deftly threaded that particular needle with clever, on-brand trickery. A fine job indeed.

Tanja Nargang’s cabin-esque design | photo: Michelle Sproule

When you next find time to pay Backcountry a visit, try to imagine the daunting enormity of Tanja’s task of taking what is essentially a big, newly constructed box of concrete, drywall and siding best suited to an automotive accessory store specializing in roof racks and turning it into cozy, campy, borderline kitschy house of hoppy hospitality.  She did this with cedar shake shingles, big communal tables, lots of old family photos and the sorts of ornamental motifs and curiosities one might find in a typical Canadian cabin, circa 1975. (I want one of the table tops that incorporates a map under clear resin/epoxy!)

One of the map tables | photo: Michelle Sproule

Backcountry pours from 10 taps with a cider line and a guest line (Strathcona’s Cherry High on the day I was in). The menu is made up of several bar snacks (get the perfectly golden brown arancini balls) plus seven different pizzas. The two pies we tried were on par with the some of the best available in Vancouver (if there’s better pizza between Vancouver and Whistler, I don’t know it). Can’t make the trip just yet? Some of their brews can be found at Legacy, Brewery Creek and High Point liquor stores, and you can find a tap of theirs at The American on Main Street and one up at Hunter Gatherer in Whistler. Take a closer look inside…

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