When Jared Tarswell and Richard Phillips decided to open a craft brewery in Kamloops, they felt it was an untapped market. But, after getting the ball rolling on planning and construction of Iron Road Brewing Corp., set to open in July, they realized the city is no stranger to a good brew.
“I underestimated how sophisticated the craft beer scene was here,” Tarswell said. “When we first came out, I didn’t think it was this sophisticated at all or developed.”
“People here like good beer,” Phillips added. “They know beer and they like good beer.”
Tarswell and Phillips secured the building permit for the Camosun Crescent brew pub about a month ago and construction is well underway, with brewing expected to start at the end of May.
One of their key milestones has been teaming up with head brewer Aaron MacInnis after posting the job on Pro Brewer and Beer Me B.C. MacInnis is coming from Main Street Brewing in Vancouver and bringing with him a wealth of knowledge of the craft beer market and a network of suppliers.
“Right away, we knew. We were always trying to get someone that was working currently in B.C., especially understanding the regulations behind alcohol production,” Phillips said.
“The craft beer scene, especially in B.C. is driven by collaboration — you’re in the same market but you’re kind of working together. So, he has a strong network of connections.”
Iron Road will offer three staple brands in the taproom and can sales year-round: a pilsner, a pale ale and an IPA. Cans were key, Phillips said — they’re easy to take mountain biking, golfing, boating and camping. The hope is to have them in liquor stores soon after the brewery opens.
Iron Road will also brew three additional beers that will rotate seasonally and at MacInnis’ discretion. Spitballing, Tarswell and Phillips have talked about maybe introducing a saison, a stout or a smokey porter and a red.
They’ll also have a small menu of classic pub fare. The lounge will have a pool table and a couple TVs behind the bar for big events, like the Superbowl. But, the focus will be beer.
“We want to serve beer that the locals here are really going to enjoy,” Phillips said. “Our taproom, we’re going to have a lot of wood and metal and some railroad relics in there and it will be a really good atmosphere.”
When it opens its doors, Iron Road will be Kamloops’ third craft brewery, growing the culture that has been fostered by Red Collar and the Noble Pig. Red Beard Cafe has also played a part, with 13 rotating taps of exclusively craft beer, even if they don’t brew any of their own.
The planning has been a process for the Vancouver geologists, who both wanted to return to the Interior but knew they would need to find a different line of work — their careers had formerly tied them to big cities.
“We were looking for something different,” Tarswell said. “We both love beer, especially craft beer. Being part of Vancouver and seeing the craft beer scene explode there and looking at it from the outside was awesome and that really sparked the idea.”
Response from locals has been extremely positive, even well ahead of grand opening. Red Collar brewmaster David Beardsell has been a great source of advice, even setting aside stash of hops.
“Kamloops seemed like an area — it’s a beer drinking town,” Phillips said.
The Iron Road co-owners say they are filling a gap in the market by bringing craft beer to the South Shore. They expect to attract a broad demographic from the light industrial businesses in the area, the residential apartments and the university. A goal is to work closely with the student union and campus clubs, in hopes Iron Road can be a meeting place and events hub for students.
“We’re hoping there’s a whole bunch of breweries that will open right behind us,” Phillips said. “The more that open, the better. If you’re an Iron Road drinker, you’re more likely to be an X-Y-Z drinker. Other markets have shown a city this size can support a lot of breweries.”