‘Hopping’ Valemount craft beer festival pours one for veterans

They came for the mountains, they stayed for the beer.

Or in this instance they may have came for the beer and stayed for the music. And the brisket. And the mountain biking.

More than 400 people descended onto the Valemount Airport for the community’s first annual Craft Beer Experience June 17. I

n one case, the descent was quite literal: Chris Blower and five friends flew the 2.5 hours from Edmonton in Blower’s 1965 Cessna directly to the festival site.

 

“We were excited to take in the festival and to explore town and what it has to offer,” Blower told the Rocky Mountain Goat.

Festival organizer Michael Lewis was pleased with the turnout. For him the event was an opportunity to show off his adopted home. The owner and head brewer of Three Ranges Brewing Company said Valemount is coming into its own thanks to a resurgence of young energy.

“You have 30 and 40-year-olds now taking interest and ownership in this town,” he said.

The vALEmount Craft Beer Experience featured a handful of B.C. breweries, a cidery and a winery, along with several food vendors. The event was organized block party-style; several bands entertained the crowds from the airport’s hanger and ancillary events over the weekend rounded out the schedule.

Joanne and Rick Chase, from Toronto, heard about the Craf

t Beer Experience while road-tripping in Wells Grey Park. After scrounging up tickets from a local scalper (the event had been sold out for a month), they were chasing a brisket sandwich from Clearwater’s Hop and Hog mobile food truck with a double IPA from Golden’s Whitetooth Brewery.

“The views are great, everyone we’ve met have been really welcoming and the beer is hitting the spot,” Rick said.

Throughout it all, Lewis reminded festival-goers that the true beneficiaries of the party were Canadian service veterans; the event’s chosen charities included Communities for Veterans and the Royal Canadian Legion.

Those who sign up for the military are signing up to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country, Lewis told the patrons.

“You’ve got to honour that sacrifice that they made and you have to figure out how we can help our veterans if they need it.”

Beyond patronizing the local Legion, Lewis said some of the ways people can support veterans include having conversations about helping service members transition back into civilian life and being aware of why people serve in the first place. Moreover, whether those veterans have seen action or not, there can be a suite of challenges beyond headline-grabbing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) issues. In general, Lewis believes veterans are misunderstood.

“A lot of people don’t understand that thought process, when they say ‘ok this is what I’m going to learn how to do so that I can defend the values of what I believe my country has established.’”

Now that the vALEmount Craft Beer Experience festival has been established, Lewis wants to make year two bigger and better.

“Next year we’ll have more people, more vendors,” he said. “I want people to realize what Valemount’s all about and I think as you grow that experience, the opportunity grows to widen that message.”

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