When Kevin Winter moved out of his Pemberton condo a few years back to take over as head brewer for Mission Springs Brewing Company, he knew full well it wasn't going to be a permanent gig.
"I looked at my wife and said, 'in five years we're coming back and we're opening our own brewery in Pemberton," Winter said.
The timeline and location of Winter's passion project may not have fallen in place exactly as originally planned (he stayed just three years in Mission), but his Sea to Sky homecoming is now a reality with the anticipated opening of his own microbrewery in Function Junction this summer.
"We're a small community-based brewery built on family values," explained Winter of the vision for Coast Mountain Brewing. "Our overall goal is to provide beer for the locals here in Whistler."
A Whistler Brewing Company alumnus who worked his way up from "mopping the floors" to becoming head brewer, Winter has big plans in store for the community's suds lovers. With a production capacity of 170,000 litres a year, Winter plans to flex his craft brew muscles with an ever-changing and eclectic list of beers to go along with the three core taps that will be available year-round.
"I very much like to say you can't put a lid on it, meaning that we will brew all sorts of beers, whether it be an IPA, a smoked Hefeweizen, your regular pale ales, light lagers or a good session beer," Winter said. "We'll get into some interesting stuff with our dank ambers, our Belgian saisons. We have a decent-sized barrel-aging program where the focus is quasi-Belgian with interesting wood.
"There's some serious beer geekery in mind."
Plans for the 214-square-metre (roughly 2,300 sq. ft) Alpha Lake Road facility include a small tasting room and brewery lounge where patrons will be able to fill a growler from their favourite taps.
Winter also has his sights set on the local dining scene, with plans to offer Coast Mountain brews in up to 30 resort restaurants and pubs, as well as farmers markets in the region. He also wants to work with other breweries, shops and distilleries to concoct one-off seasonal recipes to keep "the passion of brewing exploration alive and well right under our tasty tent."
In a region that is already home to a seemingly endless supply of excellent homegrown craft beers (not to mention Whistler Brewing just a few blocks away), opening your own brewery might seem like a daunting endeavour. But Winter doesn't view it that way.
"In our industry, we see that as a positive. We're going to increase the culture of craft brewing, offering another reason to visit Function Junction," he said. "We look to collaborate with other breweries, and we think the years the other local guys have had in the industry have indeed helped us open our doors, and we hope to repay the favour by suggesting to our customers that there are other great breweries around."
With roots in Whistler that stretch back decades, it's no wonder Winter wants to maintain a hyper-local focus. So, even though he's treading into uncharted waters with Coast Mountain, Winter sees it as a homecoming of sorts.
"My dad started land surveying here back in the '70s... We grew up here, I started skiing here when I was three years old, and this is home, this is where we want to raise our son Oscar.
"This is our opportunity to come home."
Coast Mountain Brewing is expected to open in June or July, Winter said.