It reads like the script for the pilot of a hit television series.
Two professionals walk into a bar, while bemoaning their mutual frustration about the cost of living in the big city.
Over drinks they hatch a plan to abandon their established careers and open a craft brewery.
That’s the birth of Iron Road.
Jared Tarswell is proud to call himself Princeton “born and raised.”
He graduated from the local high school more than a decade ago, and headed off to university where he earned a degree in geology.
For seven years he worked as an exploration geologist in the Yukon during the field season, and in a Vancouver office for the balance of the year where he wrote reports and laid plans for future drilling. “Eventually everything was getting really expensive in Vancouver, and my wife and I wanted to start a family,” he said in an interview with The Spotlight.
“My business partner is also a geologist. We’d seen the craft beer explosion in Vancouver and we liked going to those breweries.”
On one fateful excursion “we were sitting in a craft brewery and over beers he said ‘man, we should open up a craft brewery. I was like, ‘yeah, that would be a good idea’…We quit our jobs and started building Iron Road.”
Reactions to this life changing decision were mixed.
Tarswell chuckled as he described his parents as “supportive, but definitely cautious.”
The pair’s colleagues “were super supportive. Most of our investors came from our firm, our bosses and stuff. It was more like ‘hey man, that sucks that you are leaving, but how do we get in on it?’”
They also said: “We didn’t realize you knew anything about beer.”
And really, they didn’t.
“Neither of us was in the brewing industry, so we didn’t really understand how to do everything.”
Tarswell took craft brewing courses at SFU and the partners researched, toured dozens of breweries and hired a consultant.
They leased and overhauled an 8,000 square feet warehouse in Kamloops, creating a 60-seat tap room and bar to front the brew operation.
“It took us a really long time to hire our brewmaster. We didn’t hire him for about the first seven months…We didn’t expect him to be so hard to find.”
What exactly is craft beer?
Technically it is beer made in small batches, but the designation also denotes “original, artisanal type of beer of a much higher quality,” said Tarswell.
“It’s obvious we start with all the best ingredients. Our malts are from all over the world…and then the hops are the same.”
The other three ingredients are water, yeast and time.
“In four to six weeks you have beer.”
By way of commercial comparison “you read a can of Budweiser and it has rice as one of their ingredients.”
Iron Road Brewery opened August 1, 2017 and employs 30 people.
The company’s flagship products are Locomotive Lager, Red Bridge Pale Ale and Loop Line IPA. All of the beers are named for a railroad theme.
“Beyond that we have seasonal products and one-offs, so 15 to 16 different beers.”
In a few short months Iron Road has made a splash in the craft beer market. Most of the Kamloops liquor stores carry Iron Road, and at least 25 restaurants there include it on the menu.
Princeton’s BC Liquor Store also features Iron Road, and it is sold in Chase and Salmon Arm.
The future is about expansion, said Tarswell, and good taste.
“It’s totally spoiled me. I can barely drink Budweiser or Canadian anymore. After you acquire a taste for really high quality beer it’s hard to go back.
“But that’s okay, because we have a lot of it.”