Consumed by conversation, I don’t immediately notice that we’ve taken a turn off the main highway and onto an unmarked dirt road. Normally this type of detour — in a van driven by a stranger with a storied past — would conjure up feelings of uneasiness, but there’s something alluring about the mystery that awaits us at the end of the road.
The riveting ride is part of the new Flights to Flights Ale & Air Tours, offered by B.C.’s Sunshine Coast Art Tours and Sunshine Coast Air, and with Douglas Bevans behind the wheel, the conversation is as charming as the hidden spots found along the way.
As he drives, Bevans shares stories of Sechelt, B.C., gateway to the province’s Sunshine Coast, and the origins of the Coast Salish People. He sprinkles in tales from his past as a member of a popular punk metal fusion band, to boot. A true artist in all forms, Bevans is modest about his accomplishments, his works having received international recognition.
Intrigued, I intend to ask more, but as the dirt road opens up to reveal a stunning West Coast style home, I realize we’ve arrived at our destination — Bruinwood Estate Distillery — and I’m awestruck by the structure that stands before us. We walk up a sloped grass hill, framed by sky-high trees and patches of towering sunflowers, and an airy craftsman-style timber frame home presents itself, perched above a cluster of natural boulders.
There, we’re welcomed by proprietor Jeff Barringer. As Barringer waves his hands dramatically and tells us of his past as a television producer, I’m distracted by the eclectic artwork that decorates the distillery’s walls. Barringer explains his production process, while his partner Danise pours samples for us to try. I have my eye on the Earl Grey gin, a curious concoction that blends flavours of bergamot and juniper to create a tempting tea-flavoured tipple.
Like painting, Barringer finds distilling to be an experimental artform, playing with unique flavours to create curious craft creations found nowhere else. I don’t leave without trying the Pechuga — a savoury Mexican liqueur made of chicken breast, mango, rice, corn, garlic and spices. Bruinwood is one of three stops on our sipping tour, and I’m smitten by both the crafts and the characters that I encounter throughout the day.
At The Bricker Cider Company, a quaint family run farmstead, I sample a trio of ciders all made on site. I affirm the Elderberry and Lavender cider as my chosen blend and nosh on a charcuterie lunch while taking in the scene. Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen, a new craft brewery found in the centre of Sechelt, wraps up the “ale” portion of my tour. Sipping on a chilled glass of Halfmoon Pale Ale my excitement grows for the next leg of our journey.
A 25-minute flight over Sechelt Inlet aboard a vintage float plane, with captain Josh Ramsay at the helm, completes the tour. As Ramsay flies over the powerful rapids of the Skookumchuck Narrows, and along the tropical-like coastline of the inlet, I realize that Ramsay is an artist in his own right too, presenting us with intriguing images as he soars through the skies of the southern Sunshine Coast.
Touring the culinary and coastal highlights of Sechelt on this local-led excursion, I’m reminded that exploring a new region is elevated when experienced through the eyes of a local, and this tour, led by the creative characters who call the coast home, definitely delivers.