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NICOLAS CUNIO: THE BREWER OF BARKERVILLE

Beer has long held an esteemed place in British Columbia’s Cariboo region. The original Barkerville Brewery was built by an Italian man by the name of Nicolas Cunio. Constructed in 1865, the brewery was located in an empty lot between Barkerville's drugstore and Masonic Hall. 

 

 

Cunio’s Triple X Ale amassed a number of prizes in the local fairs and, story goes, the beer gained its unique flavour and superior quality from natural spring water drawn from a nearby hill.

Mr. and Mrs. Nicolas Cunio of Barkerville

Mr. and Mrs. Nicolas Cunio  

But, on September 16, 1868, the town of Barkerville was reduced to a mass of smouldering ruins, with charred timber and heaps of rubbish replacing what was once the metropolis of the Cariboo. The first lick of flames appeared on the roof of the saloon near the centre of Barkerville a little after 2:30pm and, just one hour and twenty minutes later, the entire town was nearly burnt to the ground.

Although the city was immediately rebuilt, with 90 buildings reconstructed in just six weeks time, the original Barkerville brewery did not survive much longer: it burnt to the ground again in the 1880s. It has taken over a century for a Barkerville Brewery to once again rise from the ashes and stake its claim.

WHY QUESNEL?

Given its remote location and seasonal accessibility, building a brewery directly in the historic town of Barkerville was not feasible. However, the picturesque town of Quesnel, BC, just 80 km west and a popular stop on the Rocky Mountaineer rail route, provides the perfect spot to brew real Cariboo beer. Quesnel has long been the gateway to Barkerville and the Bowron Lake Provincial Park. Located at the junction of the Quesnel and Fraser rivers in central British Columbia, Quesnel is a scenic 625 km drive from Vancouver. It takes its name from the Quesnel River, named by explorer Simon Fraser after Jules Maurice Quesnel, his companion on their 1808 expedition down the Fraser River. Originally a summer fishing camp of the Carrier people, non-native settlement of the area began in 1860 as a launching pad to the Cariboo goldfields to the east.

 

185 Davie Street in 1959

 The brewery building at 185 Davie Street has seen many incarnations over the years: gas station, car dealership, night club (aptly named “Hooligan’s”), pool hall, and hostel for 40 tree planters during the summer planting season. Today, Barkerville Brewing Co. has made it home.

 

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