Penticton-based writer Roslyne Buchanan explores local beer culture…
Could it be the outdoor lifestyle? Or because Penticton sits between two lakes? Or because produce grows so well here? Or because so many winemakers say it takes a lot of great beer to make great wine? No matter the why of it, Penticton is craft beer central.
Okanagan Fest of Ale
Since 1996, Penticton has been home to the Okanagan Fest of Ale – the largest and longest running festival celebrating beer and cider in the Okanagan. It’s a non-profit society managed by a volunteer board of directors, and net proceeds gifted back to qualifying registered charities within the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen has totaled $577,660 as of October 2016. Not bad for a little society that promotes the growing world of fine craft beers and ciders plus the products and tourism that supports that function.
Tin Whistle Brewing Company
Tin Whistle Brewing Company, founded in 1995, was the first micro-brewery in town. It was purchased by Lorraine Nagy in 1998 as a project that she thought would last about five years and take her into retirement. She’s still at it today and in fact, since her family has embraced it, the business is going ever stronger. Craft Beer Revolution author and self-proclaimed “Thirsty Writer” Joe Wiebe reported in his book, 2013, that since 2006, Tin Whistle had a 400 per cent increase in sales. Operating in a small space, Tin Whistle took the leap in 2015 when another local craft brewery outgrew its old location at the former Aylmer fruit and vegetable cannery facility, to snap up that space and expand.
Personal favourite: Harvest Honey Pale Ale
Barley Mill Brew Pub & Sports Bistro
Founded in 1998, Barley Mill Brew Pub & Bistro is a two-story Tudor-style building modeled after something you might find in the United Kingdom countryside. The focus is on food and gathering folks together to socialize. Along with the large restaurant, there’s the onsite Barley Mill Cold Beer and Wine Store and a tiny brewhouse upstairs. There’s a small selection of micro-brewed ales and lagers which are available on tap or you can buy cans of it in its beer store.
Personal favourite: Mustang Pale Ale
This brings us to Cannery Brewing. Ron and Patt Dyck, who had been running an iconic Naramata restaurant, The Country Squire, for nearly 23 years, were intrigued when their Chef Terry Schofer saw brewing equipment for sale. For Ron Dyck, particularly, it seemed an ideal way to stay in the culinary world while letting go of a restaurant that robbed far too much time from their young family. Their first batch, which is still popular today, was Naramata Nut Brown Ale brewed on April 1, 2001. While the ownership model has modified, the dedication to produce individually crafted complex and balanced natural beers using finest hops, grains and yeast strains. These craft beers that contain no preservatives and are not pasteurized have developed a cult following. It was its former facility into which Tin Whistle moved, while Cannery Brewing used the bones of another historic business to construct around it a beautiful new craft beer home. Closer to the core of downtown, fans and newcomers alike flock to enjoy the tasting room, patio and curated beer friendly cuisine. When you glimpse through the windows to the back and see the exponentially expanded beer-making area, it’s clear why all brew masters are smiling.
Personal favourite: Naramata Nut Brown Ale
Bad Tattoo Brewing
When Bad Tattoo Brewing opened its doors in 2014 as Penticton’s fourth brewery, it was done with a food primary liquor license. A glimpse at its Summerland’s Ripley Stainless tanks, impressive brewhouse equipment including a massive grain silo quickly dispenses any doubts whether Bad Tattoo is serious about its craft beer. The ownership has an impressive background in the restaurant business. With the connection to the Kettle Valley Station (KVS) Pub, the key players have always been known for their love of craft beer and an impressive broader beverage program. In Bad Tattoo, you’ll find a menu of wood-fired pizza, pretzels and a range of beer-centric cuisine to pair with its well-crafted beer.
Personal favourite: Los Muertos Cerveza Negra
Highway 97 Brewing
With Tin Whistle’s departure, its former landlord and building owner John Kapusty who had a healthy passion for craft beer together with family and brew master Andrew Anker decided it was time to renovate and establish their own micro-brewery. Established in 2015, Highway 97 Brewing opened its tasting room doors in 2017 with a small selection of beer made from locally grown hops. The name is a nod to the scenic highway 97 that meanders through the Okanagan Valley.
Personal favourite: Red IPA
CAMRA South Okanagan
The South Okanagan branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA SO is an independent, volunteer-run consumer organization dedicated to supporting the brewing of traditional styles of beer in the traditional manner, using traditional ingredients. If you love craft beer and cider, consider joining for the fellowship of likeminded individuals and the discounts that are part of the membership benefits.
Square One Hops Company
Former Saskatchewan farmers Brent and Kari Tarasoff joke on their website, “What happens when a Grower who loves craft beer, finds himself on an acreage in the middle of BC Wine Country? He doesn’t plant vines, he plants bines.” On a two-acre farm located on the Naramata Bench in Penticton, they are growing hops and providing them since 2016 to local breweries in the Okanagan with the mantra “Good Beer Begins in the Soil”. Learn more: Square One Hops.
The KVS Pub Beer Run
Bringing us back to the question of whether the outdoor lifestyle and beautiful location is at the heart of Penticton’s vibrant craft beer scene, it was inevitable that a race designed around beer was bound to happen. On June 3, 2017, the inaugural KVS Pub Beer Run with 100 per cent net proceeds being donated to a not for profit society that supports local youth – Youth Outdoor Recreation Society (Y.O.R.S) takes place.
Hosted by Hoodoo Adventures and sponsored by KVS Pub, the focus is local breweries rather than wineries. The 10km course, after participants are shuttled from the Penticton Information Centre/South Okanagan Events Centre, starts at Square One Hops and makes it way down the historic Kettle Valley Rail Trail heading south into Penticton where rewards await en route to the finale at the KVS Pub.
Enjoy Penticton’s delicious craft beer central as you drink responsibly and ensure you have a designated driver, or hire a local touring company to do the driving.