In the summer of 2016, What’s Brewing (in the form of editor Dave Smith and wife Ivana, aka the BeerSeekers) embarked on a massive tour of the BC Okanagan & Interior craft beer and cider scene. This resulting report on where to go in the Thompson Okanagan and Shushwap is part of our Staycation BC 2016 series. See Part I: South Okanagan
The case for #yeastbank
No, there’s not a yeast repository here. We, and BNA Brewing, marketing manager Jill Jarrett, thought that the growing Kelowna scene might be in need of its own nickname. Being that the clustering in Kelowna is on the East side of Okanagan Lake, it was suggested that their scene be tagged “Yeast Bank” (the side opposite from Westbank, right?).
That “brewpiphany” was just another fun memory from our full-of-surprises trip to the Interior’s largest, and Canada’s fastest-growing, metropolitan area. Now let’s continue your trip.
Profiles include narrative only. For locations, contact info, hours & details see whatsbrewing.ca/map
Where to Stay: Prestige Beach House
So you’re freshly arrived from your trip through Summerland and Peachland (is everything in the Okanagan named with this type of deadpan self-awareness? I’m looking on my map for “Wineland”). Check into the massively-renovated Prestige Beach House, not too long of a hike from our destinations. Also, the restaurant can serve you a fabulous breakfast.
Now that you’re ready to set out on your day, let’s take a walk along the shoreline. Where shall we stop first? How about a place where we can have lunch along with the thirst-slaking beverages Kelowna’s great weather will necessitate.
Tree Brewing Beer Institute
The Tree Brewing Beer Institute opened two years ago on the beautiful, bustling boardwalk located along Kelowna’s Waterfront Park. OK, no, it’s not really an institute of any kind. Like Bad Tattoo, it’s a brewery with a lounge and a pizza oven, albeit more cozy in size.
Tree is Kelowna’s largest brewer by a long shot, but the BI is a standalone operation. Its brewhouse is run hands-on by Tree’s longtime brewmaster Dave Gokiert, who has been empowered with partial ownership and the license to experiment, as should be the case with such an asset.
Since we’re having lunch, let’s check their light menu, specializing in spent grain pizza. Also try the must-have house made beer salt chips (not greasy!). You can really enjoy a beer in the relaxed atmosphere of this great two-floor room and patio.
The first impression upon walking into BNA’s tiny taproom is that this is a small, quaint brewery. After a proper tour, you’ll come to realize that BNA is actually two operations: busy brewery, next door to a massive two-floor restaurant with its own entrance and opening hours. Thus, your tour will actually involve BNA twice: have dinner here on the way back later.
Sticking with the brewery side first, let’s talk about excellence. BNA opened c. 2015 in the former building of the British North American Tobacco Company (hence name), and is already expanding into a larger warehouse space. While they’ve made 23 different beers since they opened, packaging has just commenced; we got to see the hush-hush first round of product being bottled.
We’re storytellers, so it’s not our approach to list out beers in these pages. An exception has to be made for their flagship Earl Pale Ale [as in Earl Grey]. We tracked it down elsewhere in Kelowna because the lounge was tapped out. It was worth the effort; maybe not everybody’s cup of tea, but ‘life-altering’ was the phrase that came to mind for yours truly.
Tree Brewing (main brewery)
Walking from BNA, we now head toward Tree’s mothership, the original brewery. Aforementioned brewmaster Dave G is close to 20 years now with the company; perhaps if you’re organized and ask in advance, he or somebody will show you around.
Here you’ll find a 10-tap tasting room that serves a few of Tree’s regular line-up. This is a true “tasting room” in the sense of “try it and buy it” product sales. That’s not a knock; the laws didn’t allow for lounges when the classic breweries of BC’s Interior towns sprang up (they’re still adjusting; see our Kootenays section for more examples). Tree has done a great job of addressing the New Wave of craft with their BI.
Anyway, you’re here to see the massive brewhouse, which originally lived at Shaftebury in Delta. The immense tanks will present a sharp contrast with those at your next destination.
Kettle River Brewing
Right next door to the largest craft brewery in the region is the tiniest. Suffice to say that the brewhouse at Kettle River will remind you of your favourite stovetop homebrewer. As it happens, the local homebrew club was meeting here the evening we arrived; a perfect fit, we would say.
Don’t underestimate KR based on their size; their ambition to experiment is astounding. When we visited, these young madmen had brewed 93 unique recipes since opening, which was an average of one per day, one batch each.
Note: KR is currently only open Fridays to Sundays.
Boundary Brewing Co.
Smaller yet than Kettle River is Oliver Glaser’s brewing project, which is waiting for a home. Originally planned for and named after the border-straddling Greenwood area, Boundary is starting up with a 3 hl system. You may be able to find Oliver’s beer on tap when you arrive in town.
Don’t forget the cider
Marten Brewing Co
Don’t make the mistake of visiting the Okanagan and skipping home after stopping at only Penticton and Kelowna. We almost did. Thanks to Kim Lawton we made the trip to Vernon, and to say it was “worthwhile” just does not cut it.
Of all the surprises on this trip, the Marten Brewpub may have been the most shocking. Here in a small town is an urban brewery + restaurant with simply astounding planning and construction, resulting in a destination-level facility. There are few rooms in BC, at any level of cost and ownership, that could surpass what husband and wife team Stefan Marten and Pearl Scott have created. This couple has extensive hospitality experience, and it shows in the realization of their dream pub.
Stefan has worked with well-regarded brewmasters to shape Marten’s beer menu with a German theme. This is one of the few craft breweries at which yours truly would seek out a lager.
Salmon Arm & Sorrento
The Barley Station, aka Shushwap Lake Brewing Co, is a venerable brewpub with a good history of producing solid, well-regarded ales. Example: their Bushwacker Brown took a Gold Medal at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards.
We enjoyed a delicious meal, and owners Stu & Kathy Bradford gave us a nice tour of their smart, linear brewhouse.
Since you’re not reading this in our actual magazine, you could be forgiven for not realizing we’ve covered Crannóg and their farm, Left Fields, extensively in the Fall 2016 issue of What’s Brewing. Rather than provide a third spotlight in this issue, let us refer you to this story for a profile of this unique operation.
To book lodging right at the farm: visit “The Ark at Left Fields”, at airbnb.ca/rooms/12990978. Note that the brewery is only open Fridays & Saturdays.
Tess & Lara Beardsell welcome you
When we arrived at this well-appointed-but-seemingly-typical modern tasting lounge, we didn’t realize that we were stepping into the home of BC brewing royalty. Speaking to Annamarie Beardsell for a short time, it became evident that we had no idea how well regarded her husband was amongst veteran BC brewers. As we continued to tour the interior and heard the name ‘David Beardsell’ over and over again, it confirmed that this family operation (with daughters Lara and Tess, and now in memory of their red-collared dog Goose) came with an exceptional story.
David & Annamarie were behind the creation of legendary ’90s firm Bear Brewing and local Kamloops brewpub Noble Pig. It pains us to cut that story short here, but the extended version will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, they’ve got a great thing going with their ‘New Wave’ location.
Red Collar falls into the minority of small breweries whose core brews include nothing mainstream. Of the four main beers on the chalkboard (aside from seasonals), two were Belgian: a Tripel and a chocolaty Dubbel (dark and somehow befitting a guy still famous for Black Bear). Open Tuesdays to Sundays.
Red Collar has light fare but isn’t a full restaurant, so you’ll eventually want to move on and fill your belly. Set your mind on this excellent brewpub (no longer owned by the Beardsells),. Complete with tiny brewhouse and very drinkable beers.
For more Staycation BC advice, see: