Kelowna’s craft beer scene began 24 years ago with the debut of Tree Brewing Company. Growth in brewery numbers remained quiet until five years ago, when breweries began popping up all over the city. Now with 15 breweries and counting, it has become a true beer destination.
From the first time I read about Susi Foerg back in 2017, I was I intrigued! The owner and operator of the now one-year old Rustic Reel Brewing Co. seemed different, as did her approach to opening a brewery. It was a woman’s approach.
Susi certainly comes across as a strong woman who has carefully thought out and planned her operation and will take on as many roles as needed to make her brewery succeed. I have yet to meet her, but until I get that chance, here is my virtual meetup with Susi Foerg.
HOW MUCH OF “YOU” IS IN RUSTIC REEL?
Everything about Rustic Reel is me. When you look around our space, the comfortable, old-school vibe, with the little feminine touches were all put together and chosen by my designer, Tara Reavie, and myself.
WHY THE NAME?
The name is intended to remind you of fishing off the dock with your Dad or Grandpa; maybe they gave you their old rod and reel to use. In our Community Room, you’ll find a wall with photos of past fishing trips with family and friends. That nostalgic feeling is what I hope people feel when they come into our tasting room.
WHAT ROLE DID YOU PLAY IN THE CREATION OF RUSTIC REEL?
I got the idea of opening a brewery after visiting Persephone Brewing on the Sunshine Coast five years ago. I was in banking prior to this endeavour, and I’m not sure what possessed me to decide on this venture, but I did. I worked on putting together a business plan for over a year, took online brewing courses, moved to Vancouver to work at a craft brewery, came back and designed the entire space with my interior designer, then physically worked on the site for the eight months that it took to put Rustic Reel together.
Since opening, I’ve spent countless hours in all areas of the business. I’ve worked in the tasting room behind the bar, running food, taking orders and filling growlers; I’ve worked in the kitchen dishwashing and cooking; and when my brewer went back to the US after COVID-19 hit, I spent three months handling all things brewery-related: brewing, cleaning, cellaring and kegging. I’m very happy and proud to say I have done every job in my business!
YOU APPEAR TO HAVE A FOCUS ON WOMEN, FROM EVENTS TO PROMOTIONS AND MERCH? IS THAT PLANNED?
It partly was, yes. Being in a very male-dominated industry, I was clear from the beginning on making sure that women felt welcome and comfortable in my space. I’m happy to say that with my designer’s help we definitely succeeded in creating that feel. This has allowed me to hold events that are focused on women.
Nothing against men! Love ‘em! But I have the opportunity to create awesome events in a space that’s usually deemed masculine, and it feels great!
WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM THE MANY OTHER BREWERIES IN KELOWNA?
Mmmmm, that’s a question I have a hard time answering; I don’t like to sound as if I’m bragging or think we’re better than anyone. I’ll say that we are much larger than our close neighbours, and a ‘lighter’ vibe that’s relaxed yet classy.
I like to suggest people just come visit and feel the difference; it is really cool. I don’t find that any two breweries are alike, and I love that!
HOW WERE YOU TRAINED?
I had originally planned on heading down to Chicago’s Seibel Institute for their brewing program, however I decided to take the online version instead and get some hands-on experience at a brewery in Vancouver. I had met one of the partners of Electric Bicycle Brewing back in 2017. When I was looking to get experience, they were in their final months before opening and needed someone to do odd jobs. I was that girl!
I was able to spend time with their brewer, be part of brew days, do some home brewing, and also learn about all that goes in to getting a brewery open! It was an amazing experience.
DO YOU FEEL RESPECTED IN YOUR PRESENT ROLE?
Yes. I feel respected by my staff because they have seen that I have done every job in the building and am never above doing any task. I’ve tried to make sure to create a space where my staff can share with me, approach me with issues, and ask me for help. I also generally don’t get mad about things. Screw-ups happen, move on.
FAVOURITE FEMALE IN THE INDUSTRY AND WHY?
Truthfully, I’m a loner. 😊 I don’t know anyone in the industry outside of the Kelowna circle and Electric Bicycle. I wasn’t in the industry prior to this, and I’ve kept my head down working since, so I haven’t had much time for socializing.
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE? GOALS FOR YOURSELF?
My biggest achievement is that I’m able to say that all of the beers currently on tap were brewed by me, and we get compliments on the beer all the time! I used the recipes we had in place, however it’s a huge accomplishment to have been able to supply my brewery with beer myself!
It was INCREDIBLY exhausting, especially since I was doing this both while we were shut down and after we had re-opened. I was running a business while also doing very physical work. I’m proud to say that I can handle anything life throws at me and still remain standing.
ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR WOMEN GETTING INTO THE INDUSTRY?
Don’t listen to any voice other than your own. Focus, head down, work hard, and believe in yourself!
Rustic Reel Brewing Co.
On The Scene
Taken during What’s Brewing’s visit to Kelowna in July 2020.