Trying a beer on the Okanagan Ale Trail. Darren Hull photo

Trying a beer on the Okanagan Ale Trail. Darren Hull photo

Travel down the Okanagan Ale Trail

The best of of brewers, breweries and craft beer in the Valley

  • Sep. 18, 2018 10:30 a.m.

-Story Darcy Nybo

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

A few decades ago, tree fruits were the hallmark of the Okanagan. But times changed and many of the orchards became vineyards. With that came the wineries, tasting rooms and winery restaurants. But now it’s time for craft breweries to bloom, and they’ve become popular throughout the Okanagan — many of them producing award-winning beers and offering delicious dishes.

Part of the burgeoning industry can be attributed to access to fresh, local ingredients like hops, which grow near orchards and vineyards throughout the Okanagan. Square One Hops in Naramata has a selection of over a dozen types; and south of Vernon in Coldstream, is hop grower Hopanagan Farms.

The demand for craft beer has grown so much that beer touring has become a popular activity. BC Ale Trail (bcaletrail.ca) has 15 designated ale trails including one for Penticton and one for Kelowna. The way things are growing, there may soon be a Vernon ale trail as well.

In the South Okanagan, Oliver’s Firehall Brewery is a meeting place for locals and visitors alike. In Penticton, the Bad Tattoo distinguishes itself with its funky take on pizza. The Barley Mill Brew Pub and Tin Whistle Brewing Company have been creating great beers for over 20 years. Add to them two new contenders: Hwy. 97 Brewery in Penticton and Detonate in Summerland.

At Cannery Brewing on the Okanagan Ale Trail. Darren Hull photography

Cannery Brewing started in Penticton back in 2001. It has since moved to a new location with a large, family-friendly interior called the Tap Room, and a dog-friendly outdoor patio. On nice days, sit outside. When the weather turns, head indoors, play cards or board games or try out the billiards table. There’s even a piano. The brewery offers tours on Mondays and Fridays, and has a delicious assortment of “nibblies” to go with your beer.

While there, we sampled at least 10 of their house-brewed delights.

My favourites were the Radler, Wildfire IPA, Blackberry Porter and Apricot Wheat Ale. The Radler is made with Lakeboat Lager and pink grapefruit juice, and part of the proceeds of all sales goes to a restoration project involving the SS Sicamous.

The Wildfire IPA was created as a tribute to firefighters and emergency services workers, and a portion of the proceeds goes to the Canadian Fallen Firefights Foundation.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Thornless Blackberry Porter flavourful and easy to drink. This complex brew is made with three hop varieties and five specialty malts, plus natural blackberries. Another favourite was the Apricot Wheat Ale. Slightly hazy with a hint of apricot, this a true Okanagan beer.

Then there is the food. A cheese-and-meat board with nuts makes a perfect sharing plate. This local collection of delectable bites comes with cheeses, dried apples, focaccia bread, house-made pickles, beer mustard, house-made salsa and an assortment of charcuterie, including a tasty duck confit. The Santa Fe Veggie Nachos are well known in Penticton, and people come here specifically for them. Or try the pretzel bombs: they’re crunchy on the outside and fluffy with gooey cheddar cheese inside. Dip them into the Dijon mayo for a true Cannery experience.

At Cannery Brewing on the Okanagan Ale Trail. Darren Hull photography

The Central Okanagan has a charming variety of craft breweries. The most well-known is Tree Brewing, established in 1996. It has since branched out and created the Beer Institute where people can enjoy handcrafted spent grain pizza and other creations with their beer.

There’s also Freddy’s Brew Pub, which is connected to a family-friendly bowling alley.

Many of Kelowna’s craft breweries are brand new. Kettle River Brewing and Boundary Brewing Company both started in 2016, while Red Bird Brewing opened in 2017.

One of the newer craft breweries (2015) is BNA Brewing Company in Kelowna’s cultural district. Choose from the tasting room or the spacious-yet-cosy restaurant. Underfoot, braided rope between the floor boards helps prolong the life of the 100-year-old floors in this early 1900s building. Up the stairs sits an entire floor of family-friendly dining. Off to the side is an indoor bocce ball court.

Back downstairs, we tasted an interesting flight of beer that included Märzen Amber Lager, Earl Pale Ale and the Check Your Head Stout. The Märzen was smooth, not too bitter and light in colour with a nicely balanced carbonation. The Earl Pale Ale is a West-Coast-style pale ale steeped with cold-infused Earl Grey tea. We could smell and taste the Earl Grey right out front. It was a nice, smooth beer with a good dose of hoppy flavour. The Check Your Head Stout was easy drinking with a mild, acidic finish. The vast difference in the beers at BNA is a true testament to the company’s imagination and willingness to try different things.

The food here is delicious. The chef makes a Steamed Pork Bun that looks like a taco and tastes like heaven. Smoked porchetta, pickled cucumber, mustard seed mayo and hot hoisin sauce make this a must-try. The fried cauliflower dish is a vegetarian’s dream, featuring cauliflower with red lentil dahl, cashew and coconut sauce with green apple on a hand-rolled roti. The Jerk Chicken is mighty tasty too. Chico bread, cucumber yogurt, jerk mayo and charred onion combine in this flavourful treat.

There’s only one craft brewery in the North Okanagan, and Marten Brew Pub is a true labour of love. Owners Stephan and Pearl Marten built this place from the ground up. Pearl handcrafted all the large, metal pendant chandeliers and distressed all the chairs. This is a large brew pub with booths, tables and a mezzanine that holds over 150 people.

There’s always something new on tap at Marten Brewing. It has a year-round, authentic Hefeweizen that is delicious. Word to the Weizen has a golden hue with traces of clove and pineapple flavours. It’s light, refreshing and very low on the bitter scale. Lunkhead Lager also has a beautiful golden colour with a revitalizing aroma of hops. Slightly creamy, it’s smooth with a great finish. Locals love the Rough and Dirty Red Ale. It’s well-balanced with a blast of hoppy flavour near the finish. My favourite is the Cookie Monster Stout. This black stout is toasty, chocolaty and smooth all the way through.

There’s a huge menu to choose from at Marten Brewing. They served a house-made potato chip from fresh cut potatoes, and provided a house-made onion dip to go with it. For those who like food a little on the spicy side, the MCB Calamari with red onions and cucumber raita is a great choice. Craving veggies? Try the Thai Me Up salad with chicken: Thai noodles, cucumber, carrot, bean sprouts, scallions and lots of mixed greens served up with a Thai peanut dressing.

There are about 15 craft breweries in the Okanagan with more slated to open in the years to come. Have an adventure and discover your favourite craft breweries on the Okanagan Ale Trail.

AleAle trailBC Craft beerBeerBrewerBrewerybrewingCraft beerKelownaOkanaganOliverPentictontravelVernon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey School District building. (File photo)
‘We’re in a financial lockdown’: Surrey school district working with $40M budget deficit

District, board points to lack of immigration for new student enrolment

Surrey-raised Tetsuro Shigematsu wrote and stars in “1 Hour Photo,” a Vancouver Asian Canadian Theatre’s production to be presented online by Surrey Civic Theatres on April 23-24. (submitted photo/Raymond Shum)
‘This Japanese kid who grew up in Whalley’ thrilled to return with acclaimed ‘1 Hour Photo’

City’s Digital Stage to show Tetsuro Shigematsu’s solo portrait of Mas Yamamoto

Steve Serbic, assistant chief of operations for the Surrey Fire Service, has written a book, “The Unbroken” delving into his struggles with post-traumatic stress. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey firefighter writes book to ‘be part of the change’ in stigma around post-traumatic stress

‘The Unbroken’ details Steve Serbic’s childhood, career and journey dealing with mental health issues

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Surrey dock results in $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Fish processing workers fillet farm-raised salmon in Surrey B.C. Photo courtesy BCSFA
Discovery Islands salmon farm removal impacts jobs in B.C.’s Lower Mainland: report

The City of Surrey is the hub of the salmon farming industry in Metro Vancouver

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
VIDEO: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Most Read