Grapes & grains trail
Sep 30, 2013 / 5:00 am
In honour of the Hopscotch Festival having been this weekend, I am inspired to talk about Kelowna’s thriving beer & spirits scene for this week’s column. If you came out to Hopscotch, you’ll probably agree with me that the commitment and passion of the men and women in these industries is exhilarating.
Did you know that one of Kelowna’s 5 wine trails, the Downtown Grapes & Grains trail, is actually a great way to discover the beer and spirits scene as well? The trail features BC’s first commercial winery, as well as 2 distilleries and a microbrewery. Each tasting room on the trail offers sips that give you a great understanding of the small-batch, handcrafted, artisan worlds of these producers. Let’s get a quick overview of the Grapes & Grains trail.
Start with Calona Wines at 1125 Richter St – this is, after all, BC’s first commercial winery and kick-started our thriving BC wine industry, so it’s a worthy starting point for our tour. This urban winery opened its doors in 1932, and the personalities that drove its early days are an interesting bunch! Be sure to ask about the history as you taste through their impressive wine portfolio, overseen by iconic winemaker Howard Soon.
Then make your way to Tree Brewing, right next door. Brewmaster Stefan Buhl is behind the artisan beers that range from the light and sessionable Groove Ale to their rich Raspberry Porter or hoppy HopHead IPA. Until I’d done the tasting at Tree Brewing, I never really considered the vast array of flavours and textures in beer. It’s definitely an exciting and fascinating stop. They even make a crisp and refreshing Cider called Dukes Cider, made from Kelowna apples – yum!
From Tree, continue on down Bay Ave. to Urban Distilleries, where owner and distiller Mike Urban is crafting some flavourful and unique spirits. His Okanagan Gin is one of my favourites with its subtle green apple and lavender flavours (his nod to some classic Kelowna crops!) I also really enjoy his espresso-infused vodka using Cherry Hill coffee in his infusing process. Scotch drinkers will enjoy the Spirit Bear Scotch, where a small barrel stave is actually put right inside the bottle for you to decide how “toasted” you like your single malt.
A short drive from this semi-Industrial area of Kelowna will take you right to the downtown core, at the end of Bernard Ave. close to the Sails Fountain. There you’ll find Okanagan Spirits’ hip tasting room, with their cool recycled-glass countertop, reclaimed hardwood flooring, and low-profile flight fixtures (oh, except for that beautiful chandelier that I covet – one of these days I will have to write about all the envy-worthy chandeliers in this city… Waterfront Wines, I’m talking to you).
The line of spirits at this distillery literally has something for everyone’s tastes. Their portfolio has over 25 different types of alcohol made from 100% BC fruit and grain. They have more awards than you can shake a martini at, so you’ll just have to ask them about all their distinctions, national and international.
And that, my friends, is the Kelowna Downtown Grapes & Grains trail. With the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival around the corner, you’ll have 1 wine trail down… 4 more to go (you can pick up a Wine Trails brochure at our Visitor Centre and many Kelowna locations). The Hopscotch Festival may be done for another year, but there are still ways for you to get to know Kelowna’s awesome microbrews and spirits. Even if you head to one of our Tap Houses, like Smack Dab (at the Manteo Resort), Mission Tap House, Train Station Pub, or the new Micro Bar Bites on Water Street (RauDZ’s little bro), and get the low-down from the locale’s barman or woman, you’ll learn a great deal about these burgeoning local offerings.
Read more Ripe with Surprises articles
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- A time for reflection Nov 11
- Corn mazes delight in Kelowna Oct 28
- Harvest fair coming soon Oct 14
- Grapes & grains trail Sep 30
- Kelowna alive with theatre this month Sep 16
- From Kelowna farms to your table Sep 2
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