Craft beer in Kelowna

I’m happy to hear that one of my favourite summer drinks from last year is coming back to Kelowna’s Tree Brewing line-up this summer, the Grapefruit Radler. The popular drink at Biergartens in Germany, especially among the bicycling crowd, is also a summer crowd favourite in BC now. At the recent Great Okanagan Beer Festival held at Waterfront Park in Kelowna, several exhibitors were featuring a Radler or a fruit-infused beer at their tasting tents.

The development of a palate for unique beers started quite some time ago, pioneered by craft breweries like Tree Brewing, which has been a stronghold in Kelowna since 1996. We hear of additions to the craft beer scene throughout the Pacific Northwest all the time, and Kelowna is no exception.

You may have noticed a new sign on the old Kelowna cigar factory building, with the letters BNA. The building has been totally revitalized and is getting ready to enter its new chapter as a brewery and restaurant. It is set to open next month. In a nod to the building’s history as one of the biggest employers in Kelowna at the turn of the last century when it was the British North American Tobacco Co., owners Kyle Nixon and his family decided to keep the BNA acronym as the name of the new restaurant-brewery. This new addition to Kelowna’s food scene will include experimental craft beers, gastropub food offerings, and a Bocce course upstairs.

Tree Brewing’s new satellite location in the Cultural District, The Beer Institute, also offers patrons small-batch craft beer on the more experimental side. They funnel their beer directly from the tank to the tap at their bar, meaning that patrons get to taste unfiltered beer at its peak flavour. Their menu includes beer friendly noshes, like the spent grain flatbread pizzas and local cheese flights to go with your beer flight. The industrial-hip interior is part working-brewery, part bar, part learning facility.

Also creating small-batch beers and a solid food complement is Freddy’s Brewpub, a long-time Kelowna micro-brewery and restaurant next to our McCurdy’s Bowling Alley. Brewmaster Jack Clark makes a line-up of handcrafted beer that is offered by the pint, glass, flight, or growler. I’ve done a tour with Jack to see what he is making, and it is highly informative and enjoyable. My eye (and aim) for bowling, however, leaves much to be desired!

Several tap houses also offer a line-up of Pacific Northwest brews throughout the city. Some local favourites include Smack Dab (located inside the Manteo Resort), Mission Tap House, Train Station Pub, and The Curious Café. Each has its own unique atmosphere and beer program, so you’ll have to make your rounds and check out each one!

Recent articles on Kelowna’s growing craft beer scene have been published in Vancouver news outlets. Special thanks to Carolyn Ali at the Georgia Straight for her story on Kelowna’s craft beer offerings, and to Stephen Smysnuik of the Westender Vancouver newspaper and The Growler for helping to spread the news about what Vancouver-area beer lovers can find when traveling to Kelowna this summer.

On that note, I think I hear that Grapefruit Radler calling my name. Cheers!

Custom wine tours

I’ve been thinking lately about the range of fantastic wine touring companies we have in Kelowna. There is truly something luxurious about wine touring and not having to drive. Plus, you just know you’ll get added attention when you walk into a winery flanked by a tour guide who is a regular in the tasting rooms! There are several excellent companies in Kelowna you can choose from for a wine tour. Here are just some of different options available.


Van or bus wine tour companies

Last spring our staff went to see the wineries of the Scenic Sip Wine Trail in Lake Country with Experience Wine Tours. We all comfortably fit into the luxurious Mercedes bus, and our driver Matt, who is also a sommelier, gave us knowledgeable commentary along the way. Other companies you can check out who offer this type of transportation include Distinctly Kelowna Tours, Heart and Sol Tours, Okanagan Wine Country Tours, Club Wine Tours, Corks and Hops Tours, Classic Okanagan Tours, and others listed on our Tourism Kelowna website.


Vintage car wine tour companies 

For people who enjoy a comfy ride in a classic car, both Tours 59 Classic Car Tours, and Vintage Wine Tours offer custom experiences in their high character, high class rides from days gone by. Ladies, make sure you wear your head shawl and oversized sunglasses!


Sidecar Tours

Probably the inspiration for this article, we recently had Dorothy and Patrick from Custom Sidecar Tours drop in to the Kelowna Visitor Centre to take some of our visitor counsellors out for a spin. It was a beautiful sunny day, and Dorothy chatted animatedly about how sitting in the sidecar means that wildflowers and other beautiful details that could be missed in a bigger vehicle, truly become part of the experience. You can feel temperature changes in the air as you hit a new microclimate, or elevation change. The experience is exciting, tactile, and sensory. Plus, you get to drink wine!

Heli-wine tours

From close to the ground to way up in the air, this form of wine touring means that you get a serious perspective adjustment as you soar from winery to winery. Valhalla Helicopter Tours offers heli-wine tours all around the valley. See this previous Castanet column I did years ago on one of their pilots, and her take on heli-wine touring.


Cycle to winery tours 

Who can blame you if you think you’d rather work a bit for your wine? There is something undeniably romantic about cycling from winery to winery. Monashee Adventure Tours offers cycle to winery packages. I’ve been out with guide Ed Kruger from Monashee on a few occasions, and it is always such a fun time. Ed’s local history knowledge and appreciation for wine is just infectious!


I hope I’ve given you a few ideas of how to make the most of a wine touring experience in Kelowna with these ideas. Browse through our Tourism Kelowna wine pages and get inspired by the locations, vistas, tastes, and rides that you can enjoy. Happy wine trails this spring!

Beer festival bursts on scene

Do you love a good Stout? Lager? IPA? Craft beer has taken the Pacific Northwest by storm, and British Columbia can be proud of its variety and diversity of beer. That’s why Gibbons Hospitality Group, who brought us the Whistler Village Beer Festival, have set their sights on Kelowna this May for the inaugural Great Okanagan Beer Festival. The festival will run May 7 through 9 and will feature more than 40 breweries as exhibitors, and a mix of exclusive cask events, beer-themed menus at local restaurants, and a beer sampling main event pouring for an estimated 2,500 beer lovers on Saturday, May 9 in Waterfront Park.

There are currently 17 innovative events on the schedule, including the intimate and exclusive Barkerville Beer Dinner at The Curious Café Artistry and Alchemy Café and the Brewer Highlight Series at the Train Station Pub, Mission Tap House and Black Bear, Kelowna.

Proceeds from the main event will go to the event license holder, KBAAD (K-Billie Artistic & Athletic Development), a Kelowna based NPO whose mission is to support artist and athlete development with community based events and showcases. For more information and to buy tickets visit: gibbonsevents.com/great-okanagan-beer-festival.

Cheese please!

Perched on the hills of the Upper Mission neighborhood in Kelowna, overlooking the sparkling lake and the city of Kelowna at a not-too-far distance, you’ll find Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan. The experience of going to Carmelis offers a glimpse into farm life, and yet it is so close to town, just a little way past CedarCreek Estate Winery, winding from Lakeshore Road left onto Rim Rock Road and then right onto Timberline.

The spring is a very special time at Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan. It is the time when the mama goats welcome their kids into the world, and so right now you’ll find several babies scampering around the barn and property; a property where every square inch of wood has been nibbled on and rounded-out by the goats. Truly, it is all there for them to enjoy: the steep hillside with felled logs for them to play on, the troughs in the barn which many a goat will climb into like a canoe – they are characters to the max, and it is good for a belly-laugh or two just to watch them ham it up.

But the star attraction at this lively farm is the cheese that owners Ofri and Ofer Barmor make with the nutritious goats’ milk – almost 20 varieties of it! You’ll find simple fresh goat cheese, plain or seasoned with herbs de Provence or dill and onion; some soft ripened varieties (think Brie or Camembert); and even hard aged varieties. One of my personal faves is the Gruyere they make, which is an amazing flavour that is both mild and nutty. Another crowd favourite is the Goatgonzola, a creamy and mild blue cheese that really turns heads.

Since this farm is just at the end of one of Kelowna’s wine trails, the Lakeshore Wine Route (Tantalus, Summerhill Pyramid Winery, St. Hubertus Winery, and CedarCreek Estate Winery), it offers a perfect complement to wine tours: something perfect to pair with your wine purchases. But it can also comfortably stand on its own as a draw for people of all ages and interests, with its goofy goats, commanding vista, delicious cheese, and friendly staff and family.

Let’s not forget another star attraction here: the gelato! While there are just a few flavours in the spring for people to choose from (not that the choice is easy by any means – the flavours are all fantastic), there will be a full roster of 24 flavours in the summer, all made from the goats’ milk on site. A point of interest for Lactose intolerant readers: since the molecules of goats’ milk most closely resemble human milk, it is easily digestible and a tasty treat with no adverse effects for those with Lactose issues.

Carmelis is a must-visit for tourists in Kelowna, but also for residents who will be wowed by what is in our own backyard. And for anyone who loves watching the comedy act of baby goats doing their thing, this is a perfect time to treat yourself to a visit to Carmelis, right here in Kelowna.

More Ripe with Surprises articles

About the Author

Catherine is the Media Relations Manager for Tourism Kelowna and is dedicated to building Kelowna's intrigue as a travel destination through her work with the travel media. In her role she is fortunate to find out about Kelowna's many secret gems attractions, activities, and interesting people that are a surprise for travel media, tourists, and even for residents. This column gives her the chance to share with you the many things that make Kelowna unique and unforgettable so that you can glean ideas of places to visit or take guests when they come to town.

For more information visit Tourism Kelowna's blog at www.kelownasjuicytips.com.

[email protected]

or, on Twitter at:  @TKCatherine and @Tourism_Kelowna

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories