Cannery Brewing has a compelling enthusiasm for the Penticton community and craft beer industry. As craft beer evangelists for 20 years, founding owners Patt and Ron Dyck brewed that same commitment into their family and staff. So much so, their son Ian and lead brewer Ross Thompson joined the ownership team, bringing a fresh generation of ideas to their initiatives.
The name Cannery Brewing pays homage to where its first beer was brewed back on April 1, 2001. The Naramata Nut Brown Ale was brewed at the old Aylmer fruit and vegetable cannery in the historic Cannery Trade Centre.
The Cannery Brewing Company was born in 2000 when the original Brew Master, Terry Schoffer, came across some brewing equipment and was able to convince Ron and Patt, “two like-minded and equally brewing-enamoured folks,” to share his dream. Ready to explore a different direction, the three of them were culinary mavericks operating the pilgrimage-worthy Country Squire Restaurant in Naramata for some 23 years.
You have to maintain a good sense of humour to run such a food and beverage establishment, so brewing the first batch of beer on April’s Fool Day was a great fit. Plus, practical jokes persist within the corporate culture despite how seriously the quality of brewing is taken. At the time, there were about as many breweries in all of BC that are in Penticton alone today.
They continued to operate the restaurant for a few more years as Cannery Brewing got some legs under it. Beer was brewed and sold in kegs for local restaurants, pubs, and clubs. Then, Cannery learned pigs do fly when they introduced 8.5 litre Party Pigs of beer that flew out the doors. (Alas, the Party Pigs have retired.)
In those early years, Ron hit the trail across the province in Skruffy the cube van with one-litre EZ cap Grolsch-style bottles – those old bottles in which many early craft beers debuted. The heavy load that resulted and Skruffy’s propensity to break down on major hills and every difficult stretch of highway gave way to Cannery’s decision to package in 650ml amber bottles. On the other hand, Ron never missed an opportunity to spread the gospel of Cannery’s brews, so those breakdowns often resulted in craft beer converts.
Tailgate tastings may or may not have introduced many to a fine quaff of ale!
Beers, Cans, Growlers, and Leadership Evolve
In 2006, Cannery brought canning back to the Aylmer cannery when the Anarchist Amber Ale rolled out in 355ml six-packs. Much to the delight of the team and customers, the Naramata Nut Brown Ale also hit the canning line in 2007. The micro-brewery was becoming increasingly known for its fine ales and lagers and never compromising flavour, “a result of wonderful combinations of premium quality malted grains, carefully chosen hops, and carefully selected and scrutinized ingredients.”
Growlers, too, became popular and flew out of the brewery faster than the Party Pigs.
Cannery was part of Ian’s life as he grew up. He was only 12 or 13 when he first accompanied Ron on those epic Skruffy road trips. After pursuing Business Management at Camosun College in Victoria and cutting his teeth selling for Peller Estates and a few other jobs, it’s not surprising he returned to Cannery and ultimately became an owner. Both Patt and Ian are known to have incredible palates that can distinguish subtle flavour profiles.
Ross grew up in the north and had been drinking Yukon Brewing Co. since high school, which is where he developed his preference for craft beer. He had travelled south with his then-girlfriend, now wife, AJ. When he went to the Naramata Pub, he naturally ordered a local craft beer: a pint of Naramata Nut Brown Ale. AJ was working at Kettle Valley Winery at the time and asked for suggestions where her boyfriend could find a job. He went to The Tin Whistle Brewing Company first, then to Cannery, where Patt interviewed him.
About a week and a half before Okanagan Fest of Ale 2009, he got the job at Cannery.
He augmented his practical on-the-job training with professional development. He completed the Diploma in Brewing Science through the Siebel Institute of Technology – a Chicago vocational school with a focus on brewing education and brewing services since 1868.
Cannery’s marketing, too, has evolved from tailgate tastings. As the BC liquor industry has developed, Cannery has adapted and, on many occasions, helped lead the change. Some 14 years ago, Kim Lawton was added to provide strategic marketing consulting. She has been integral in rebranding and helping spread the word about Cannery over the years. Her long service, as well as that of other staffers who have stayed with Cannery, speaks to the brewery’s employment practices.
An employee named Jill, for instance, babysat Ian when she was 13 and is now a long-time employee at the brewery. Another named Geoff started working with the family when he was 13. Then there’s Jeff, who’s has been on staff for some 11 years, Ellie over 10 years, their microbiologist Scott for almost 10 years, Jess 7 years, Kelly and Landon for 6 years, Max their taproom manager for over 5 years, and Darcy for almost 5 years.
As Ross noted, “Not a bad track record for an industry not known as high paying given the required skill set.”
Craft Beer Forward Taproom
In its former location, Cannery had jerry-rigged equipment and popped out about as many walls as possible. As it outgrew its facility, the younger generation was adamant it had to offer more than a small tasting room to try the selections. Ross points out, “Penticton needed places appropriate for going on a date.”
Thus, the gruelling task of building a new brewery got underway in October 2014. Through the transformation of ANJ Automotive, 198 Ellis Street, the Taproom arose out of the metal scraps and sawdust. Alongside, the brewery was constructed and, by mid-Spring, tanks were moved and the production facility had a new home.
Here, too, having played such a critical role in handling the transition to the new space, Ross fulfilled his “goal of owning his own business and becoming self-employed.” Ross appreciates the leap of faith by the Dyck family to include him in the ownership of the brewery. “They’ve always been collaborative within the industry and are still so helpful. I’m proud to be part of a company that has amazing owners, great product and cares about local.”
“We had a person in Ross that we did not want to lose,” Ron says. “The best thing was to make him part of it.” Patt adds, “Ian and Ross are a matched pair with unique skill sets that complement each other.”
By mid-June 2015, doors opened on the taproom equipped with 12 taps, fantastic bar snacks and, as of 2016, is now home to live music performances and many special events. This gave “date night” an exceptional venue and the neighbours arrived in droves! At the family-friendly taproom, in addition to free music on Sunday evenings, there are old-school board games to enjoy.
Witnessing the production through the taproom windows, it’s clear Cannery is a craft beer-forward taproom rather than a restaurant that makes its own beers.
20th Anniversary Festivities Thank the Community
While the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions have deeply impacted operations and plans for a 20th anniversary celebration, Cannery has navigated those rough waters with creativity. Accordingly, the 20th Anniversary will be marked with style amid “an abundance of caution”. On April 1st, there will be two new beer releases available in 473ml cans at the brewery and throughout BC later in April.
For those wishing to say cheers in person, there will be an experimental beer, anniversary beer pricing on all Cannery beers, and bubbly selections available from community partners Blue Mountain Vineyard and Creek & Gully Cider to enjoy on the patio. Penticton’s own Buy The Sea will also have shucked and unshucked oysters for take out from 3-7pm. Patio seating is limited.
“There’s history in those relationships, too,” Patt smiles. “The Country Squire was the first customer for Blue Mountain. Anders and Annelise and the Simonsen family of Creek & Gully have been connected to our family their whole lives. Anders and Ian went to school together, and Annelise worked with us at the brewery.”
A new tier of beer will allow Cannery to add fresh ideas and bring back some old favourites. Wherever possible, local ingredients will be used. For this tier, you’ll see distinct designs by Skyler Punnett and Paul Higgins from local design company Super Deluxe Creative, who worked closely with Cannery on rebranding three years ago.
Cannery will continue to adapt with ingenuity as unforeseen challenges present themselves, just as they did for the hop shortage of around 2005/2006, bottle shortages, and the Covid-19 pandemic. It’ll continue to be deeply rooted in the community and will support local whenever and in whatever manner it can.
I’ve been a fan since I arrived in Penticton full-time in 2009 and learned more about them on a media junket in 2012. Much of what I learned about craft beer can be attributed to Cannery’s encouragement and advocacy.
As to future leadership, Ian and Ross have started families of their own and you’ll find their lively youngsters onsite quite regularly. The zeal and joy of the ownership is palpable, so I wager Cannery is in good hands for the next 20 years and beyond!
Cannery is known for its community work and has consistently been an active participant in so many of the region’s flagship events. On the other hand, it is Cannery who truly celebrates this community. Patt notes, “We want to emphasize how grateful we are for the absolutely amazing community support that we have received over all of these years.”
Whether you are in Penticton or beyond, grab your favourite Cannery beer and say cheers to 20 years.
Support Local, Stay Local:
COVID-19 Travel Restrictions: Like you, we’re passionate about exploring BC on the #BCAleTrail. But now is the time to stay local and support local businesses with just your immediate household or core bubble.
BC’s breweries are strictly adhering to recommended COVID-19 safety protocols to keep both guests and staff safe. They are ready to welcome you for on-site tasting or pick up your favourites to go.
For now, please remember to stick close to home and be a Considerate Craft Beer Consumer. Let us each do our part now, so we can explore BC again, soon. We’re all in this together.