I can’t resist using a bowling term to describe the major renovation at Freddy’s Brewpub and the connected family-friendly McCurdy Bowling. With the distinction of being Kelowna’s first brewpub established in 2001, Freddy’s embarked on a complete reset of its facilities in honour of nearly 20 years of business.
Chris Bunnage (Sales and Marketing) said “over $1 million in capital investment” went into an extensive revision of the site. “We expanded the brewery by 17 feet, which has tripled its size, giving us the ability to brew three times as many varieties of beer. Seating capacity increased by about 10 percent pre-COVID-19 numbers. Including the bowling centre we are licensed for 440 seats. Currently operating at 110 in the brewpub and 90 in the bowling centre during COVID-19.”
Highlights of the makeover, which took the building down to the studs, included a brightening of décor; sound baffling; an expanded floor plan in the indoor patio and lounge area with booth seating; windows into the brewing area; garage doors to the bowling facility; relocation of bar and retail space both upfront and in the bowling centre; updated washrooms; and a refreshed exterior.
Then and Now
I first visited Freddy’s in April 2012 on a ‘Beer & Spirits’ media familiarization tour, a collaboration by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Tourism Kelowna, and Tourism Penticton. At the time, the beer was brewed under the name of Mill Creek Brewery by brewmaster Jack Clark. He had worked for Labatt’s for many years and it was in this retirement gig that he found his love of craft beer. At the time, two lagers and four ales were brewed on-site in the microbrewery and tapped directly from the stainless-steel vessels adjacent to pub. Those beer were quaffable enough if a little lacklustre.
Over lunch in the traditional pub setting with heavy armchairs and worn wooden tables, Clark revealed that he secretly wished to produce darker and hoppier brews. At the time, the owners preferred to stick to tried and true Canadian styles.
Fast forward to 2020 and the craft beer industry has exploded across British Columbia and consumers are demanding diversity from light lagers to complex sours. In Kelowna itself, there are now over a dozen breweries.
Today brewmaster Keith Bennett, who has been with the company for over four years, apprenticed under Clark. Bennett has built relationships with a number of the other local breweries and cideries. Now you’ll find guest taps such as Wild Ambition, Kelowna Brewing Company, Kettle River Brewing, and Upside Cider. In fact, Bennett revealed Kettle River lent a hand to brew Freddy’s beer while the brewery was dismantled for the expansion.
As the wraps are taken off the shining new tanks and the final touches are in place, Bennett will be able to get even more creative. For our visit, selection was still limited: we tasted Lebowski Lager, Harkrider Red Lager, and Channel Cat IPA, and Grand Poobah Chocolate Milk Stout – all 5% ABV. We particularly enjoyed the red lager and, while light, the stout was highly flavourful.
Food Program Inspired By Beer
In revamping the menu, Head Chef Jesse Rived is inspired by the in-house craft beers. With a unique and creative approach, he refreshes the menu a couple of times annually creating as much in-house as possible.
From his menu launched in October, we enjoyed a Cucumber Crunch Salad featuring mint-marinated cucumbers, lime yogurt, Sambal cucumbers, curry aioli, marinated tomatoes, curried crunchy chickpeas, and feta; and Chicken Tostado showcasing confit chicken thighs, peppers, black beans, roasted mushrooms, corn, roasted garlic crema, queso fresco, marinated tomatoes, fresh jalapenos, and fried flour tortillas. Feature of the day was Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Poutine with shredded cheese, gravy, pickles, white onions, beer-b-q sauce, and roasted garlic crema.
Selections are diverse with pub favourites such as burgers, fries, fish ‘n chips, and pizza, plus a myriad of surprises including six salad choices.
Bowling Bounces Back
According to sources such as bowlingguide.com, while it seemed bowling alleys were in decline since the 1970s, participation is on the rise again. Enough so that Kelowna’s BNA Brewing added bowling as a feature.
The COVID-19 pandemic has tempered growth, yet McCurdy Bowling Centre, with 24 lanes of 10-pin and six lanes of 5-pin bowling, has remained popular. When it was closed for renovations, the lanes were completely refurbished and space reconfigured to include garage doors between it and the brewpub. Freddy’s craft beer and menu is the perfect pairing as you throw for that perfect game.
Plan Your Return
I was delighted to see the shiny, new atmosphere at Freddy’s. It was like seeing an old friend faring well.