Don’t just take our word for it! For this week’s BC Ale Trail blog we caught up with a handful of Kelowna breweries to hear first-hand what’s happening in their vibrant city and what they as locals recommend during a visit this spring.
Kelowna, located in the heart of the Okanagan Valley and the largest city on Okanagan Lake, is well known for being a lakeside paradise in summer. Wineries and golf courses are abundant and bring thousands of visitors to the city each year. Would you be surprised to learn that there’s no shortage of activities to lure you there year round, especially during the spring?
The Great Okanagan Beer Festival returns to Kelowna’s Waterfront Park each spring. This year’s main event is coming up May 11th and features 60+ craft breweries pouring over 120 beers and ciders for 3,500+ festival-goers. In the week leading up, there are satellite events such as cask nights and tap takeovers happening at a variety of venues around town. Full event schedule and tickets are available here.
Festival aside, get out and explore Kelowna’s vibrant breweries, eateries and nightlife. With nine breweries currently open, at least five more in the works and new taphouses popping up, there’s never been a better time for craft beer lovers to visit Kelowna for their next ale-venture. “Downtown Kelowna’s industrial north end has become a brewer’s hub, currently home to the ‘beermuda triangle’ of Vice and Virtue, Kettle River Brewing, and Red Bird Brewing, and set to welcome more in the months ahead.” shares Jennifer Widmer of Tourism Kelowna. “Bowling and beers are a perfect ten. Freddy’s Brewpub and BNA Brewing both boast bowling lanes, allowing you to knock back pints and pins.”
Kelowna’s mild spring weather also lends well to a host of outdoor activities. Tourism Kelowna’s website states, “Hit the trails by bike, visit the historic Myra Canyon Trestles, or hike to the top of a mountain.” The new Okanagan Rail Trail rides right past the north end, positioning it as a corridor for cycle accessible exploration and when completed will run from Kelowna to Vernon. Myra Canyon Adventure Park provides outdoor activities in one of the largest Aerial Tree Top Courses in Canada.
Plan your trip! The BC Ale Trail collaborated with Tourism Kelowna to bring you the Kelowna Ale Trail, self-guided itineraries combining the best of all worlds – breweries, local culture and activities. Now let’s hear from some of Kelowna’s locals. We asked a handful of the breweries to nominate a staff member aka “a local” to share some recommendations for a springtime visit.
Kettle River Brewing
Local: Ceilidh Stiles. Resident of Kelowna for the past 5.5 years
Favourite spring outdoor activities: Hiking, and spring skiing at Big White.
What beer are you loving right now? Our Ahead by a Century pale ale never disappoints. It checks all my boxes.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? The Great Okanagan Beer Fest is easily my favourite event of the year. Beers, sunshine, great tunes…can’t go wrong. Also, check us out also at the Train Station Block Party on May 8th. We’ll have a special cask on.
Local: Jill Jarrett. Moved to Kelowna originally in 2006 for a year and a half, and back in 2013 for what was only supposed to be a year or two. But then we opened a brewery…
Favourite spring outdoor activities: If it gets warm enough, I love me some early season camping with my dog. (Before the inevitable fire bans.)
What beer are you loving right now? Lil’ Pip! The newest member of our can family. A Blonde Ale with wild yeast imparting uber fruity esters. Aromatic hops but mellow and easy-drinking.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? Don’t pay attention to review sites. Obviously, I’m a little biased, but tasting rooms are a wealth of local-specific knowledge. Hit up the staff or other patrons for their favourite spots to eat, good hikes, etc.
Local: Chris Bunnage. I have lived in Kelowna for 19 years and love calling Kelowna home.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: I own a KLR 650 enduro motorbike so I love finding a back road, cranking the tunes, and just riding. Kelowna has endless trails, lakes, and backcountry to explore.
What beer are you loving right now? We have two great seasonal brews on tap right now: Kawabunga Session Ale, which is light and refreshing, and The Pollinator Ale, which is a mix of local organic honey and roasted coriander. It’s a seasonal we bring back every spring and people come from all over to enjoy it.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? GO BOWLING! We have an amazing 30 lane bowling facility directly attached to our brewery and it makes for a great family day of fun. Weather can be unpredictable sometimes on your holidays so having an indoor activity in your back pocket is always a great idea. You can also get some great tasting food and craft beer from Freddy’s delivered right to your bowling lane. For those that are local we also offer a KIDS BOWL FREE PROGRAM that gets them two free games Monday through Friday all summer long.
Local: Oliver Glaser. I’ve lived here for almost four years now.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: I love sailing, playing rugby, riding my motorbike around town, working in my garden and planning for the summer.
What beer are you loving right now? I’m loving the Sunshine Hefeweizen here at BBC and the Rye Pale Ale at Kettle River, as well as the Intipsipation IPA from Red Bird. It’s sort of my go-to west coast IPA here.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? Lots to do if you get off the highway in Kelowna. Great restaurants all over town as well as a quickly growing craft beer scene. Love going to Flux74 on Wednesdays for live music, and Red Bird Brewing on Thursday nights. There is always something going on in our little city.
Vice & Virtue Brewing
Local: James Martin Windsor. Kelowna resident for one year and a month. Moved here to open up this brewery.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: Going for a hike on Knox Mountain early in the morning with my dog, wife and daughter… before all the lazy people start driving up in their cars. (Those with mobility issues are not included in this critique.)
What beer are you loving right now? Currently really enjoying drinking our White Lie Pilsner. It hits the spot when the sun is out, or Kettle River’s ESB.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? Go to a concert at some of the music venues in town such as Milk Crate Records, Hernandos, Kelowna Community Theatre, Sapphire Nightclub, Munnin’s Post, or the music nights at Kettle River Brewing & Red Bird. Also noteworthy – Vice & Virtue’s brand new patio will be ready this summer.
Red Bird Brewing
Local: Adam Semeniuk. Kelowna resident for the past ten years.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: Riding cruiser bikes all along the water and throughout the city, checking out different restaurants, breweries and beaches.
What beer are you loving right now? I really do love our Antipsipation IPA, but I also can’t get enough of the Love Potion from Vice & Virtue.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? There are so many new breweries and businesses opening up right now, it’s a very exciting time (Copper Brewing, Barn Owl Brewing, Rustic Reel, a new Dunn Enzies location).
Tree Brewing Beer Institute
Local: Dave Gokiert. I moved to Kelowna in 1997, so just over 22 years
Favourite spring outdoor activities: I love taking my kids and bikes and cruising along the lakefront, hitting the beaches and ice cream shops.
What beer are you loving right now? I’m liking all of the fresh offerings that are showing up with the coming of summer. We have a Brut IPA on tap right now which I’m really enjoying.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? The beer scene is booming with a bunch of great locally owned breweries to go and check out. A bike ride can get you to all of the breweries in town.
Wild Ambition Brewing
Local: Theresa Cashen. My parents moved the family to my Great Grandmother’s old house in Oyama in 2003, but we had already spent so much time here during school breaks, that it was more like coming home than moving to a new place. I did spend some time in Halifax right after high school, but I’m now back for good.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: Spring skiing at Big White. No contest.
What beer are you loving right now? That’s a toughie. A well executed mixed fermentation sour will always make me happy. Pretty much anything Field House Brewing does in that category is great. But I do need to give a shout out to one of our brewer Mitchell’s creations – A Single Branch, a Barrel Aged Red Sour with Cherries. Between the locally grown whole cherries and the extended barrel ageing, this beer compromises nothing.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? Flux 74 just opened in Glenmore this winter and they always have great taps along with a spring menu featuring some amazing tacos – including some vegan ones.
Local: Teria Hatherell. I moved to West Kelowna in April 2018 from Ontario.
Favourite spring outdoor activities: Hiking trails throughout the Okanagan. It is a very scenic region, so each hike is accompanied by beautiful scenery, such a reward.
What beer are you loving right now? Our Belgian Wit is my favourite beer. It pairs perfectly with this sunny Okanagan weather.
Anything else visitors to Kelowna should know? Craft & Country, Beer and Music Mountain Festival is another great event to attend if you can’t make it out to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival. Bonus: We will be having $5.00 Pints on select Pints ALL DAY May 11th & 12th.
“Urban and rural; nature and culture; playtime and downtime: Kelowna isn’t just one destination. It’s a whole bunch of them, located in one uniquely beautiful place.” Tourism Kelowna