The Kelowna & West Kelowna Tasting Passport gives you the opportunity to win awesome craft beer swag. All you have to do is collect a stamp from 6 of the participating craft breweries and liquor stores.
Two years into the pandemic, most of us are desperate to use our passports again—to collect more stamps on those pages and more experiences to remember. If you can’t scratch that travel itch just yet, however, why not take a BC stay-cation with the newest BC Ale Trail Brewery Passport?
The Kelowna & West Kelowna Ale Trail’s Tasting Passport gives you the chance to win a wide variety of prizes by collecting stamps from 6 of the participating Kelowna craft breweries. So next time you pop into your local to fill a growler, buy a flight, or pick up a four pack, just ask for your passport to be stamped in order to be included in the prize draw.
I was born and bred in the Okanagan, a small-town Summerland girl now living in the big city (well, Surrey). Since I was heading home in February to visit friends and family, I thought I’d give the new Tasting Passport a test run in advance of its release in April. While Kelowna’s brewing scene has plenty of walkable brewery areas, particularly in the North End, I wanted to get a taste of what beers were on offer from all corners of the city. During our week in the Okanagan, we managed to cover some good ground, thanks to an old friend who played both tour guide and designated driver. (Thanks, L! I’ll return the favour!)
Kelowna in February can be chilly in general, but my husband Rich and I happened to arrive in the middle of a particularly brutal cold snap. Despite the weather, our first brewery visit, to Lakesider Brewing (est. 2021) in West Kelowna, brought us back to hot Okanagan summers — sunny days and beachfront sunbathing. Lakesider is bright and airy, with white tiled walls, a tree in the corner, a feature fireplace constructed from river rock, and images of the Okanagan’s beaches on its walls. As I watched co-owner Kieran Armour pull a pint, I noticed that even the tap handles were painted like the lakeshore.
While Rich ordered their impressive Gin Caesar (made with gin from Indigenous World Spirits located nearby), I had a flight. I kept it fairly light — it was brunch, after all, and I wasn’t quite ready for the heavy hitters. I chose the Magic Hour New England IPA (very fruity on the nose, nice bitterness in the back), the Beach Comber IPA (a classic West Coast IPA), the Lazy Paddle Pale Ale (crushable!), and the White Cap French Blanche Ale (light but flavourful, with an orange spiciness and full body). My beers paired well with an excellent salmon eggs benedict. Before we left I noticed that there was Ping Pong advertised in the room downstairs. Rich knows what’s now on our list for our next trip to Kelowna — nothing like some healthy (ahem) spousal competition!
After we finished our visit to Lakesider, we headed across the bridge into the city. If you go to the left past the waterfront and over to Ellis Street, you’ll find BNA Brewing (est. 2015), one of many craft breweries in Kelowna’s North End neighbourhood. Located in a building that was used to dry tobacco leaves over a century ago, and then operated as a cannery shortly after that, BNA definitely has character. Historical paraphernalia, dart boards, funhouse games, animal heads mounted on the walls, and an odd variety of seating, from couches to bowling alley benches to bleachers, all combine to make BNA a mishmash of eras and cultures. There’s nothing cookie-cutter or neutral about it, so come for the beer and stay for the ambience.
I was surprised that BNA’s flights were three tasters rather than four, but was charmed to see that the flight board was modelled after a map of Kelowna. It’s hard to go wrong with their beers, but I’d recommend trying the Purple Rain sour and at least one of the IPA selection — Brilliant Idiot or Animal are good choices. And while you’re there, grab a snack at Box Car, serving Asian street food inside the brewery, or maybe get in some bowling. BNA has bowling and bocce facilities next door, which came highly recommended. While we didn’t get a chance to play during this visit (they don’t open until the evening), it’s yet another thing to keep in mind for our next Okanagan trip.
We were out of luck in terms of bowling at BNA, but it’s not the only place in town that serves up craft beer and a chance to knock some pins over. A couple days later, with our 11- and 14-year-olds in tow, we visited Freddy’s Brewpub (est. 2000) in the North Rutland area, Kelowna’s very first microbrewery. Because it’s attached to McCurdy’s Bowling Centre, at Freddy’s you can have a flight of some of Kelowna’s original craft beers — or the new ones, for that matter — while you bowl a five- or ten-pin game. Book your lane in advance if you want to be guaranteed a spot, but once you’re there you can order your food and drink while you play. My beer recommendation from Freddy’s: the Funky Brewster Saison, a full-bodied, amber-coloured saison with a yeasty kick. My bowling recommendation: ask for the bumpers in the lanes if you’re losing too badly, and avoid the really heavy balls if you want to impress anyone.
Even with some wings and pop to tide them over during our nail-biter of a bowling game, our kids were ready for dinner by the time we finished at Freddy’s. With beer and hot-dogs in mind, we went from Rutland to Copper Brewing (est. 2019) in the Landmark District of south-central Kelowna. As soon as we saw the wall full of dog polaroids, the old-school Nintendos set up in the booths, and a lengthy tap list, we knew we were in the right place for a family dinner. My flight included several of their IPAs — the fresh hop, the Triple, and Party in the House — and I enjoyed all three, particularly Party in the House. I also tried their Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout, a decadent and delicious dessert beer that was a perfect conclusion to my meal.
All four of us each had one of Copper’s gourmet hot dogs while playing Donkey Kong. My 14-year-old son proclaimed his to be “the best hot dog I’ve ever had” — high praise indeed from him!
The cold snap continued the next day, but Rich and I nevertheless braved the chill and headed out to the Lochview Trail, which connects the Paul’s Tomb trail along Okanagan Lake to Lochview Road just north of Knox Mountain Park. The trail itself isn’t long — just over a kilometre — but the elevation change means that you’ll get a workout. However, the gorgeous views from the top of the trail and peaceful beach access at the bottom make it well worth your energy. On a warmer day we would definitely have been up for a swim at the bottom.
Jackknife Brewing & Kettle River Brewing
Fortunately, beer helps you warm up and replace any calories you’ve lost in the bitter cold. We returned to Kelowna’s North End for a visit to Jackknife Brewing (est. 2019), which is right next door to Kettle River Brewing and around the corner from Vice and Virtue Brewing and Red Bird Brewing. Jackknife has a punk-rock ambiance, with low ceilings and high octane music, but its outdoor patio out back, decorated with hop bines and beer barrels, offers a quieter space for the elderly (ie, those, like myself, who are over 35 and not quite as metal as we once were). The patio is also dog-friendly, although watch out to make sure your pup doesn’t escape inside to try one of Jackknife’s pizzas. We may or may not have observed one small rapscallion making such an attempt.
The motto on Jackknife’s wall declares that they are known for two things: weird beer and classic pizza. The beer may indeed be “weird” to some, but it’s a welcome addition for those of us looking for something new. This brewery specializes in unusual Norwegian-style beers made with kveik, a Norwegian yeast. I tried their newly released Hunting Lodge Juniper Nordic Lager, a crisp lager with a strong malty backbone and a citrusy aroma with gin-like notes. Rich ordered Arcane, a dark Lithuanian farmhouse ale that immediately captured my attention. With deep caramel notes produced through a 5-hour (!) boil and just the right level of Chinook hops, it has an intense flavour that doesn’t seem to match its modest ABV of 5.5%. While we didn’t have a chance to try their famous pizza on this visit, we did look enviously at fellow patrons who were enjoying their slices. Jackknife doesn’t skimp on the crust or the cheese!
Since it was next door, we paid a quick visit to Kettle River Brewing (est. 2016) before leaving for our next destination. We arrived just before trivia night was starting and it felt like hanging out with friends at camp. The canoe suspended from the ceiling, the wood furnishings, and the lighting all combined to create a warm, intimate atmosphere. I enjoyed a sleeve of Party in the Back IPA (I’ll try anything named after a mullet) before our designated driver escorted us to the real party, at Kelowna Brewing Co (est. 2019).
Kelowna Brewing Co.
KBC is located in the University District and it was getting into the evening by that point, so the brewery was filled with university students letting off steam — watching TV, playing pool, and just hanging out. We were most definitely the oldest people there, but we soldiered on and managed to find seats on an old couch and room at the foosball table. Nothing makes you feel like you’re in college again more than drinking beer in a pub while sitting on a couch made in the 1980s. However, unlike my university days, in this case the beer was very good indeed. A pint of their winter ale was all I needed before I heroically lost at foosball.
Barn Owl Brewing
Our final brewery visit was far from the university district — Barn Owl Brewing (est. 2019) on Lakeshore Drive in Mission, southwest of Kelowna on the east side of the bridge. The brewery is set up in an old barn built a century ago, now renovated into a cozy space that includes a bar and tables downstairs and a spacious loft area upstairs. The brainchild of three professional men who simply loved beer (a doctor, a teacher, and a church worker), Barn Owl reflects its heritage and embodies its old-fashioned style by focusing on a classic lineup that is comprised mostly of brown, amber, and wheat ales, lagers/pilsners, and porters/stouts, with an occasional IPA or sour. The tap list is a nice counterbalance to the IPA-heavy offerings of many other breweries. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good IPA, but sometimes a classic brown ale is what’s needed.
We sat downstairs but enjoyed flights with our friends while listening to a musician play upstairs in the loft. My Nutty Owl Vanilla Chestnut Ale and the Baker Street ESB were excellent accompaniment to the music. When we finally left, we realized we were too late to make it to Shore Line Brewing just down the road before they closed. Shore Line is a perfect place for a pint and a view of the lake, so it’s on my list for a daytime brewery crawl.
Endless warmth, intimacy, and community on the Kelowna Ale Trail
That evening at Barn Owl was a lovely way to wrap up my beer tour of Kelowna, since it was spent with my husband and four dear friends of ours — a triple date with excellent conversation and quality beer. And this is, of course, what I really love about craft breweries. They provide a space for warmth and intimacy. You understand a bit more about the town and a bit more about your friends when you spend time at a local brewery — and that’s the point, I think. I would have more than filled up my Kelowna Ale Trail passport that week, and there are still many other Kelowna breweries to explore. Summer is coming, and the highways are rebuilt, so make your way out to the Okanagan to experience beer, bowling, beaches, and more!
The Kelowna and West Kelowna Ale Trail Brewery Passport promotion runs April 15-May 16 involving 19 local breweries and liquor stores.
Visit any of the participating businesses and ask for a stamp when you buy beer (a sample flight, pint, or packaged product to go). Once you have collected six unique stamps, hand in at one of the participating businesses to be entered in a draw for a chance to win a brewery prize pack or the Grand Prize package: a two-day getaway to visit Kamloops and Salmon Arm. Multiple entries encouraged!