The Craft Beer Explosion

In a valley filled with world-class wines, another industry is coming on strong. Craft beers have hit the Okanagan with their uniquely delicious blends and women are loving them more than ever before.

Meet Melody Schneider. In her position as Okanagan Territory Licensee Manager for Andrew Peller Limited, she knows her wines. She talks, tastes and sells wines all day. And after a long day of being immersed in the world of wines, Melody loves nothing more than a sip of one of the great Craft beers made in the Okanagan. “I love the diversity of Craft beer from the Okanagan, the small-batch brewers that are making experimental things like sours to really hoppy Indian Pale Ales (IPA) to a big, dark stout. I love supporting local! With all the breweries here, you can go beer tasting like you can do a wine tasting tour. Wine is complex, and there are so many different types to pair with food. You can do the exact same thing with beer. Good wines must be balanced and the same holds true for beer,” says Melody.

Cannery Brewing has been around since 2001 and is one of the Okanagan’s longest operating Craft breweries. Kim Lawton of Cannery Brewing, Penticton, knows her beer. Kim has been in the Craft beer industry for ten years, and is currently president of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) South Okanagan, which has been in place for three years. Amongst their initiatives, CAMRA hosts events at breweries and offers educational activities to the beer-drinking public! Cannery Brewing and CAMRA were involved recently in the wildly successful Okanagan Fest of Ale, which offered 175 choices for the beer-loving public to try.

Kim explained that Craft Beers are locally made in small batches, which allows for a lot of diversity. It also enables the brewer to experiment with their products, like changing the hop profile to change a beer. This gives them the freedom to respond to changing consumer demand.

“Craft beer is exploding right now,” Kim says. “People are looking for different flavours, hand-crafted products and natural products. At a Craft brewery you can meet the brewer, walk through the brewery and see how the beer was made. A lot more women are drinking Craft beer because of its complex flavour profile.”

Lorraine Nagy, proprietor of Tin Whistle Brewing in Penticton, says beer is very exciting now, with the advent of fruit beers and an endless list of new styles of beer.

“BC has come of age and we are learning that beer is not just one item that is short on variety. Now people realize you can pair it with foods. There are hundreds of kinds of beers now, and brewers and the consumer are more educated,” said Lorraine.

“We already have eight seasonals such as the Christmas Chocolate Cherry and in the fall, a Stag Ale (Scotch apple ale). We also have the Osprey, our white IPA pear beer. In the spring and summer people are looking for their strawberry or raspberry beer. The selection with the fruit beers is very appealing to women.”

According to Lorraine, the whole beer scene has changed, as has the way consumers perceive beer. Craft beer is usually made hands-on in small batches and it takes a lot of people to prepare beer, so it costs more per bottle to make. Most Craft brewers use only premium ingredients with the freshest and finest of hops.

Pearl and Stefan Marten, proprietors of Marten Brew Pub in Vernon, have seen a significant increase in women beer drinkers and they attribute that to the amazing array of beers being produced locally.

“Our most popular craft beers include the Cookie Monster Stout, with hints of chocolate and oatmeal. The BC Bud IPA uses BC hops, and is another of our staples. In the process we let the beer go flat then infuse it with nitrogen for a mellow and unique flavour,” Pearl says.

Kelowna is home to one of the newer Craft breweries, the BNA Brewing Company and eatery. BNA’s Jill Jarrett explained that a group of people who formerly worked together had a dream to develop a Craft Brewery and Kyle Nixon headed up the group who did just that. BNA is named after the British North American Tobacco Company, which is the original site that BNA currently occupies.

BNA is expanding their operations and last year started packaging beer, which can be found in most Kelowna and Okanagan liquor stores. Their most popular offering is Earl, a pale ale with a touch of Earl Gray tea in it. Their newest offering is Blood Sugar Hops Magik, an ISA brewed with blood oranges. Jill also recommends Check Your Head, an all-season stout.

“Craft Brewing is more about experimentation than specific trends,” she says. “Our goal is to get people talking about beer and trying different things. Women are becoming educated to the different flavours and tons of varieties they can try. I’d say we have as many women as men visiting us.”

The Okanagan’s Craft Beer market is indeed on fire!

This year, tip your glass and enjoy the wonderful surprises you’ll find in modern beers. They’ll surprise you and keep you coming back for more!

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