When it comes to voting for the BC Ale Trail’s Best Brewery Experience award, craft beer enthusiasts are spoiled for choice around the province, including in the Thompson Okanagan.
This region includes a diversity of landscapes and experiences, as well as a long list of excellent craft breweries organized into three separate ale trails: Kelowna, Penticton, and Kamloops, Shuswap, Vernon and Merritt.
Merritt, with its many outdoor attractions (“a lake a day as long as you stay”) is much more than just a rest stop on the Coquihalla, and its resident brewery, the Empty Keg Brewhouse, will help prove that.
Kamloops has a bustling craft beer community featuring four breweries: Bright Eye Brewing, Iron Road Brewing, the Noble Pig Brewhouse, and Red Collar Brewing. Nearby, you can visit Canada’s original organic farm-based brewery, Crannóg Ales, in Sorrento, before continuing along the Trans-Canada Highway to Salmon Arm, home to the popular Barley Station Brewpub and Morrow Brewing.
In Vernon, Pearl and Stefan Marten painstakingly renovated the old nightclub at the corner of 30th and 30th, doing most of the work themselves, and the result is pretty special. Marten Brewing has seating for 200 people on two levels surrounding and overlooking the brewery in the middle of the room, with a stellar kitchen to go along with the delicious range of beers on tap.
The Kelowna beer community is absolutely bursting at the seams with a dozen new breweries in the past five years. A whole forest of new breweries has sprouted in the North End Brewery District — there are seven breweries within walking distance there, along with the Welton Arms, a pub featuring British-style ales and food. Bowling fans can try for a turkey (three strikes in a row) at Freddy’s Brewpub or BNA Brewing, which also has a fantastic restaurant in its gorgeously renovated location. There are also breweries to explore south along the lakeshore to the Mission neighbourhood and across the floating bridge in West Kelowna.
The South Okanagan is famous for its vineyards, but there’s delicious beer to be found there, too: North Basin Brewing in Osoyoos and two different breweries in Oliver – Firehall Brewery and the new Trading Post Brewery in the District Wine Village.
Last, but certainly not least, is Penticton. There’s a lot more to this picturesque, lakefront city in the heart of BC’s wine country than the beach, the Peach and the Naramata Bench. In 2020, that legacy was recognized by Lonely Planet when it picked Penticton as Canada’s “craft beer capital.” This small city has been a leader of the Okanagan craft beer scene for more than 25 years as home to the annual Okanagan Fest of Ale and a strong community of seven craft breweries — most of them close within walking distance of each other downtown, not far from the beach.
To vote for the brewery you think should win the award, visit WestCoastTraveller.com and look for Craft Beer Enthusiasts under Contests.