Downtown Kelowna will see four very different new leisurely imbiberies open their doors this month, adding to what is becoming a more varied and happening downtown. While there's still always something for the party-bros, in the drinks department, K-town is starting to get all growns up.
Craft Beer Market
We'll start with the biggest opening of the four – the Craft Beer Market in the old Paramount theatre opens its doors to curious locals and thirsty tourists on June 28th. However you felt about the downtown theatre closing three years ago, the location will finally see the big chain restaurant and its hundred and some odd taps, removing those tinted storefront windows and placards, to bring more life to one of the city's prettiest corners.
Calgary-based Craft Beer Market opened its first location in Calgary’s Beltline district in 2011, and they followed up with locations in Olympic Village, Vancouver, downtown Edmonton, Ottawa’s Shops of Lansdowne, and then in Toronto's business district late last year. Additionally, in 2015 they announced that they would be partnering with First Growth Holdings Ltd. to open the first of five restaurants in Shanghai, China. We were expecting a bit more of a funky, artisanal vibe befitting a place called "Craft", however considering the location and market of their other outposts, their corporate, homogenous look now makes sense.
The Bernard Avenue location will have 112 taps in total feeding beer, cider, kombucha and non-alcoholic ginger beer (yum!) through its twinned (in the national interest of course), thinner than average, draft lines. This system keeps those suds fresh, even the obscure ones that don't get poured as often. Food-wise, they describe their approach as “New North American Classic Cuisine”. Perusing their other location's menus, this unwieldy term seemingly means basic pub fare plus whatever trend is taking over your Pinterest boards – here it's bowls, flatbreads and the obligatory poke dish. Reviews of their five locations in Canada have been good on the whole with minor grumblings regarding some menu prices, for instance, aside from their Classic Burger offered at a fairly reasonable $16, a lot of their mains are in the 20s – but hey, they might be worth it, we'll report back.
We look forward to trying their Fast Food Sushi appetizer ($14) where the “sushi” is actually a cheeseburger with fries cut up and rolled in bacon. It’s topped with wasabi cream cheese and house made pickle, with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce on the side.
And of course, there's that outdoor rooftop patio overlooking the lake. The same 112 tap lines will be fed up to the rooftop to provide you with all the craft beer options that you can handle while soaking in some rays. Smaller sleeves will cost you $6.50, while full pints are $9.50. One point of contention among Yelp reviewers was that their flights are usually preset to either "Local" or "World Tour", meaning you cannot customize your flight from their tap offerings – likely to save time for busy bartenders, but it's unfortunate for any discerning beer drinker looking to try a number of new brands on one visit. However this "offering" may just be on a location-by-location basis.
Say what you will about a big chain moving into a prominent spot in the heart of downtown Kelowna, but we think Craft's presence will certainly attract more people into the core, and instead of hurting small local spots, it'll add to the overall liveliness and introduce new people to the city's more diverse and unique offerings like the new Sunny's, the newly relaunched Salt & Brick, the upcoming Jack's Pizza and Liquor and the always charming and delicious Krafty over in the city's truly prettiest corner.
Ricco Bambino, an organic urban winery with a sparkling bent is set to open shop on Pandosy towards the end of the month. Italianissimo-fabulous and retro branding will have you feeling aperos-in-Capri in no time, and you can hit up their mod bar space to indulge. Conversely, if you're a bubbles and bonbons on your lounger type, their cute pink Piaggio Ape (basically a Vespa truck) will be zooming about town delivering their boldly branded bottles.
While their original plan was to source the fruit for their wine from regional growers, they have now purchased a South Okanagan property (just below Vaseux Lake) that they state will be 100% certified organic, and with that, Ricco Bambino is definitely poised to take on the millennial market's main interests in wine: branding, bubbles, pink, and organic.
Speaking of the bubbles, they offer wines in both the prosecco (charmat) and traditional style. The former is second-fermented in a tank rather than the bottle – this keeps the taste lively and fresh, the costs down, and in keeping with their vibe, it's also known as "the Italian method". The latter is second fermented in the bottle, allowing it more contact with the lees (the result of yeast having eaten all the sugars), and giving it that bready "champagne" quality – and stronger effervescence in most cases. This winemaker looks to be another interesting entry into the burgeoning world of BC bubblies.
The winery is holding their hiring fair on June 24th between 12pm - 4pm. Full and part time positions will be available for both bar and service staff. We expect them to open to the public shortly after that. All in all, this sounds like a fun and different addition to the drinks scene!
BNA's Bowling Alley
By now, there's probably little doubt you've heard about BNA's new bowling alley opening soon (edit: today) in the establishment’s expanded second floor. The expansion sees the capacity of the craft brewery-restobar-playroom's top floor increase from 106 to 243 people, and while most of the new space will be dedicated to the bowling alley, early this winter they did have a crane lift up a pretty sizeable Airstream that'll serve as the new bar upstairs. We can't wait to see that.
BNA has outfitted each of the six lanes with their own “living room style area” where groups can eat while bowling, gather for “bowling brunches” on the weekend (TBA), or rent for private functions. Retro-lovers will be happy to see that they've also installed several eight-bit arcade games in the bowling alley, because of course. The rest of the space remains the same with their indoor bocce lane, and dining and bar seating at the bar's north end. Even with the expansion, there's no doubt this one-stop party shop will be mobbed all summer – hopefully we can still get a spot to scarf down our pork buns and Pamela.
Vice and Virtue
The craft brewery scene will expand in Kelowna once again later this month with Vice and Virtue opening up on Richter, joining Red Bird Brewing and Kettle River Brewery in this increasingly yeasty area north of Clement.
The new 2,000 square foot space will feature a 50 seat lounge, open kitchen and bar area, with the beer fridge and fermentation tanks taking up the back.
You'll be able to fill your growlers or glasses from 10 taps, and you can expect a number of the offerings to be gluten-free friendly. The brewery's team is made up of award-winning Tantalus Vineyards' winemaker, David Paterson and his wife Stephanie Mosley, former sous-chef at Waterfront Wines, Nelson Daniels, current front of the house manager at Tantalus, Ryan Fipke, and brewer James Windsor from Toronto's Indie Alehouse. Having consumed many a flavourful IPA from the Indie, I am definitely stoked to see what he makes here. Vice and Virtue's gastro focus will be on tasty snacks and sharing-style food, with an emphasis on charcuterie – apparently there will be a glassed-in charcuterie curing space behind the bar to tempt you.
So what will Vice and Virtue add to the local beer landscape? Matt Jewell, their General Manager says, "I think we can help build on the work of the other established local breweries with our own spin on the staples and then throw in some of our own experimental stuff to keep it new and fun. I’m pretty excited to see what our brewer, James, brings to the table. Hiring a professional brewer was a big step for us."
We anticipate Vice and Virtue opening a little later in the month as well. So add another cool brewery to your post-Knox cool-down.