Just a couple of years ago, when only a few craft brewers were on the scene, Chris Stirling, the former GM of one of them, Tree Brewing, was interviewed by local media about the industry here. "If anybody says they could see where the craft beer industry is today they’re lying to you. It has changed so fast and so dramatically in the last two, three, five years, that I don’t think anybody saw this coming,” Stirling said at the time. “Until about five years ago Tree was kind of the only game in town,” he added.
Well in a few short years since, the scene has really accelerated in town. Tree Brewing entered into a partnership with Calgary's Big Rock Brewery, with Chris now the General Manager of Big Rock's BC division, and in addition to the originals, Kettle River Brewing and BNA, craft brewers Red Bird Brewing and Vice and Virtue have been added to the hopping North End downtown scene; and more recently Boundary Brewing, Wild Ambition, and craft-focussed taproom, Flux 74 are starting to create a vibe further north.
2019 will see Kelowna’s craft beer explosion continue with a number of anticipated breweries gearing up to open their doors, and others planning to expand. Hear’s a quick run down of all the new players competing for your growler fills in the coming months.
Civil Engineer Technologist, Sean White is taking his knowledge of mathematics and applied sciences to the craft beer world and opening up Copper Brewing, a 110 seat capacity microbrewery on Kirschner Road, in the mod-industrial space formerly occupied by Factor Furniture (beside Montreal themed eatery, MTL). White’s application was signed off on by City Inspection Services in early December, and he’s just waiting on the liquor license approval. Copper Brewing’s focus will be on producing approachable beer options, with around six core styles available on tap, in-house, or in cans and growlers. The taproom will also provide other features on a rotating tap, local ciders, kombucha and a few local wines for the not-so-hop-inclined.
“While food will be provided in the tap room to satisfy liquor laws, it will not be the focus of the business” the application reads, so it's not a stretch to expect to see a food truck or two parked outside (me, I'm happy to pair a refreshing lager with a nice container of wasabi chip-nuts from the Japanese grocer next door). Copper Brewing will also have a pet friendly 40 seat patio out front. Gearing up for a late spring opening, the hours of operation will be 12pm - 9pm, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12pm - 11pm Fridays, 3pm - 11pm Saturdays, and 3pm - 8pm on Sundays.
Rustic Reel Brewing Company
After more than a year of searching, Rustic Reel Brewing Company announced last summer that it secured a home at 760 Vaughn Avenue (beside BC Tree Fruits). So add another brewery to your meanderings in the increasingly yeasty area north of Clement. “Downtown Kelowna is getting a whole lot more exciting, and we are very pleased to soon be a part of this Okanagan craft beer scene,” the brewery wrote at the time in a Facebook post. Since then, they have been busy renovating the massive space and you can check in on their progress on their Instagram feed.
Huge fishing enthusiasts, this North End brewery will also be home to the aptly titled The Tackle Box, an artisan market featuring local crafts and goods from the Okanagan and beyond.
Expect a late spring, early summer opening.
Late last year, Kettle River Brewing Co. announced that one of its brewers, Brad Tomlinson would be leaving to pursue his own brewing aspirations. Fans of his adventurous brews (hello Cinnabun Stout, or Snow Leopard wheat wine) will be stoked to learn that he'll be crafting these babies out in his new space right next door. Brad's vision for this space is to have a "heavy metal edge", so come down and raise the horns, and a stein at the brand new Jackknife. There will be food too, with more details about the type of cuisine to come.
Red Bird Brewing
Before we leave the North End, we hear Red Bird’s little tasting room at Baillie and Richter is looking to put on some serious square footage in late 2019/early 2020. Adam Semeniuk opened Red Bird in August of 2017 to much fanfare, and this adorable nano-brewery will outgrow its wee charm and expand right around the corner from their existing space, into a 10 hl brewhouse.
The Barn Owl Brewing Co
On the south side, Barn Owl is set to become part of the Surtees House and Barn conservation plan in the Lower Mission across from the Quality Greens on Lakeshore Road. The brewery will occupy the cute heritage barn. The city approved application calls for a main floor occupancy of 36 people, a loft area that can seat 24, and an outdoor patio. Hours will be 9am to midnight, seven days a week.
Sounds like a great place for a picnic-style beer break on your scenic Lakeshore bike ride. Expect them to be ready to open sometime late spring, early summer.
Directly across from Gyro Beach in the Mission, Shoreline Brewing has its application in to the city to open shop on the ground floor retail area of the new Rise Commercial Developments’ mega apartment site. The brewery will be able to seat 95 people indoors, and feature a large patio big enough to support almost 100 customers(!).
Shoreline will also be a full service restaurant specializing in what the application states will be "comfort food". No word yet on what its menu will look like, but here's hoping the offerings will veer away from the ubiquitous fish tacos and pulled pork sliders. While the brewer requested hours of operation be from 10am to midnight, it’s worth noting that in the technical comments area of the application, the RCMP only supports hours between 10am to 10pm (which is ridiculous).
Not exactly related but kind of interesting is Edmonton’s kb&co Casual Conscious Eats. This restaurant, offering up a plant-based menu free of meat, dairy, egg, and soy products will make their first expansion outside of that city into this new complex as well.
Even, more interesting... Alberta’s Diner Deluxe will also be opening in the building and there’s a rumour that a certain downtown restaurant has partnered with them for this expansion.
So there you have it, Kelowna will soon have a lot more venues for those just as concerned about the quality of what's in their beer sleeve as their wine glass, or on their plates. Watch this space for more detailed descriptions of their offerings as they come available. Bottoms up barley bishes!
Correction: in a previous version of this article, we wrote that Big Rock Brewing purchased Tree Brewing, and that Chris Stirling owned Tree Brewing. Tree Brewing entered into a partnership with Calgary's Big Rock Brewery, and Chris Stirling co-owns the Tree Brewing Beer Institute with Dave Gokiert. He is now the GM of Big Rock Brewing's BC division. The article has been corrected and we regret the error.