No sooner did your globetrotting liquor reporter return from his extended sun-and-sin vacation in Hawaii, than it was off for a wedding in Kelowna to hit on drunken bridesmaids.
Faithful readers may recollect that Kelowna is the western hub of Canada’s wine industry, located at the northern end of the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.
Your humble narrator has visited Kelowna countless times for their annual Fall Harvest Wine Festival, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to explore the seedier gin joints and taverns with a young lady of very recent acquaintance, whose better judgement was perhaps affected by being a single girl who had been a bridesmaid three times already this year.
Instead of wowing the young lady from a far-off city who I would likely never see again, with visits to the more picturesque and romantic winery cafes, your humble narrator decided to take in all the non-wine related goodness that the city had to offer.
Beginning with the beer, we headed to Tree Brewing, located right in downtown Kelowna. Celebrating its 16th year of operation, Tree has long been a favourite of BC beer snobs, as well as your intrepid liquor reporter.
With five different year-round brands, and another four rotating seasonal brews, Tree Brewing has something for everyone.
As a service to you, the faithful reader, I took it upon myself to enjoy samples of each of them at the onsite tasting room.
Space limitations prevent my from sharing the details of all the different brews, so I’ll just describe my favourites.
I have long enjoyed the Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale, with its fairly sweet malty taste and a hoppy finish. This would be best enjoyed a bit warmer than the lighter beers, so let it sit on the counter for around 15 minutes after taking it out of the fridge.
The Beach Blonde was the favorite of my new lady friend, and is a new brand that just came out last year. One of the few lagers in the brewery, this beer is light bodied and inoffensive, perfect for the lady drinker who was raised on a steady diet of Coors Lite. Perhaps it’s not only gentlemen who prefer blondes!
Moving a little further south, Cannery Brewing out of Penticton is now in their 13th year of operation, and is run out of a former fruit cannery. With a dozen different brews to their credit, a flavour can be found to match every palate.
Although Cannery Brewing is a fairly small operation, their wares are widely available here in Alberta, with the Naramata Nut Brown Ale being my longtime favourite.
Rich and dark, with a nutty aftertaste that is as smooth as velvet, this brew has a loyal following among the beer cognoscenti, your humble narrator included.
My new lady friend preferred the Anarchist Amber Ale, which I feel compelled to point out is named after nearby Mount Anarchist, rather than a legion of hoodlums wearing Guy Fawkes masks.
The Anarchist Amber Ale is a dark-gold color, with a delicate balance of malt and hop that makes it flavourful without being overpowering to mainstream beer drinkers. If you are looking for a session beer to drink all night, make it this one.
There is one more brewery in the area that your humble narrator visited, in the form of Big Surf Brewing, which has been in operation for just over a year.
Started up by the owner of a chain of pubs in Kelowna, Big Surf employs an Austrian brewmaster with decades of experience. They currently produce but a single product, known as Laid Back Lager. A slightly sweet lager with minimal head, and a subtle floral aroma.
My new lady friend enjoyed this brew immensely, and even went back for seconds. This brew is clearly aimed at the mainstream beer drinker rather than the snooty beer nerds like your humble narrator, so it may do well in stealing market share from the Molsons and Labatts of the world.
Big Surf beer is still a little hard to find in cans at your neighbourhood liquor store, but it is available on tap at the recently opened North Taphouse in Chestermere. Support your local beer slinger by heading on over there to give it a try!