With summer fast approaching, it’s a popular time to head into the interior to enjoy the lakes, mountains, and rivers of supernatural BC. All that driving and warm weather can make travellers a tad thirsty. Unlike canal boating in the UK, where pubs are strategically located to coincide with lunch and dinner, you’ll need to plan ahead for your craft beer fix. Fortunately, I can recommend a select half-dozen microbreweries and brewpubs in the Thompson Okanagan for a 1,000-kilometre circular road trip to enjoy some BC craft beer at source.
You decide if you want to head out of the Lower Mainland early to make this your lunch stop or take a more leisurely climb up the Coquihalla to spend more time here for outdoor activities, such as hiking and horseback riding, or catch this year’s bicentennial activities. Regardless, your craft beer destination is The Noble Pig Brewhouse. Seven regular brews and one seasonal cover a range of styles to ensure at least one will please you. The Crispy Fried Pickles are a favourite customer snack. Interesting to note that Tourism Kamloops promotes a “Self-Guided Walking Brew Tour” beginning with The Noble Pig.
Houseboating on Shuswap Lake is a popular summertime draw. But before you get to Sicamous where the boat rentals are located, consider stopping off in Sorrento to pay Canada’s first certified organic farmhouse microbrewery a visit. Crannóg Ales features full-flavoured Irish-inspired beers. If you are a fan of Guinness, their Back Hand of God stout is a must. Visiting two weeks after the August cherry harvest? Pooka Cherry Ale is a very limited seasonal not to be missed.
Thirty minutes further along Highway 1 is Salmon Arm. If arriving hungry, Barley Station Brew Pub on the main drag offers the best option for a satisfying meal with craft beer. Five regular brews tend towards the lighter beer styles with a brown ale being the only dark. A seasonal tap gives you a rotating sixth option. If you didn’t get any growlers at Crannóg, this is where you want to stock up on liquid enjoyment. Barley Station’s award-winning Sam McGuire’s is a particularly good example of an American pale ale.
Yes, Kelowna is a wine town. Tourism Kelowna has a whole section on their Web site devoted to the fermented grape. Breweries, cideries & distilleries, on the other hand, get short shrift under Arts & Entertainment. But if you’ve just spent a day cycling the spectacular Myra Canyon on the Kettle Valley Railtrail, a stop at Tree Brewing’s taproom may provide more appropriate refreshment. Otherwise, Doc Willoughby’s Pub has Kelowna’s best draft craft selection. Looking for finer dining? Try RauDZ or Waterfront; each offer three local craft taps.
An hour south on Highway 97, Penticton lures visitors with tons of sunshine, water, and wine. Thus, it may surprise you that it takes a lot of good beer to make a fine wine, as Ron Dyck of Cannery Brewing will tell you. They sell more of their beer in little Naramata than all of Alberta. Perhaps it’s the pride in having a velvety nut brown ale named after them. You can decide yourself by dropping in at their retail store for a tasting.
A five-minute drive away is Penticton’s second microbrewery, The Tin Whistle. They produce five regular brews and one or two seasonals at a given time on a brew system originally designed by BC craft beer pioneer, Frank Appleton. If your visit coincides with Peach Festival, Tin Whistle’s Peach Cream Ale would be an appropriate accompaniment.
Despite hosting the long-running Okanagan Fest-of-Ale, quality watering holes are lacking in Penticton. As CAMRA Penticton’s hangout, the Kettle Valley Station Pub is the clear choice to un-wine-d after a day of fun in the sun.
To close the loop, a scenic drive along Highway 3 through Manning Park undulates west to Hope. Unless you’ve stocked up on good Okanagan brew, this stretch of the road is a craft beer rainshadow, and you should continue on to Mission. Your reward for nearly five hours on the road is a visit to Mission Springs Brewing, a convenient excuse to avoid the madness of Highway 1. Enjoy the generous food portions and 20-ounce pints at reasonable prices before the opposite reality of Vancouver returns work to the forefront of your mind. Welcome home.