Beer to flow on shores of Okanagan Lake

Another sign wine country folk are embracing the craft brewing movement is on the books for May.

Another sign wine country folk are embracing the craft brewing movement is on the books for May.

An event dubbed the Great Okanagan Beer Festival will offer three days for craft beer aficionados and fans to sip, critique, eat and generally enjoy the best that more than 40 North American breweries have to offer.

And, while there will be loads of beer, don’t expect a “chug fest,” said Liam Peyton, the events manager at Gibbons, the organizer of the festival.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that—it’s just not what they do.

“We are a sampling event,” Peyton said. “We’re not a chug fest—never have been, never will be.”

Gibbons is building off the success of their Whistler beer fest, and the Okanagan edition will be in the same spirit. At venues from Penticton to Kelowna the festival will sponsor everything from paired dinners,  seminars, cask events of varying kinds and  live cooking shows.

Most events are held indoors at the 16 different venues already selected, but on the Saturday of the festival, one outdoor tasting event to be held in Waterfront Park. That event is expected to bring in up to 2,500 thirsty patrons.

Peyton said it’s designed to capitalize on the natural beauty of the area, and that is what differentiates the Great Okanagan Beer Festival from the Penticton event, the Fest of Ale.

That longstanding South Okanagan event is very popular, but Peyton said there’s enough appetite for two craft beer festivals in the valley.

Although Gibbons didn’t seek out Kelowna—Tourism Kelowna approached then to replicate what they do in Whistler—they immediately saw a place for them.

“As soon as we put the feelers out, everyone was like, ‘this is so far overdue,'” said Peyton.

“Everyone is very excited.”

Craft beer, after all, has come into its own in recent years.

“Both the consumer and the producers really like this kind of event. Craft beer is different, exciting and creative… it’s also far more accessible these days.”

There will be 90-plus beers to try at the sampling event on the Saturday. The festival has a range of craft talent to tempt the taste buds and they’re proud to announce that amongst the exhibitors are Four Winds Brewing Co. from Delta , Tree Brewing, Bad Tattoo Brewing in Penticton, Bomber Brewing in Vancouver  and Moody Ales from Port Moody, Barkerville Brewing from Quesnel and Fuggles & Warlock Craftworks from Aldergrove.

Local food vendors NC’s Gourmet Grill, The CrAsian Food Truck, Coast Lunchbox and Kelly O’s will also be on site to tempt the taste buds of thousands of festival-goers, although the timing of the event is designed so that afterwards the guests will filter into the surrounding bars and restaurants to continue the celebrations.

Proceeds from the Main Event will go to Gibbons’s license holder, K-Billie Artistic & Athletic Development, a Kelowna based NPO whose mission is to support artist and athlete development with community based events and showcases.

Tickets go on sale March 6 for the inaugural Great Okanagan Beer Festival to be held in Kelowna, May 7 to 9. For more information and to buy tickets visit: gibbonsevents.com/great-okanagan-beer-festival