Hit up Andina Brewing Co. today for some Ceviche de Pescado and a Kölsch! Best ceviche I’ve had this far north, and the beer was mighty tasty! The overall vibe here was great, I really enjoyed the South American twist on the craft brewery aesthetic. A lovely bit of sunshine on a grey fall day!
Hey! I’ve been slacking off on my beer reviews, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drinking! This past weekend I toured all 5 of Kelowna’s current breweries, including Boundary Brewing Company, who are making some AMAZING beer right now! As Kelowna’s youngest brewery they are making better beer than some of the places that have been established there for decades. This is the Falconer’s Flight Pale Ale, made with a light touch on the hops which results in a very flavourful yet balanced beer. I also really enjoyed the Rauchbeer, sometimes this style can wind up as a smokebomb but again balance seems to be something Boundary is focusing on in their beers. The location is a bit out of the way, but trust me, it’s worth it!
First craft beer back in Canada just had to be the experimental tap at Cannery Brewing. Hella Melons is a German-style IPA with, you guessed it, an aroma of melon, and a hint of sweetness in the body. Very flavourful and interesting, but I’m not sure I’d have more than one glass in a sitting. Nice to be back at the local watering hole, Friday night this is the place to be in Penticton!
I’m writing one of the last papers ever for my degree (yay!) and needed to take a procrastination break. Luckily I had a can of Hop Chowdah, the newest release from @cannerybrewing . Penticton has finally joined the rest of the continent on the hazy, juicy, New England IPA trend! Amarillo and Mosaic hops give lots of tropical and stone fruit flavour and aroma. A bit soft in carbonation with a full, smooth body, bitterness is moderate and lingering but not in a dry-your-mouth-out way. I had this as a grapefruit radler this weekend and it was equally delightful as well as easier to tolerate as at 6.5% this beer packs quite a whollop. It’s apparently only a seasonal but if you can drop by and tell Patt you love it maybe we can get them to keep it around!
Summerland finally has local craft beer! Detonate Brewing, owned and operated by Nathan Rosier, had their Grand Opening on February 4th. I dropped by and the place was jam-packed (This actually isn’t too hard to do considering it is a fairly small space). While I was there people were in and out filling growlers and getting flights. Clearly I’m not the only local happy to welcome Detonate to town! I tried a tasting flight of the Call the Hops IPA, Pale Ale and IPA, and found them all to be well executed and balanced.
I came back the following weekend to check in with Nathan after he closed up shop for the day. The hours are currently Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. He says business has been steady since he opened, and he is pleased at the turn out so far. This is pretty impressive given that it is February, which is a slow month in the Okanagan, plus the brewery is tucked away in Summerland’s sleepy industrial area. Clearly there is a thirst for craft beer in the area, and as far as I’m aware there hasn’t been much marketing aside from Facebook posts, so word is travelling fast. As well some members of the other breweries in the area have dropped by to check out the place and offer their support. He already needs to order some new growlers, as they have been flying off the shelves. He is more worried now about keeping up with demand, rather than having difficulty moving product!
Nathan lives with his wife and two children in West Kelowna, and works full time in Kelowna as a civil engineer. The price for space was prohibitively expensive in the Central Okanagan, which led him to Summerland: close enough to commute and far away enough to be affordable. He had his start as a home brewer in college, and started thinking about doing it on a professional level about 5 years ago. He had been collecting bits and pieces for a brewery for a while, and eventually reached a point where he either had to get serious, or get rid of the collection. DIY appears to be a guiding principle to the construction of the brewery – Nathan has been able to source many items used or re-purposed. 2 Former milk tanks and a dairy chiller were quite easily repurposed into a fermentor, hot liquor tank and a mash-tun. Nathan chuckled telling me “I nearly died getting my cooler off Craigslist”, when a sketchy Craigslist deal in Rutland almost went wrong. He has also invested in a few brand-new items as well, such as his brew kettle made by Ripley Stainless across the street.
Nathan’s had his current space since May, and his engineering background came in handy as he was able to do much of the renovations and set up himself. There is a lot of ingenuitive DIY happening in the space as well, and he shows me around with pride over the hard work he has put into getting the large brewing system running! You can see shades of home brewer throughout, for example, we share the same finicky grain mill (although he does have a new Monster Mill waiting to get set up). Nathan figures that as he settles into his new routine he’ll be more aware of what works and what doesn’t and can be more strategic in adapting the space, but for now he has everything he needs to make beer. The space is certainly limited, and once he starts doing bottled product it will be even more so. He recognizes that the retail/tasting space is a bit tight and is considering expanding over into the brewing space slightly to better accommodate his visitors.
For sales he hopes to do both kegs and bombers, as well as growler fills. He’s already identified a few places to get his beer into, but says the main issue right now will be production. Right now Nathan figures that between his day job and Detonate he is working 80-100 hours a week. He hopes to eventually transition into brewing full time, saying his wife and kids would probably also like to see him at some point too. Eventually he may need to hire someone to help out at the brewery as well, but for now it’s pretty much a one-man show.
Nathan has achieved every home brewer’s dream and started his own Brewery. You can see the enormous amount of work that he has put into getting this project off the ground. This is not a glitzy marketing project backed by wealthy investors, no this is creative DIY at it’s finest driven by pure passion for brewing beer! Welcome to Summerland, Detonate Brewing!
Oh yeah… and this is the part where I would post some pictures and review the beer, but I have to admit… I enjoyed the growlers I took home with me so much I totally forgot to do a formal review! I have now tried the IPA, Pale Ale, Call the Hops IPA, Citra Pale Ale and the Stout. I really enjoyed all the hoppy beers, but the Stout really took my breath away. Rich, deep cocoa and coffee flavour with a very mild bitterness. I will be back for a refill of that for sure!
The best thing about staying in Delta is the close proximity to Four Winds Brewing. I’m having the Blódberg Nordic Saison, Scott is having the Triplicity Belgian Tripel. The Blódberg is a collab with Borg Brugghús from Iceland. Foedre Aged with Arctic Thyme and Plums. Not sure I’m getting much thyme off this but I can taste the plum, and it’s a nice mix of sweet and sour with complex favours that build as I get more into it. Another gold star to Four Winds!
I went on a mini-beer tour in Kelowna on Tuesday with my girlfriends, and this trio of tasty bevvies is from BNA Brewing – 2 Pancho Amber Lagers and one Blood Sugar Hope Magik ISA. We arrived just in time for happy hour and got our pints for $5 each and got some seriously yummy small plates for $5 as well. A swell deal, I think I’ll be visiting Kelowna more often! I love the vibe in BNA and that they also have some awesome guest taps – I had Brassneck’s Twinkle Toes as my follow up. As for the ISA – super citrusy, crisp, bright and easy drinking. Nailed it!
Today’s Beer: I was out in Invermere last month and of course I had to make sure to drop by Arrowhead Brewery while I was there! It was hard to pick just a few bottles to bring back with me, but Night Train, a Cascadian Dark Ale was an easy choice. Pours a lovely deep brown with a good amount of frothy head. Aroma has whiffs of citrus, resin and roast coffee. Flavour starts slightly fruity moving into a deeper roast flavour finishing with a light hoppy bite. Great example of the CDA style!
Today’s Beer: had some time to kill in Kelowna and dropped by Kettle River Brewing Co. to try their latest creations. On the left is the Dry-Hopped Saison and the right is the Double IPA. Both are super delicious with bright, citrusy hop profiles. If you’re here make sure to check out their bottles too… They have an amazing barrel program here, I’m going to grab a Barrel-Aged Blonde on my way out!
I had been dreaming of drinking in Europe ever since we booked our plane tickets. I started looking up different breweries and reading blogs to research “must-try” beers. I was stoked! Once I got there, however, I slid out of the beer-hunter mode and relaxed into more of a casual drinking vibe. I think it happened when I spent nearly a whole day driving to Westvleteren, Belgium, on the 3rd day of our trip. Saint Sixtus, the famous Abbey that makes the world’s “best” beer was on my list of must-see places. However, when we arrived the tasting room was closed, even though Google had assured me it would be open. That night instead of St. Sixtus I drank an amazing selection of Belgian Ales at a secret squat bar located across the street from the house we were staying at, then stumbled home at closing time to continue drinking more delicious beer that we purchased from a Night Shop down the street. This topped drinking a single beer, no matter how high it may be rated.
I didn’t go out on a limb after that to seek out beer experiences because I was only there for 3 weeks and there were amazing things to eat and drink and see and do everywhere we went. I became a little more laid back than I usually am and let the beers come to me. Not seeking them out didn’t mean they weren’t there, it just opened up the opportunity to try things that I may have otherwise overlooked. At one point I considered not drinking every day of the trip – at home I usually only drink beer once or twice a week. That decision lasted only until we sat down for dinner at a burger joint in Marburg with an amazing selection of German craft beer, I just couldn’t resist!
I noticed a big difference in that there were either these fantastic old country beers, made traditionally and locally with a big following, and then the new craft beers that were creative and interesting but there wasn’t any sort of fervor towards them as there is in BC. It seemed like many of the styles were influenced by trends set by the North American brewing scene. I only met a few people who were into the new world style of beers and most of them were behind the counter in establishments selling craft beer. A few of the regular folks I met were intrigued by them, but many felt that it was gimmicky, and preferred their tried and true local brands.
I really enjoyed my time in Belgium, the people we met there were as into beer as I am, maybe even more. We were staying with friends of Scott’s brother, whom we had never met before. Breaking the ice they offered us some tea and cookies. It came up in conversation that writing about beer is a hobby of mine. Sven, one of our hosts, leaned close and asked me with a wry smile “You like beer?”. He then left the room and came back with several bottles of Rochefort Trappist 8 that he replaced our tea with. Our other host, Jereon, was busy working on his computer but after a few minutes he couldn’t resist joining in on our educational session. We headed over to the clandestine pub across the street where their friends joined in suggesting beers for us to try and explaining the nuances of each. The next night they gave us a tour around Ghent, taking us to an authentic Genever bar (the spirit from which Gin evolved) and a troll-themed beer cellar. Even though Sven no longer drinks, he was an authority on the beers and spirits of Belgium. We were up both nights until the wee hours of the morning – Belgian beer has a way of making that happen.
We tried explaining to the Belgians the new world styles of sour beers being brewed in BC. Their noses wrinkled at our descriptions. They agreed that a lambic beer might be possible if brewed under the right conditions, but a dry-hopped sour? No, that just wouldn’t be right they said. An overtly-hopped IPA might be acceptable in some situations, but it would ruin the flavour of any beer that was drank afterwards. I suppose that the obstacle is that when living in a country with some of the world’s best beer there isn’t much interest in experimentation: if it’s already been done right then why make any changes?
Germany had some wonderful beers, but while there was a lot of options there were many similarities between them. Not that anything is wrong with that, Pilsners are a great beer: easy drinking at lunch time, dinner time, and 3 in the morning. I also tried some dark beers, wheat beers, and lagers. They were delicious, but after a few days I began to thirts for something more unique. It wasn’t easy to find; in Marburg, a city of 81, 000, the only craft beer store had recently closed down. We were pointed in the direction of a grocery store near the university which carried a decent selection of European and American craft beers. I found Stone Arrogant Bastard next to a German IPA with Mandarina Bavaria hops. Our host in Germany was really into hoppy beers – the only person I met on my whole trip who was – so I was glad to be able to find a selection of IPAs to bring back to her as a thank-you for our stay.
Amsterdam and the Netherlands seemed to be the most alert to the craft beer movement. Amsterdam has a number of craft breweries in the city who are gathering more international attention, including Oedipus and Brouwerij ‘t IJ. On my first night in Amsterdam I had a complex and well-balanced sour beer that was a result of a collaboration between local brewery Oedipus and The Commons, from Oregon. In The Hague we happened to park next to Dorst Craft Beer, a shop that had just opened up a few days earlier and had an amazing selection of craft beer available. I requested a good saison and the owner, Jamie, informed me that “I only sell beers that I like to drink, everything here is good”. He also suggested visiting a craft brewery in Rotterdam, Kaapse Brewing, which was located in a “food factory”: an industrial building that had been converted into a number of small food and beverage shops sharing a central community seating area. Small, with a focus on local and sustainable production, and hip in an run-down sort of way it wouldn’t have seemed out of place in East Vancouver or Portland.
In the old part of Lyon I found another craft beer shop, La Chope de Lug. The owner, Alfredo, informed me that while he’d been open for a number of years he found that interest in craft beer was just starting to gather momentum. He only sold beers produced in the Rhone-Alps area, which is one of the most brewery-dense areas in France. I was pleased to see that the French brewers were also quite creative – I found interesting collaborations and twists on old favourites such as a black saison and a tropical-hopped porter. He said that there are many micro breweries popping up in France over the past few years and while the movement remains somewhat under the radar, it is exploding right now.
I was able to find a number of fantastic bars, brew pubs and breweries along the way. Some I found by accident, some were a result of a Google search, and others were on recommendation. I really enjoyed the small, hole-in-the wall pubs that focussed on high quality beer. These places were less frequented by tourists and the tap lists were limited but impressive. Places like Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman in Amsterdam and ‘t Brugs Beertje in Bruges, were serving beer long before the interest in craft beer came around, and will continue to serve long after the hype dies away.
I was able to find craft beer pubs in most towns and cities that I visited along the way from Amsterdam to Belgium and Germany to France. I’m sure if I had cared to look I could have spent the better part of each day going to different breweries, tasting beers, learning about production and sales. After my disappointment at Saint Sixtus I realized this was a vacation and I didn’t want to look for beer at the expense of other experiences I could have had along my trip. So the take home message is: if you like beer, go to Europe. You won’t be disappointed whether it’s craft you’re after or the famous traditional beers of each country.