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Okanagan Fest-of-Ale Celebrates 10th Anniversary
By Abram Goldman-Armstrong

To cross the Cascades in April isn’t always easy, so there’d better be a damn good reason for it. The Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Penticton, British Columbia, is just that reason.

Held in the scenic lakeside town of Penticton, the festival celebrated its 10th anniversary April 8–9. The fest drew 6,700 people and featured 22 brewery and beverage participants, local food vendors and live music. This year, the Lang Creek Brewery from Montana joined Fish and Winthrop from Washington as brewers from below the 49th parallel to attend the fest. The event has grown in popularity over the years, and many attendees traveled from Alberta and Washington as well as from throughout B.C.

“Friday night was awfully busy. It felt about 30 percent fuller,” said Stephen Brown, who has served on the fest’s board of directors for four years. “Responsibility-wise, it’s a greater burden. I make sure volunteers are having fun. It shouldn’t be too much like work.”

For the second year in a row, a panel of brewers awarded an Industry Choice award. This year it was broken into micro and macro categories. Certified-organic Crannóg Ales of Sorrento, B.C., received the micro award for its Hell’s Kitchen, an Irish red ale, which has a soft, apple-like caramel-malt aroma, big caramel malt flavor and lightness of body from the addition of potatoes. Germany’s Warsteiner Brauerei received the macro award for Koenig Ludwig Weissbier, a straw-colored traditional Bavarian wheat beer.

The fest drew 6,700 people and featured 22 brewery and beverage participants, local food vendors and live music.

The People’s Choice award went to Bushman’s Lager, an Australian import with a pleasant noble hop character. The Double Chocolate Porter from Phillips Brewing Company of Vancouver Island was also quite popular with the crowd. Brewer Matt Phillips wanted to stay away from milk products and used cocoa powder, giving the beer a distinctive cocoa and chocolate malt aroma and a tart baker’s chocolate flavor note. Sasquatch Stout, just released by Chilliwack’s Old Yale Brewing, was also well received with its massive black patent and chocolate malt flavor and aroma.

Clever beer T-shirts, such as Phillips’ “The liver is evil. It must be punished” and Tree’s “Drink real ale, ’cause Bud’s just for smoking,” are a mainstay of the Okanagan Fest. Penticton’s Cannery Brewing Company has replaced its Anarchist Amber’s photo of its namesake mountain with a punky Circle A on bricks, which was the most popular shirt this year.

The local food booths were a major hit, with small portions of gourmet dishes available for only one or two tokens. Highlights included Salty’s Beach House Black Pearl Oyster Bar serving up fresh oysters on the half shell. Other food ran the gamut from British meat pies to Peruvian paella to Greek sausage rolls to fish and chips. There were plenty of options to pair with beer — and plenty of beer styles for the food.

Abram Goldman-Armstrong lives in Portland, Ore., and has made the trek to Penticton for the Fest-of-Ale three years in a row.


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