One of the biggest and fastest-growing sectors in British Columbia is the brewery industry, and it can be seen in Kelowna as there are now 18 different breweries.
“It’s been exciting to watch because it’s been so rapid,” said Ken Beattie, executive director of the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild. “It’s really become a hotbed. It’s really built to a destination, and we’re really encouraged by what we see.”
Since 2018, 12 separate breweries have opened in Kelowna, accounting for nearly 15 per cent of all breweries in the province that opened in that time.
There are currently 235 breweries across B.C.
Everything is coming together at the right time for the brewery industry, as pandemic restrictions are lifted going into the spring. The brewery district took a bit of a hit during the pandemic, but with restrictions being lifted and the provincial government extending the simplified licensed patio program until 2023, it’s a big win.
“Historically, breweries had to apply for a food-primary license in order to get a patio but during COVID because Dr. Henry and our health and safety, we wanted everyone outside, they allowed breweries to open patios and it really was the lifeline the breweries needed across the province to maintain and stay open,” said Beattie.
Beattie is also impressed by how breweries and restaurants came together and helped each other out over the last two years.
“A lot of breweries are quite small and they don’t have room for a kitchen, so it makes it great to be able to support the community,” said Beattie.
During COVID, many breweries partnered with restaurants with breweries providing their beer to the restaurant and the restaurant would provide its food to the brewery. Some breweries hire food trucks to provide the food for the day.
“That’s the bit of the silver lining,” said Beattie. “Breweries tend to be community hubs and community meeting places and we encourage them to work with their local partners down the street.”
With the number of breweries growing throughout the province, some have been able to expand and some have collaborated when creating a new beer.
“We’re going to see some consolidation of maybe breweries working together in order to expand because there’s opportunity,” said Beattie. “Canadian craft breweries and B.C. craft breweries are working together in situations to expand their reach or diversify their distribution and we’re going to see more of that.”
One of the best examples of that is in the Okanagan where Bad Tattoo Brewing opened in Penticton in 2014 and expanded to Kelowna in 2021.
There are 16 breweries in Kelowna and many are in close proximity to each other, while two are in West Kelowna.
With summer around the corner and the restrictions lifted, there’s an amazing amount of choice available for everyone in Kelowna.
“By all indications, people are itching to get out and enjoy and stay local,” said Beattie. “I’m really expecting the breweries and patios and will be packed and busy all summer.”