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Beer time! Your guide to Fest-of-Ale

Firehall Brewery
Firehall Brewery's Sid Ruhland toasts the start of Fest-of-Ale on Friday. The Oliver brewery is among 35 at this year's event, which goes from 12-6 p.m. Saturday.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

Taking a cue from the wine industry, craft brewers are suggesting food pairings with their hopped up offerings at this year’s Okanagan Fest-Of-Ale.

“We have a number of brewers paired up with local chefs who have strategically set up next to the brewery booth. We want people to take their suggestions on pairing with the food and because this is a first for us we are anxious to see the feedback it brings,” said Wayne Schmuck, Okanagan Fest-Of-Ale marketing chair. “People are used to this in the wine industry and now craft brewers are allowed to have food services with the new regulations and you will probably see a lot of them adding food service and pairing suggestions over the next few years.”

Brodo Kitchen will be paired up with the Cannery Brewing Company. and features corned beef sliders with fennelkraut and Cannery Brewing’s Baltic Porter mayo as well as bison-root vegetable chilli made with Cannery Brewing’s Naramata Nut Brown Ale, with buttermilk onion rings.

Chef Paul Cecconi from Brodo Kitchen is no stranger to pairing up with craft brews. He, along with the Cannery Brewing, have hosted two dinners in Penticton recently.

“I have been doing wine dinners for quite some time and it is a refreshing change and bit more laid back which is what Brodo is all about. The dinners we have had so far have been awesome,” said Cecconi. “I personally like beer better. The flavour profiles are much more different. I really enjoy cooking with it. My palate lends more to the beer tasting.”

Cecconi said any food that you can pair with wine, can be done with beer. With the growing trend of craft breweries popping up across the province, Cecconi said customers coming in to his restaurant are now asking what beers go best with food rather than just wine.

“We always have a good selection of different craft brews and bringing new beer in and people are loving it,”

Brodo is not only hosting beer focused dinners; on April 11 they are doing a dinner with the key ingredient being maple syrup.

Marinated pork skewers with an apricot glaze and beef tenderloin with a porter and onion demi-glaze is what La Casa Ouzeria and Tin Whistle Brewing Co. will be offering.

“I might catch some flack for this but beer pairing is much different than wine because they are dealing with grapes. Brewers are using grains, hops, different yeast and craft brewers are using fruit, different extracts and spices are even going into the beer which mixes things up,” said Jeff Todd, brewer at Tin Whistle Brewing Co. “It pairs so differently than wine because it is carbonated and scrubs your tongue clean in between courses and mouthfuls so you can go stronger with the flavours.”

Tin Whistle has also been part of brewmasters dinners where craft beer is the feature of the evening including recently at Manteo Resort in Kelowna. They will be bringing a bunch of their beers to Fest-Of-Ale including Peach Cream Ale, Killer Bee Dark Honey Ale, Osprey Pear White IPA and Orange Creamsicle Blonde Ale from a specially brewed cask.

“I try to get creative when doing a cask and with this I wanted something light, fun and easy drinking. Orange Creamsicle was one of the my favourite flavours in my childhood and reminds me of summer. At first they weren’t too sure about my choice but yesterday I was asked if I will be able to bottle this,” said Todd, who added they will have a 40-litre cask for the weekend, so if you want to try the new flavour out it is best to get to their booth quickly.

Another local brewery, The Barley Mill Brew Pub, will be serving tasty combinations with their in-house beer and a pulled pork ciabatta. The Memphis-style BBQ pork is hand pulled and topped with creamy coleslaw. They suggest pairing it with their own Nite Mare Brown Ale and Mustang Pale Ale.

McClelland Premium Imports (Erdinger Weiss, Palm Belgian Amber Ale, Stiegl Radler and Mongozo gluten free beer) has teamed up with Bogner’s Restaurant, who will be offering chicken mole, shredded spicy chipotle lamb and vegan pinto bean tacos.

Neon Wolfe Creations, a catering service run by local chef Sarren Wolfe, will join Oliver’s Firehall Brewery who are bringing their Backdraft Blonde, Stoked Ember Ale and Holy Smoke Stout.

While it is a record year for Okanagan Fest-Of-Ale in terms of the number of breweries they have involved, 35 in total with over 100 products featured, organizers also hope they break some records in the amount of money that is fundraised. Last year 16 different organizations benefitted from the $30,000 dispersed from the event.

“We are a non-profit volunteer run organization and everything we raise goes to local charities. That is the nice part about this even, for every dollar you spend on enjoying drinks and food it is all going to charity,” said Schmuck.

Okanagan Fest-Of-Ale takes place on April 4 from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and April 5 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. Tickets are $20 per person per day (plus facility, handling fees and GST). Tokens can be purchased on site for $2 and redeemed for beverage samples or used on food (tokens vary by vendor).

Patrons will also have their chance to vote for the People’ Choice Awards and will receive a ballot with their souvenir glass when they enter the doors. For more on ticket and accommodation packages or the line up of entertainment, brewers and food providers visit www.fest-of-ale.bc.ca or call 1-800-663-1900. Plan your evening with a safe ride home. All ticket holders have a $3 cab ride home, compliments of the BCLDB Get Home Safe program.

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