Okanagan Fest-of-Ale taps into popular craft brews

Barley Mill Brew Pub brewer Ray Huson raises a glass of his finest at the pub Thursday. The Barley Mill will be one of the featured breweries at this year’s annual Okanagan Fest-of-Ale that takes place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre on April 5 and 6. - Mark Brett/Western News
Barley Mill Brew Pub brewer Ray Huson raises a glass of his finest at the pub Thursday. The Barley Mill will be one of the featured breweries at this year’s annual Okanagan Fest-of-Ale that takes place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre on April 5 and 6.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Almost 30 breweries, live music, food and a lot of people. The only thing better could be a free glass, oh wait, you get that too.

The 2013 Okanagan Fest-of-Ale returns to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre April 5 and 6 with roughly 100 different varieties of brews to sample.

“That is actually a record number of brewers coming,” said Wayne Schmuck, Okanagan Fest-of-Ale marketing chair. “We are very fortunate because in the early years we had to beg people to come and pay for them to come. In the first couple of years we had about 300 attendees and 200 of those were on free tickets. Now we are in a position, very graciously, that we can pick and choose which brewers come. We always try to get at least three or four new ones in each year.”

From its humble beginnings Fest-of-Ale has grown to be a not-to-be-missed event each year. Schmuck said part of that has to do with casual atmosphere of the event that many compare to being at a house party, the large samplings of food and beverages offered, the live music and the popularity of craft or micro breweries. According to the festival society surveys, attendees come from all over B.C., Alberta and even some from the northwest U.S.

“We call them beer geeks, politely and with no disrespect. There is kind of a beer festival circuit and the beer geeks tend to follow it around,” said Schmuck.

Friday night entertainment includes Get Bent Belly Dancing (4:30 to 5:30 p.m.), Roland Allen (5:30 to 6:30 p.m.), Joe’s Garage (6:30 to 7:30 p.m.) and Fluxx (7:30 to 8:45 p.m.). On Saturday the Thursday Night Jazz Band kicks things off from noon to 1 p.m. followed by Flashback (1 to 2 p.m.), The Dungbeatles (2 to 3 p.m.), Roland Allen (3 to 4 p.m.), Joe’s Garage (4 to 5 p.m.) and Fluxx (5 to 6 p.m.). The bands range from party/dance bands that cover vintage rock and roll hits to swing rock with a full horn section.

Proceeds from the event are gifted to various qualifying registered charitable organizations. The Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is a non-profit and favours children’s charities. They also provide scholarships to the Okanagan College Foundation, Penticton Secondary School, Princess Margaret Secondary School and Summerland Secondary School. To date, the society has dispersed $422,000.

Food vendors this year include Boston Pizza, Bogner’s, Burger 55, Opus Café and Bistro, Jacks Java Stop, Murray’s Pizza, Penticton Lakeside Resort restaurants, Smoking Hot Donairs, Wrap Daddy’s and more. Amongst the breweries are local companies Barley Mill Brew Pub, Cannery Brewing, Firehall Brewery, McClelland Premium, Summerland Heritage Cider Company and The Tin Whistle Brewing Company. The rest of the breweries come from across B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Washington.

“It is so expensive to buy at the stores but for a couple of bucks you can try a whole bunch of different varieties to see what you like then go out and spend your dollars at the stores. That is how the brewers, the restaurants all look at it. They use it for free marketing knowing that 6,000 people will come by their table over the two days,” said Schmuck.

Tickets are $20 per person per day plus fees and taxes. Fest-of-Ale runs on Friday, April 5 from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. You must 19 years or older to purchase tickets or attend the event and two pieces of identification will be required at the door prior to entrance. Tickets can be picked up in person at the Days Inn in Penticton or online at www.okres.bc.ca.

Each ticket includes access on the date of the ticket, live entertainment, a limited edition souvenir sampling glass, a $3 get home safe coupon (for use with any participating taxi) and a souvenir passport. Sampling tokens are sold separately at the event by cash only. An ATM machine is available on site. The plastic tokens can be used for beverage or food purchases and tokens from previous years are still valid.

Volunteers are still needed for the event and Schmuck said with all the perks (t-shirt, ticket, buffet dinner, prizes) it works out to be $30 per hour over their 4 hour shift. for more information on volunteering visit www.fest-of-ale.ca.

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