ARMCHAIR BOOK CLUB: Craft brewery explosion

It’s not always easy being a beer drinker in the heart of Okanagan wine country.

It’s not always easy being a beer drinker in the heart of Okanagan wine country.

But it’s time for wine lovers to make room, especially this weekend during the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale, which celebrates small breweries from around the Pacific Northwest.

In fact, craft breweries are opening around B.C. at an unprecedented rate. Two years ago B.C. was home to 50 breweries; that number has since swelled to 90. The rise in popularity of good locally-brewed beer can be tasted in Penticton — with the recent opening of Bad Tattoo Brewing, and expansion of both Cannery Brewing and Tin Whistle Brewing.

So, in addition to visiting the Fest-of-Ale beer stalls, how can a beer drinker keep up with such rapid industry change?

One of Canada’s best-known beer writers, Joe Wiebe, is here to help with the launch of the second edition of his book, Craft Beer Revolution: The Insider’s Guide to BC Breweries.

This is a fascinating tour of B.C.’s flourishing craft beer industry. I picked up Craft Beer Revolution thinking I would just peruse the section on the Okanagan, but instead found myself reading it from cover to cover, even reading aloud sections to my husband to convince him of stops we need to make the next time we’re in Kamloops.

Along with profiling each of the province’s breweries in an easy-to-read, organized but breezy fashion, Craft Beer Revolution lists best brews, entertaining trivia, history of craft beer, and highlights colourful characters behind the kegs and casks.

Wiebe is affable but honest in his assessment of the different beers, breweries and tap houses in B.C. If a beer falls flat, he’ll let you know. So when he heaps on praise for another beer, it feels genuine. Wiebe lists his favourite beers from each region. In the Thompson-Okanagan that includes: Cannery Brewing Nut Brown Ale, Firehall Brewery Holy Smoke Stout, Noble Pig Brewhouse Empress of India Imperial Rye IPA, Red Collar Brewing Marzen and Tree Brewing Hop Head Black India Pale Ale.

Wiebe has created a career around craft beer culture — beer making that is about inventive recipes and high-quality ingredients, not about sales volumes.

Also known as The Thirsty Writer, Wiebe writes for publications such as The Globe and Mail, and is the craft beer correspondent for CBC Radio’s All Points West. The first edition of Craft Brew Revolution was a B.C. bestseller and won the Gourmand Award for Best Beer Book in Canada.

I’d tuck a copy of Craft Beer Revolution under your arm if you’re heading to the beer festival this weekend. In fact, Wiebe is currently in town to launch his book, so you might just be lucky enough to get your copy signed, or to chat with him over a glass of finely crafted brew.

Heather Allen is a book reviewer living in Penticton.