Craft beer revolution on tap at Okanagan College

Penticton campus hosting an event to help beer lovers navigate the hoppy waters.

Co-owner Martin Lewis (centre) of the Bad Tattoo Brewing Company and brewers Lee Agur (left) and Robert Theroux with the two silver awards the business received in 2015.

Co-owner Martin Lewis (centre) of the Bad Tattoo Brewing Company and brewers Lee Agur (left) and Robert Theroux with the two silver awards the business received in 2015.

Martin Lewis knows that exploring craft beers at a festival or brewery can be an intimidating experience.

He is offering the tools he has to help beer lovers, from novice to veteran, navigate those hoppy waters.

Lewis, co-owner of Penticton’s Bad Tattoo Brewing, will be leading Beer Appreciation – an evening of craft beer tastings and beer education offered by Okanagan College. Delivering basic beer knowledge, the course is designed to help students make the best of any beer tasting experience – in particular, at festivals.

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The tastings will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the B.C. Wine Information Society Sensory Centre, a state-of-the-art classroom-style laboratory at the College’s Penticton campus. The facility was created for the sensory discovery and evaluation of wine and food and opened in 2014. This will be the second beer course offered in the Centre by Okanagan College and the first craft beer appreciation course.

“The lab is a great venue for people to come in and learn something about the food and beverage culture that is going on in the Okanagan,” says Lewis. “It’s a phenomenal facility in an easy, central location.”

Lewis, a Red Seal chef, will pair the beer tastings with festival-inspired culinary creations he prepares in the Centre’s kitchen. Participants will explore diverse styles of beers and gain an understanding of their palate range and preferences. The course will also delve into new and emerging beer trends, such as barrel-aged beers, beers with innovative ingredients and ancient beer styles coming back into popularity.

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Known for its wine education programming, the College recognized the growing interest in craft brewing in the region and the popularity of local events, such as Fest of Ale.

“Our programming reflects what the community expresses an interest in,” says Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Development. “Our Viticulture and Wine Program was a response to the region’s thriving wine industry, and now our Beer Appreciation course acknowledges the growing enthusiasm for beer literacy in the Okanagan. And given the number of beer and wine experts on hand in the valley, it was very important to us to engage top caliber instruction for these programs.”

The industry has seen significant growth across the Pacific Northwest in the last decade. Many local restaurants and private liquor stores have jumped on the trend, offering more diverse beer selections from smaller, independent breweries.

According to Ken Beattie, executive director of the BC Craft Brewers Guild, the industry is undergoing unprecedented growth.

“In 2013, there were less than 50 craft breweries in the province. We now have over 125 breweries in 60 different communities that employ over 4500 people directly.”

The Okanagan now boasts 15 craft breweries, including four in Penticton. Lewis believes the industry is just gaining momentum and we can expect to see more breweries pop up in the region.

Read more: Okanagan breweries the toast of beer awards

“The craft beer culture offers a tremendous amount of choice and flavours,” he says. “There is a tremendous energy in the industry and a camaraderie between brewers and the customers.”

Lewis believes the course will yield for students a much more robust experience at future festivals or tastings.

“It’s easy to go to a beer festival and just stick your glass out,” he says. “After taking the course, students will be able to ask informed questions, relate concepts and understand how brewing applications affect flavour.”

Registration for Beer Appreciation is now open. Cost is $96 plus GST. Seating is limited. To register, call 250-492-4305 or visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/registerbeer. Visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/cs for more information.