Seventeen years ago, Tin Whistle Brewery branded itself as the only micro brewery in the South Okanagan. Today, the brewery faces tough competition, but shows no signs of slowing down, recently celebrating its 1,000 brew.
Over 70 supporters of the brewery came out for an invitation-only barbecue a few weeks ago at the brewery in celebration of this milestone and enjoyed not only the Tin Whistle beer, but also Tin Whistle barbecue sauce used to cook kabobs.
While Tin Whistle owner Lorraine Nagy said it was “incredible” to perform their 1,000th brew, she said it wouldn’t be too long before the brewery would be celebrating again.
“I think our 1,500 will be really quick,” she said. “The next one won’t take us half as long, not even that.”
Under Nagy’s leadership, the brewery has seen a 50 per cent increase in sales from when she took over, as well as an increase in their variety, from three to 10 different types of beer. As well, the brewery is now brewing three times a week, said Nagy, compared to just once a week when they started.
The brewery was opened in 1995 and was bought by Nagy in 1998. Over the 14 years she’s owned Tin Whistle, she said she has turned it into “a viable running enterprise, from the brewery that was in danger of closing.”
However, she said she originally had no intention of staying on past five years, initially wanting to build the business back up and sell it.
“Why did I stay? Stubborn, I guess,” Nagy said with a laugh. “The brewery was having a lot of problems when I bought it, it was having a lot of problems and now we’ve worked them all out and it’s doing really well.”
Tin Whistle’s newest variety of beer is also turning into one of its strongest. Nagy said she regularly has people phoning the brewery, asking where they can find Scorpion Imperial IPA, the new brew.
“IPAs are quite popular these days,” said Sean Forrest, manager of Clancy’s Liquor Store. “That’s kind of the in craft beer right now, and I think it will do well for them.”
While Forrest said he thinks Tin Whistle is a good local brewery, he pointed out that they are outsold at his store by Cannery, another Penticton-based brewery.
“Cannery’s got six-pack cans that do quite well, that helps,” he said. “People do like 650 millilitre bottles, but a lot of people like a six-pack format.”
Tin Whistle primarily uses the 650 mL bottles for the beer, but Nagy said for their next move, they would be looking to expand their business.
“We have to get more tanks, we have to get canning equipment, and we want to expand into canning,” she said. “That will be like doubling what we do now.”
However, she added that before this could happen, a new location will need to be found, as they would be outgrowing their current building on Eckhardt Avenue.
For the time being, Nagy said she’s simply happy to be in a business she enjoys.
“We just hope Penticton enjoys having us as much as we enjoy being in Penticton,” she said. “We’ll continue with a long, great relationship and we wouldn’t be here if Penticton wouldn’t have supported us.”