When Lynda Lock and her husband, Lawrie, moved to the Okanagan from Vancouver in 1992, they wanted to put their passion for being adventurous to the test.
Their idea of starting the region’s first brewery may have been simple, but to many, it was too ambitious. The two individuals, along with Lawrie’s sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Richard Grierson, embraced the challenge.
And from there, Tin Whistle, the South Okanagan’s first brewery, was born in 1994.
“For us to do the brewery, it was just a fun, crazy thing to try,” Lynda said.
At the time, there were eight wineries in the Okanagan. Before their arrival from the Lower Mainland, the Locks always believed they were destined for the wine business.
After realizing the opportunity they had to lead a new scene in the region, however, their approach quickly led to excelling in the brewery business.
“With wine, we didn’t have a clue,” she said.
“You had to grow the grapes and then you harvest them, crush them, go through a bunch of other stuff. So we just decided to stick with something much easier.”
Early results indicated that Tin Whistle was a success shortly after its official opening in the summer of 1995.
But little did the Locks know that their venture would be partially responsible for starting the now vibrant brewery scene in the South Okanagan.
“It was amazing how well it was received at that time,” Lynda said. “And today, you see about 10 breweries within 20 kilometres of each other.”
Opening Tin Whistle didn’t come without feedback from skeptics within the community, who believed the idea of owning a sustainable brewery wasn’t possible in what was known as “wine country.”
“People said ‘are you crazy?’ and I said, yes, I guess we are,” she added.
The family sold Tin Whistle in 1998 after three years of existing among the South Okanagan’s first-ever breweries. Lock’s husband passed away in 2018 due to Rapid Onset ALS.
That didn’t come before he sparked the idea to start the community’s very own beer festival, better known today as the Okanagan Fest of Ale.
“Lawrie told the sales manager at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre about this festival in Victoria,” Lynda explained. “They checked it out for themselves and then in the spring of 1996, a board of directors at the centre decided to do the same thing right here.”
Since then, the festival has been a community success each year. The 2022 edition of the Okanagan Fest of Ale is set to begin on May 14.
Reminiscing about the start of the festival and what Tin Whistle’s legacy has meant to Penticton after all these years still makes Lock as proud as ever.
“It’s nice to get a little bit of acknowledgment that we as a group of four people did something kind of cool and different and has helped spawn this other part of the tourism scene,” she said.
Alexis Esseltine and Tim Scoon purchased Tin Whistle Brewing on Oct. 30, 2020, and continue to call the business “the original craft brewery of the South Okanagan.”