Like most Canadian cities, Penticton loves its beer. But if there’s one thing enthusiasts love more than drinking beer, it’s making it.
Penticton’s many dedicated craft brewers recently brought global recognition to the city when the international travel guide, The Lonely Planet, declared Peach City Canada’s craft beer capital.
Nestled in an area soon to be home to the largest percentage of organic wines in the world, Penticton’s craft brewing scene is now also on the rise. Seven local family-run breweries currently contribute to this thriving business community.
The city’s craft beer history is certainly rich, but how did seven family-run breweries earn the city a title as lofty as the country’s beer capital?
Kim Lawton, marketing director for Cannery Brewing and coordinator of the Penticton Ale Trail, thinks it has something to do with the cohesive working relationship all local breweries share.
“We (competing breweries) all work so well together. It’s pretty special,” Lawton said.
“In Penticton we all want to support local. Our local wineries, our local breweries, our local cideries, our local food producers, our local farmers. All the breweries are local, they’re family-run. You can go to any one of the breweries and meet the owners and they’re just part of our community.
“The breweries support so much locally, and I think people really like that.”
It’s not surprising then that Penticton’s breweries were quick to hop on board the increasingly-popular B.C. Ale Trail. Launched in 2016, the Ale Trail is the definitive guide to self-guided tours in B.C.’s craft beer world. Penticton brewers joined in 2017 and haven’t looked back.
Two of the original craft breweries, Tin Whistle Brewing and the Barley Mill Brewpub ignited the craft beer scene over two decades ago.
“The cool thing about Penticton is that we had a beer industry before it was cool,” said Lawton. “We weren’t even calling it craft.”
Over the years, many new businesses have added to the vibrancy of the craft brewing scene; Cannery Brewing, Bad Tattoo Brewing, Highway 97 Brewing, Neighborhood Brewing, and most recently, Slackwater.
When touring the Penticton Ale Trail, there’s no rush. Hop on a bike or walk through town and tour from brewery to brewery on your own schedule.
Last year, Penticton became the third city to join the B.C. Ale Trail app, which features a map of local breweries. Clicking the icon of each shows the user what brewery is there and what it has to offer. Local breweries also came together to launch a ‘passport’ which customers can take with them as they travel to each brewery, collecting stamps in each spot.
The city’s economic development specialist, Andrew Kemp also said he’s amazed at how well the breweries work together.
“They’re working really, really closely and well together, which shocks me. They could be seen as competitors but they’re working together,” Kemp said.
According to Kemp, attracting media attention from a publication such as The Lonely Planet is huge for not only the beer scene, but also the city’s economy. Kemp added that the recognition given to the breweries has enabled the city to push its tourism attraction efforts into places previously untouched.
Kemp also said that the breweries are instrumental in accomplishing one of the city’s main economic goals; attracting a younger demographic.
“We have lots of jobs available for people, so if (breweries are) another attractant for employment, that’s great,” he said.
“They’re making beer and they’re selling it locally, often using products as local as possible. From that side of it it’s like a culture, and people are really enjoying it,” Kemp said.
“Across the country everybody is trying to attract young people to their community. I think we have huge advantages here.”
Having lived in Penticton for just over half a year, Kemp said the breweries were one of the things that attracted him the city as well.
“Having a developed market like this, I don’t have to go to the same place over and over,” said Kemp.
Another thing Kemp hopes the breweries can help the city accomplish is bringing in tourism outside of the summer months. He said the city is already well on it’s way to accomplishing that with many restaurants that would previously close in the winter now staying open year-round.
Kemp has big aspirations for this small town and sees the breweries as an integral part of reaching them. To Kemp, diversification is one of the biggest things that breweries add to the economy; from jobs in hops growing and canister making, to producing the beer itself.
Already “Canada’s beer capital,” Kemp predicts even more continued growth for the cornerstone industry in the coming year.
“Let’s be Napa of the North,” he said.
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