The craft beer scene in the city of Kelowna has erupted in the last decade, and people are beginning to take notice. The Okanagan has predominantly been known as a wine lovers paradise. But this region is quickly turning into a craft brewery hotspot, garnering enough interest to operate the Kelowna Craft Beer Tour. But in order to understand how we got here, we first have to look back at how it all began for the craft beer scene.
The best way to check out all of these amazing breweries is with the the Beach Bum Craft Crawl, the best Kelowna Brewery Tour in the Okanagan. Grab your friends and book a tour today.
Original Kelowna Breweries – 1985-2000
TREE BREWING – EST. 1996
It was 1996 when Tree Brewing began serving up craft beers, becoming only the 16th brewery in all of British Columbia at that time. This is hard to believe when you consider the province has nearly 200 craft breweries across the map currently operating today.
Tree Brewing beer institute was the real pioneer of craft beer in Kelowna. But in the Okanagan, the first brewery to pop up shop was Okanagan Springs. Okanagan Spring began brewing and selling beer back in 1985. Both of these breweries were major trailblazers, and well ahead of the craft beer craze in the Okanagan.
During this time the big three of Labatt, Molson and Canadian Breweries limited held a stranglehold on the Canadian beer marketshare. It could easily be estimated that large breweries held nearly 90% of all sales at this time. Majority of people wanted the same beverage when attending their go-to watering-hole, and the big three thrived off it, relying heavily upon customer brand loyalty.
In October 2019, Statista estimated craft breweries marketshare accounted for nearly 50% of all companies within the Canadian brewing industry.
Major breweries felt that these tiny craft breweries were a fad, and didn’t feel threatened by their expansion. But the marketshare that craft breweries hold in Canada today speaks the truth, beer drinking enthusiasts want options. They want to enjoy a different taste, favour and finish nearly every time they consume a beer. The expansion of craft breweries in Kelowna and British Columbia over the last decade shows something very special. These craft beer micro-breweries are here to stay.
Today there is no shortage of breweries in Kelowna if you are looking to wet your whistle. Here is a list in chronological order, with their location from West Kelowna to downtown Kelowna water street.
FREDDY’S BREWPUB – EST. 2000
Freddy’s brewpub setup shop in Kelowna BC during 2000. They are considered the first true microbrewery on the map in Kelowna, and attached directly to McCurdy Bowling lanes for community entertainment. My first experience here was in 2012, and the space felt like a traditional pub with the craft brewery aspect taking a backseat. During this time two lagers and four ales were brewed onsite, with little effort put forth to differentiate their craft beers from large breweries.
Today Freddy’s craft brewery has up to 14 rotating beers on tap at any time with an option of lagers, ales and speciality beers to satisfy connoisseur and beer lovers alike. Their most popular craft beer on the menu is the Big Lebowski Lager, which movie buffs can approve given the 30 bowl lanes attached.
For their 20th anniversary Freddy’s underwent a major facelift in Kelowna BC, with a complete revision of their current establishment. Nearly tripling the place in size has allowed them to craft three times the brew. Firmly changing focus to craft beer and the Kelowna Brewery beer scene.
First 3 Kelowna Breweries to Market – 2015-2016
BNA BREWING – EST. 2015
BNA brewing company opened in downtown Kelowna in 2015, becoming the first of several Kelowna breweries to set up shop. BNA didn’t just dip their toe in the water, they went all-in from day one. Located in the cultural district of Kelowna BC on map, BNA overtook the historic downtown building of 1250 Ellis street and created a place with craft beers and delicious food.
After gutting and refinishing the building, BNA became an immediate go to party location. They have a unique selection of beer styles for a range of audiences. If beer tasting doesn’t interest you, they are one of the few Kelowna breweries offering a wide range of cocktails and wine to satisfy everyone in your grouping.
Before attending your dinner reservations, consider taking a brewery tour. After all, they are one of the few in the city.
At BNA Brewing Co the love for craft beer is real. Sit down for tasting flight or take some fresh draft beer home in a growler. Don’t lose your Dinosaur IPA, and the 76 Wolverine Lager have been staples since day one. But their list of craft beer offering is constantly growing and expanding with each season that passes in downtown Kelowna.
KETTLE RIVER BREWING – EST. 2016
Kettle River brewing company opened in 2016, and in my opinion became the first true craft brewery in Kelowna. Hidden in Kelowna’s North end, they are a small batch neighbourhood brewery at 731 baillie ave.
Their cozy and eclectic beer tasting room was once an auto repair shop, but today it feels like a true micro-brewery. While beer enthusiasts can enjoy a delicious pint and snack from the Provisions Kitchen when visiting.
They pride themselves on experimenting with new recipes and ingredients, making for a different choice of beer styles on tap nearly every week. This was the first Kelowna Brewery that gave a trendy micro-brewery experience you would expect when visiting Oregon.
This is a true small batch brewery that puts their beer creation and quality front and center, a must visit on the Kelowna Ale Trail map, and when deciding which breweries in Kelowna to visit.
RED BIRD BREWING – EST. 2017
Red Bird Brewing opened on Richter street in the city steps away from Kettle in 2017. This was the true beginning of the brewery scene in Kelowna’s North end.
This charming nano-brewery has a tiny tasting room with indoor seating for about 40 people. Their taps list gets updated frequently with a rotation of beer anyone could respect.
Retail sales and beer cans pay homage to the location and history of Kelowna, with each producing a story or interesting tale of the region.
Currently Red Bird is planning a large expansion. Empty space beside them is set to be converted into a rooftop patio, turf bocce court, elevated music stages, a dog run and up to 80 bicycle parking spaces.
West Kelowna Brewery Expansion – 2017
KIND BREWING – EST. 2017
Across the shores in West Kelowna Kind Brewing opened their doors in 2017, and today they are still the only brewery in West Kelowna.
They currently offer up to 13 beers on tap at any time, with the option to order or delivery. With live music, a full kitchen, selected games nights and happy hour deals between 3-6pm, they have all the bases covered.
Doubling of the Kelowna Craft Beer Market – 2017-2019
VICE & VIRTUE BREWING CO – EST. 2018
When Vice & Virtue opened their doors it created a trifecta of breweries in the Kelowna North End. Their story was born in a backyard with some friends, and since opening shop has quietly become a very popular location in the community.
The Homewrecker Hazy IPA is arguably one of the best in Kelowna. Tropical and stone fruit aromas combined with a real juice hop kick will surely satisfy all IPA lovers. While the Love Potion Raspberry Sour is commonly mentioned with the best when discussing unique beers that Kelowna breweries offer.
WILD AMBITION BREWING – EST. 2018
Wild Ambition Brewing is a mixed fermentation brewing process. Using primarily locally produced ingredients they focus on producing unique bottle conditioned beers.
Some are barrel aged, some are sour, but all beer is fermented with multiple microbes at Wild Ambition brewing. Explore their tasting room for an extremely unique beer experience.
RUSTIC REEL BREWING – EST. 2019
Rustic Reel became the 4th brewery to join the scene in the North End. A true “one women show” built this brewery from the ground up. Today the distinct beers and branding directly reflect the feeling of cabin and lake life. Board games are encouraged when visiting, and don’t forget to browse their “tackle box” local market for all things Okanagan.
Beer lovers don’t skip this Kelowna brewery over the holidays, the offer a one of a kind gingerbread ale that takes exactly like it sounds.
Arguably the most unique option available at this brewery is “buy a beer for next time”. You can pay ahead for a friend or family member getting their name written on a paper reel. A perfect surprise and way to pay it forward with a free brew next time they visit.
JACKKNIFE BREWING – EST. 2019
Jackknife brewing rounded out the North End of Kelowna in 2019, becoming the 5th brewery to open shop all within a few steps on the map.
This brewery prides themselves on creating west coast beers that are a little off-kilter. This “Weird Beer” is unfiltered and only available at the brewery. Along side you will find some of the best pizza Kelowna offers.
COPPER BREWING – EST. 2019
Copper Brewing became the first of all Kelowna Breweries to open in the Landmark business district. Their name was derived after their late Bernese mountain dog named Copper, and his picture can be found on all their cans.
Explore their tasting room for a wide range of west coast beer and some old school Nintendo at their booth seating. While a new mascot named “Porter”, also a Bernese mountain dog, has found his way to the forefront of this Kelowna brewery.
BARN OWL BREWING – EST. 2019
Barn Owl Brewing became the first to open in the Kelowna Mission region, surround by some very popular wineries. A doctor, teacher and church worker combination came together and revamped an 1920’s barn to a stylish trendy experience.
From Lagers to Ales to Porters, there is a beer at Barn Owl that anyone could enjoy. With over 22 types of brews created, just stop in and see which beers are currently pouring.
New Kelowna Breweries – 2020-2021
KELOWNA BREWING – EST. 2020
Kelowna Brewing became the first to put craft beer on the map in the University district. Located steps from UBCO and minutes from YLW.
A wide selection of beers, funky 80’s furniture, pub games and one of the best views out of all the Kelowna breweries will keep you coming back for more.
SHORELINE BREWING – EST. 2020
Shoreline brewing opened up directly across from Gyro Beach in the Mission region of Kelowna. Locally owned and operated by a husband and wife.
Experience some carefully crafted food alongside a wide arrange of rotating beer taps. Be sure to stop in here for a late afternoon or evening sunset, it produces the best Lake Okanagan and west facing views of all the breweries. A must stop on any Kelowna brewery tour.
WELTON BREWING – EST. 2020
Welton Brewing is born in England and brewed right here in Kelowna British Columbia. They pride themselves on becoming BC’s first British Brewery.
They are currently in the industrial area, but are opening up a tasting room and restaurant in the North end brewing location in 2021.
UNLEASED BREWING – EST. 2021
Unleashed hasn’t opened shop yet, but they are set to also join the North End bringing the brewery district count up to 7 total.
In their words, expect beers strong and bold like big dogs, and light and crisp like the small ones.
Kelowna BC Ale Trail
A number of these breweries find themselves on the BC Ale Trail. While some breweries like Boundary Brewing and Tree Brewing have undergone transformations and changes in Kelowna BC. Tree Brewing is now being produced under “Kelowna Brewing Institute” after being purchased by Calgary brewing conglomerate Big Rock. As for Boundary Brewing, their Kelowna BC location didn’t survive the Pandemic. They have decided to return to their roots of the boundary region in BC near the Kootenays to continue making beers.