It’s no secret to locals that Penticton, B.C., brews great craft beer, but now the world is taking notice.
Popular travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has dubbed Penticton as “Canada’s craft beer capital.”
The small city on the south end of Okanagan Lake was home to just one brewery two decades ago. The industry has organically grown to seven breweries today.
“That distinguishes Penticton as one of the foamiest cities in the provinces, with one brewery per 4,857 people,” the Lonely Planet article states.
“It ranks amongst the most breweries per capita of any Canadian city – and to put that in perspective, Calgary has an estimated one brewery for every 29,411 people.”
The distinction is welcome news to Penticton’s brewers, who hope the publicity will boost beer tourism in the city.
“It makes a very big difference, it makes people more proud to be here and come here and be part of the craft beer scene,” said Bad Tattoo Brewery owner Lee Agur, whose production facility and pizzeria opened in 2014.
“We anticipated doing about 40 pizzas a day, quickly it was 200, now we are up to 450 pizzas a day,” he said.
Despite being competitors, Agur is allowing Neighbourhood Brewing, the newest player in the game, to use its small manufacturing plant to produce beer until it opens its doors this summer.
“Rising tide floats all boats so they’re into helping us out,” Neighbourhood Brewing co-founder Mike Cogill said.
“The buzz is great, the community, the first question they always ask is when are we opening. Everyone seems supportive of us being in town, especially the breweries in town,” he said.
Cogill, who also owns Yellow Dog Brewery in Port Moody, is moving his family to the Okanagan to launch his second venture.
“We think Penticton is a great little town, a great place to raise a family and it’s growing, lots of younger people are here now,” he said.
One of the more well-established breweries in Penticton, The Cannery, says production and sales are up as it expands its business into new markets.
“Percentage is double digits every year and I think it’s similar for all the guys in town,” said co-owner Ian Dyck.
“People seem to really care where they are buying their beer, whether it be local produce, wine, everyone wants to know where it’s coming from,” he said.
Slackwater Brewing opened its doors in June in the downtown core. Co-founder Liam Peyton says it’s producing craft beer that appeals to the masses as the product goes mainstream.
“The fruitier beers, the sour beers, the hazy beers, the hazy IPAS that are more juicy and fruity,” he said.
Peyton also moved to Penticton from the Lower Mainland to be closer to his wife’s family.
“Visual appeal and the lifestyle out here is a big play as well,” Peyton said.
“Coming from Vancouver, I don’t think I could’ve stomached doing this in Vancouver. Not only is it super saturated on the coast, a lot of people are fleeing out here to get that lifestyle and a slightly lower cost of living as well.”
Peyton pointed out the Lonely Planet article is only the latest in a list of accolades recognizing Penticton’s craft beer scene.
“Askmen.com put us in one of the top 10 in the world beside places like Prague and Munich and Denver, and we’ve been in the top 10 as well the last two years in Canada,” he said.
Local brewers are also taking marketing efforts into their own hands, teaming up to promote their product and the city.
“We have the Penticton Ale Trail where all of us work together and we are kind of like a travelling circus, sometimes we go to Kamloops beer festivals, Calgary beer festivals all together to promote Penticton,” Peyton said.
In a region dominated by wineries, craft beer is also putting Penticton on the alcohol tourism map.
“It takes a lot of good beer to make a fine bottle of wine,” Dyck joked.
For more information about the Penticton Ale Trail, click here.