KELOWNA – Okanagan residents can trade their wine glasses for pints this weekend to sip world-class brews from local and international makers.
Tonight and tomorrow vendors are setting up their tables at the Kelowna Curling Club, pouring hundreds of products from scotch, bourbon whisky and imported and local craft beer, to premium spirits including espresso and peanut butter and jelly flavoured vodkas.
It's all part of the fifth annual Hopscotch Exhibition, an event that brings the community together in their thirst for a good drink, appetite for gourmet food and some live music a la Frank Sinatra.
Local distiller Okanagan Spirits will be pouring their house absinthe along with their award-winning fruit liqueurs, with one made from Kelowna grown cherries. Their sales manager Rodney Goodchild says the exhibition is a much welcomed opportunity to showcase the other side of Okanagan alcohol.
“There are so many wine events... but very few signature events like this in the valley,” he says adding it's an opportunity to reel in the robust market of wine drinkers.
With just a few established distillers in town it's still a young industry, but one that's already turning heads, Goodchild says. In March Okanagan Spirits was named distillery of the year at the World Spirits Competition in Austria.
There's no secret formula, Goodchild says, the star ingredient is quality fruit grown in the Okanagan Valley. With few markets for less-than-perfect looking fruit, distilleries help turn rejected crop into profit, he says.
Before the Hopscotch festival came to Kelowna the Vancouver-based brand was eyeing other markets in Calgary and Whistler, says executive director Adam Bloch.
“Without fail our clientele said you've got to go to Kelowna - the market there is just about to hit the brink,” he says.
Stores like Metro Liquor and the recently-opened Mission Tap House are good signs craft brewing is here to stay, Bloch says.
“It's literally a different city than it was five years ago,” Bloch says of Kelowna's alcohol industry.
Tickets to the event are going fast but can still be purchased online. All you need to do is plan a safe ride home and figure out how to use your five 'tasting tokens'.
Goodchild advises guests to sample wisely.
“You're not gonna be able to try it all,” he says and don't stick to your favourites.
“You can try that at your local pub - here's the opportunity to try something a little different.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718-0428.