PENTICTON - Less than a month away, the 2015 version of Penticton’s Fest of Ale promises to be the biggest and best ever, fitting because this is also the 20th anniversary of the beer quaffer’s gathering.
As Fest of Ale has thrived, so too has the local microbrew industry that is growing up around it.
The Fest of Ale is sporting a new logo and a new partnership for tourism marketing with the Penticton Hospitality Association, said Martin Lewis, one of Fest of Ale’s directors. Aside from delighting beer connoisseurs from up and down the Okanagan and beyond, over the past two decades the festival has raised over $500,000 to local charitable causes.
“Any registered charity can apply for Fest of Ale proceeds,” said Lewis. Donations typically range between $300 - $10,000, depending on need.
This year’s Fest of Ale will see the addition of up to 10 new breweries, with the total number represented exceeding 40.
There will be more options for food and entertainment, including an outdoor venue that is also new this year. An on-site liquor store will be set up for the first time as well.
Lewis said he expects 5,000 people will attend this year’s two day event, which takes place April 10-11. Most of those attending will come from the Okanagan with approximately 25 per cent of the total coming from points beyond the valley.
Penticton and area will be well represented at the festival, with The Cannery Brewing Company, Bad Tattoo, The Barley Mill, Tin Whistle Brewing and Oliver's Firehall Brewery participating.
Lewis said the Northwest craft beer phenomenon, which began in Northern California, has been spreading north through Oregon to Vancouver and Victoria over the past few years.
“We are starting to see it blossom here in the Okanagan. Tree Brewing in Kelowna recently opened the Beer Institute on Ellis Street in that city, and here in Penticton we’re seeing the microbreweries piggybacking on wine tourism. We’re certainly seeing heightened draw on the brewery side, with some real growth. Vacation tours are coming into town and stopping at breweries like Bad Tattoo for beer and pizza after a day touring the wineries.”
Lewis is also co-owner of Bad Tattoo Brewery, which recently received accolades from beer columnist Matthew McFarlane for its Bad Tattoo Westcoast IPA.
Lewis feels there is room for expansion of the industry here, noting the City of Portland, Oregon’s 70 microbreweries to Penticton’s four.
“There’s tons of room for growth. The brew industry here is extremely collaborative. We get together all the time, and call each other for assistance and advice,” he said.
Fest of Ale directors hope to see future growth in the outdoor segment of the beer festival. In past years, the convention centre has sold out, forcing future expansion of the festival to move outdoors or to a larger venue.
Lewis said the event has gained traction in recent years, with beer related events now starting to pop up in the days before and after the festival.
“This year there is a craft beer seminar prior to Fest of Ale and a “cask massacre” on the Saturday night of the weekend following. It’s turning into a Craft Beer Week,” Lewis said.
“It’s going to be a great festival this year. I’m excited,” he said.
Lewis said there are lots of tickets still left for the event, which can be purchased through the South Okanagan Events Centre box office and at the Wine Country Tourist Infocentre. Tickets can also be purchased at Days Inn, Bad Tattoo Brewing, Cannery Brewing, Tin Whistle Brewery and the Barley Mill. Tickets will be available until maximum sales are reached.
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