Brew It And They Will Come #BrewedAwakening

By / Wine + Drinks / June 25th, 2018 / 14

One thing will always be true for me: every wine competition means discovering new beer. This past week I was judging the 2018 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada, which moves around the country, but was held this year in Penticton, BC, between Lake Okanagan and Lake Skaha.

It is a truly gorgeous area, with fantastic wines, from Chardonnay and Riesling to Syrah and Pinot Noir, but the region, and BC in general, is also blessed with a whole crop of new breweries.

I’ve judged this competition and its predecessor, the Canadian Wine Awards, for well over a decade, and I’ve managed to keep my record of having a good local beer after every day of judging. This year was particularly easy, as we stayed at the Ramada, which has the excellent Kettle Valley Station pub, with a nice patio and a good selection of BC brews, including from Penticton locals like Bad Tattoo and Cannery.

Adding to that is the fact that the new (2017) Highway 97 Brewery is just a couple of minutes down the highway. I stopped by several times on my way back to my room after judging.

Highway 97 is a testament to the popularity of good, locally made beer. I say that because the location is somewhat strange. Highway 97, although in some ways a street through Penticton, is really a 4 lane highway, so sitting on the brewery’s patio is a little like drinking a beer along the highway when your truck has broken down.

There is a lot of heavy, loud, truck traffic, and the cars are whizzing by pretty steadily. Yes, I could have sat inside, but they’ve built a nice little porch and garden area with lawn chairs facing the highway, and it was quite warm. Most Atlantic Canadians have a policy to sit outside whenever the weather allows.

I tried a few of their beers, including their somewhat neutral Pilsner (low bitterness, only 18 IBU), their balanced, hoppy, malty Amber Ale (28 IBU), a fresh, crisp Summerweisse, their Dirt Road DIPA (75 IBU), and a creamy, roasty Salted Chocolate Porter.

I put my headphones on and cranked my reggae/ska mix to blot out the truck noise, and enjoyed the beers in the sun. My favourite, probably because of the hot, muggy weather, was the Summerweisse.

It was interesting to note how busy the place was, at least inside, on a weekday afternoon, even sitting beside what felt like a major highway.

That’s the thing about small breweries; just brew a decent beer and give us a place to drink it, and we will come.


Craig Pinhey discovered good drink circa 1985 at Ginger’s Tavern/Granite Brewery in Halifax and has been writing about beer, wine and spirits for 25 years. A Certified Sommelier and BJCP judge, Craig lives in New Brunswick where he runs his own writing and consulting business and is the beverage columnist for Brunswick News. He is the only person to have judged all of the national wine, spirits and beer awards of Canada.

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