B.C. beer tour: Five places to drink craft beer this summer

You won't find Cumberland beer anywhere but the Comox Valley. — Meghan Kirkpatrick photo

You won’t find Cumberland beer anywhere but the Comox Valley. — Meghan Kirkpatrick photo

Summer is in full swing and if you’re looking for a last-minute weekend getaway that doesn’t involve getting mauled by bears and eaten alive by mosquitos, then let craft beer be your guide.

There are tons of hot spots popping up around the province offering quality craft beer and a unique experience in which to taste it. So grab your copy of The Growler and start crossing off breweries from you bucket list.

Penticton

Penticton has been way ahead of the curve on craft beer since forever, and is home to five craft breweries, most of which are worth your time, and the newly launched Penticton Ale Trail is a great way to discover all the sudsy wonders this semi-desert town has to offer.

Definitely check out Cannery Brewing, not far from Penticton’s downtown farmer’s market and the legendary Burger 55. Cannery is one of the OGs of the BC craft-brewing scene, first opening their doors at the historic Cannery Building 16 years ago. Their new digs are bigger, brighter, and better in every way. And with tasting room-only “exBEERiments” and fun new styles like their Hop Chowdah New England IPA, Cannery continues to innovate.

Another must-visit is Bad Tattoo Brewing Company, located a short walk from the beach and a great place to stop in before you float down the canal. Bad Tattoo is almost as well known for their killer pizza, but their beer is what I’m most interested in. I’m partial to their Los Muertos Cerveza Negra, a refreshing dark lager that finishes dry, which is good, because Penticton can get crazy hot in the summer months.

Comox Valley

I may be totally biased because I spent pretty much every summer of my life at my grandparent’s cabin on beautiful Kye Bay, but the Comox Valley might be heaven on earth. Not only does the valley have beaches, mountains and amazing food, but the beer scene is totally legit, with three craft breweries keeping the locals refreshed.

The valley is made up of the three Cs; Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland, and each community has its own distinct vibe. Historic Cumberland, located near the base of Mount Washington, is a former coal town turned tourist destination. Your first stop here should definitely be Cumberland Brewing Company on the main drag of Dunsmuir Street. You won’t find Cumberland’s beer outside of the Comox Valley, and that’s just the way brewer/owner Michael Tymchuk likes it. After a hot and dusty day of mountain-biking (or lying on the beach, whatever), a cold pint of Cumberland’s Forest Fog wheat ale goes down mighty nice.

In downtown Courtenay you’ll find Gladstone Brewing Company and their gorgeous patio. The beers here are approachable and endlessly crushable, perfect for pairing with one of the delicious pizzas from Pizzeria Guerillanext door. TheBelgian Golden Strong Ale is deceptively easy-drinking with a dry finish and notes of fruit and peppery spice, but packs an 8% ABV wallop.

If you’re planning a visit, though, take note: many who visit the valley, never leave. Who can blame them?

Nelson

How can a city of fewer than 10,000 people support four craft breweries? With that kind of beer density, Nelson is making a case for being the Port Moody of the Kootenays, and much like the Vancouver suburb, all the breweries are within easy walking distance.

As anyone who’s ever been there knows, Nelson is just a little bit… different. It’s quirky and creative and might be one of the most charming small towns I have ever had the pleasure to visit. The best part? The beer is really good!

Nelson Brewing Company, Torchlight Brewing and Backroads Brewing are the highlights here, all of which have seen exciting changes in the past few months: NBC recently opened its new taproom; Torchlight has moved into a much bigger space; and Backroads began pouring pints this past March. Your best bet is start with NBC and work your way downhill.

No visit to Nelson is complete without a stop at the historic Hume Hotel and its iconic Mike’s Place Pub. Downstairs, the Spiritbar might be BC’s best live music club outside of Vancouver.

Kelowna

Kelowna may be known for its wine, but every month there seems to be another brewery popping up. Downtown you’ll find BNA Brewing Co. and the Tree Brewing Institute, both of which are worth some serious investigation. North of downtown, there’s funky Kettle River Brewing Co., Tree Brewing’s original brewery and tasting room and new-kid-on-the-block Red Bird Brewing (set to open any day now!). All three are conveniently located within a few feet of each other for maximum enjoyment and minimal effort. And if you find yourself out near the airport, be sure to check out Boundary Brewing Co.’s German-inspired beer list.

Your own backyard

If you live in Vancouver, you probably don’t have a backyard, but the nearest public park will suffice. Either way, if the sun’s out, head down to your favourite local brewery, get that growler filled and enjoy the Vitamin D while it lasts!