Beer Tasting 101: A Beginner's Guide to Kelowna’s Breweries

Bartender pouring beer from the tap at Barn Owl Brewing in Kelowna.
Barn Owl Brewing

Kelowna, a city often celebrated for its wine, has quietly become a sanctuary for craft beer enthusiasts.

Understanding Beer Tasting

Navigating the world of beer can be as exhilarating as it is daunting, especially for those new to the scene. Starting with lighter, more approachable beers, such as Pilsners or Wheat Beers, is often recommended. These beers are lower in alcohol concentration and offer a crisp, pleasing introduction to the palate. The journey of beer tasting involves observing the beer's appearance, sniffing its bouquet of aromas, and savouring its flavours on the tongue. A tulip glass is ideal for tasting, as it allows for a perfect pour and the full expression of the beer's aroma and colour. For the novice, understanding the five basic types of beer – Pilsners, Ales, Lagers, Stouts, and Porters – is an essential first step. Each category brings its distinct characteristics and tastes, setting the stage for a varied and rich tasting experience.

Kelowna’s Craft Beer Scene

Kelowna's craft beer scene has blossomed, rivalling its famed wine culture. The city has witnessed a surge in quality craft breweries, offering a spectrum of exotic sours, smooth craft beers, and innovative brews. Kelowna’s craft breweries, spread throughout the city, invite beer lovers to explore their diverse offerings. From bustling summer crowds to more tranquil off-season visits, these breweries provide a wide array of beers that cater to all tastes and preferences.

Featured Breweries and Their Signature Beers

  1. BNA Brewing Co.: A multi-level, dog-friendly brewery in downtown Kelowna. Known for its Purple Rain Sour, BNA combines great beer with a lively atmosphere.
  2. Rustic Reel Brewing Company: A brewery that encapsulates the Okanagan spirit. Their Amber Ale is a standout.
  3. Kettle River Brewing: Offers a range of small-batch craft beers. Their Loose Canoe IPA is a must-try for IPA lovers.
  4. Kelowna Beer Institute: Known for its tank-to-tap method, serving unfiltered beers like The Rambler.
  5. Vice & Virtue Brewing Co.: A hub of creativity, blending fruit with beers to create unique flavours like The Love Potion Raspberry Berliner Vice.
  6. Copper Brewing Company: This newcomer to the scene is quickly gaining popularity with its Blackcurrant Sour and Copper Lager.
  7. Red Bird Brewing: Offers small-batch brews with a local historical twist. Lady of the Lake Lager is a crowd favourite.
  8. Barn Owl Brewing: Set in a 1921 heritage barn, this brewery is as much about sustainability as it is about beer, with offerings like Wise Owl Nitro Stout.

Pairing Beer with Food

Pairing food with beer can elevate the tasting experience. The key is to either contrast or complement the flavours. For example, light lagers pair well with spicy food and burgers, while IPAs, known for their bitterness, complement heartier foods like steak and barbecue. Amber ales are versatile, pairing well with pizza and smoked pork. For those who prefer darker beers, porters and stouts offer rich, deep flavours that can stand up to seafood, game meats, and chocolate desserts.

Responsible Beer Tasting

Enjoying the diverse world of craft beer comes with the responsibility of moderation. Beer, after all, contains alcohol, and its consumption should be balanced with wellness and health in mind. Tasting beer is as much about appreciating its craft as it is about enjoying its flavours. Drink responsibly and savour every sip.


In conclusion, Kelowna’s breweries offer an abundance of flavours for the beer enthusiast. From light, crisp ales to rich, dark stouts, there is a beer for every palate. So embark on this flavourful journey, explore responsibly, and discover the brew that speaks to you.