Okanagan Fest-of-Ale might have a new logo to celebrate its 20th anniversary, but that is far from the only new addition to the popular event.
To start, the festival is spreading into the great outdoors to let beer enthusiasts enjoy a bit of Okanagan sunshine while sampling the 150 brews and ciders being presented.
“This new outdoor area will feature food trucks, breweries and live entertainment, allowing guests an opportunity to move inside and out and take in different experiences,” said festival director Ron Dyck.
After maximizing the potential of the inside of the Trade and Convention Centre, they decided to look outside for more space for people to hang out and enjoy, according to event director Ginger Budinski.
“With the notion of taking brewers outside and adding food trucks, it only seemed natural to complement it with a stage to increase the experience,” she said. The addition of an outdoor stage means more entertainment, so there are 12 bands booked to play this year’s Fest-of-Ale, old favourites and new groups, from hard rock to jazz.
When it comes to old favourites, one standout is the Thursday Night Jazz Band, which has played at every Fest-of-Ale.
“They have been with us for 20 years. Every single year for 20 years running,” said Budinski.
Another band has some close connections to the festival. Great White North features the musical talents of Mike Szalay, the creator of the new Fest-of-Ale logo. Szalay also created the logo for Firehall Brewery, whose brewmaster, Sid Ruhland, is also a member of the band.
“They are excited to play in front of their peers,” said Budinski.
Eleven local restaurants will be onsite at the event and a number of them will be featuring special food and beer pairings. Watch for Cannery Brewing paired with Brodo Kitchen, Tin Whistle Brewing paired with Mr. Marks Caribbean Foods, Bogner’s of Penticton with B.C. Tree Fruits Cider or try a Wannawafel made using the beer from Bad Tattoo Brewing.
And, of course, there will be lots of new brews to taste.
“We will have a total of 47 breweries and cideries from across the province and the Pacific Northwest,” said Dyck. “There will be over 150 different beers and ciders to try including a selection of exclusive casks made for the festival.”
Fifteen of the breweries coming will be making their first-ever Fest-of-Ale appearance.
“There is certainly an increased number of brewers out there and we were looking for a way to accommodate more brewers, better selection for attendees,” said Budinski. And with the growth of interest in craft brewing, the Fest-of-Ale is seeing the scene grow around it, to the point that it is now the main event of a week of festivities.
The Copper Mug Pub is doing a cask event on April 8, Joe Wiebe, the Thirsty Writer and author of the book the Craft Beer Revolution is doing a seminar and beer tasting on April 9, and a book launch party with a “revolutionary” collaborale cask made by Bad Tattoo Brewing, Cannery Brewing, Firehall Brewery and Tin Whistle Brewing, while the Kettle Valley Station Pub is holding their annual Murderers Row Cask event on April 11.
Fest-of-Ale runs Friday April 10 from 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday April 11 from noon to 6 p.m.
Tickets are available for sale in person at the Days Inn, local breweries, the SOEC box office, Penticton & Wine Country Visitors Centre and online at www.ValleyFirstTix.com.