Navigating the World of Craft Beer Downtown

We Asked! Vol. 2: Navigating the World of Craft Beer Downtown

There was a time when beer was simpler: you either chose the lager with the red and white label, or the lager with the blue label. Simple. But things have evolved a little since then, particularly in the last few years. There are now more craft beers available to fill your glass, mug, pint, cooler or growler than ever before. It’s a great time to love beer! But with all those new beers comes the challenge of figuring out what it is you might like. Are you an IPA person, or a Session Ale one? Dry hopped? Barrel-aged? Saison or Hefeweizen? So many questions. So we went and talked to three Downtown craft beer experts to get a few answers that might help you navigate the a beer list next time you’re faced with one.

Please tell us who you are, where you work, and what you do here?

Wade Dhooge, I work for Untapped Craft Imports, and create the beer lists for a number of places including The Curious Café.

Dave Gokiert, I am the brewmaster at Tree Brewing Company.

Roger Hulstein, I’m the bar manager at the Train Station Pub.

What’s your most popular craft beer?

Wade: On a tap, the Yellow Dog IPA or Four Winds Juxtapose IPA are both very popular.

Dave: Of course, it’s one we make here. We’re well known for our Hop Head IPA or Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale

Roger: Here, we have our house Train Station Pub Honey and Lager. They’re a great alternative to something big like Bud, and they keep everything local.

Why do you think people love it so much?

Wade: IPA in general are big flavours and big aromas, and that’s what people seem to be loving right now.

Dave: Balance is the big reason. Lots of flavour, but nothing overpowering. You can always go back for another one.

Roger: Local is a big thing. People like to support local. We’re here to showcase Kelowna and BC and I think those beers allow us to do that.

If I’m faced with a huge list of craft beers, and I’m no beer expert, how do I figure out what I might like?

Wade: If you’re in a store or restaurant with a big list, ask. There’s always someone in the building who will know. Like if you’re in a restaurant, for example, maybe your server won’t know but someone in the restaurant will. So have that person come over and help you out. They’ve ordered all of the beer on the menu for a reason and they’ll be able to tell you why.

Dave: If you’re not a beer person, think about the other kinds of drinks you like: do you like spicy drinks or fruity drinks, for example. That’s a place to start. Then your server or bartender should be able to find you a beer that matches the other kinds of drinks you enjoy.

Roger: I think it’s good to find out if you like hoppy beers like Ales and IPAs or do you like lighter beers or darker beers. Right now we have a Whistler Grapefruit Ale, it’s a good jumping off point for people. Or if there’s a beer with a lower IBU (International Bittering Units) or middle ground malt profile, those are good places to start.

What’s a local craft beer you can’t do without?

Wade: Superflux. He’s only made three IPAs to date, and they’re more in the juicy New England, Vermont style. That’s where I think IPA is headed. It’s not about how bitter or how many IBUs you can have. It’s about balance and flavour and it’s bringing more people to beer.

Dave: Hop Head IPA.

Roger: Crannog Back Hand of God. It’s been on here for a couple of years now, and I don’t think we could ever take it off the menu. Probably one of the best stouts in Canada. It’s made in Sorrento, just about an hour and a half north of here.

Does their choice of craft beer tell you something about a person?

Wade: Yes, IPA people, in my opinion, are looking for the next big hoppy beer. Lager drinkers are more subdued. They want more beer. They’re looking to have 3-4 of them. You can’t really do that with an IPA. Sours are bringing a few more women to craft beer. They’re a little more refreshing

Dave: Not about the person, so much, but I think there’s a beer for every occasion and an occasion for every beer, and sometimes you can tell something about where the person’s at by their choice.

Roger: I think some people like things that are familiar, and some people like to be a bit more experimental. Maybe that says something?

In 10 words or less, what do hops do?

Wade: Big aroma, bitterness. They were also traditionally a preservative.

Dave: They add bitterness, flavour, aroma, and balance the malt profile.

Roger: Spice, floral, citrus, pine.

Can a beer be too hoppy?

Wade: It can’t be too hoppy, but it can be too bitter. I think that’s a misconception, you can have lots of hops to provide flavour without necessarily having the bitterness.

Dave: Beer can be out of balance. Hops add a lot of flavour, but if you don’t have enough malt flavour, for example, to balance them, it can taste out of kilter. But I wouldn’t say it’s too hoppy, just that the recipe needs adjustment.

Roger: It’s all about balance. You can have something that’s 100 IBU, which is pretty aggressive, but they come out tasting pretty smooth.

Bottles, cans or draught?

Wade: Some beers really shine as draught, but I think cans are really where it’s going. People used to think cans had a tinny taste, but that doesn’t happen anymore.

Dave: I personally like draught because I like drinking my beer hanging out at a bar with friends.

Roger: Draught. 100%. Out of 100 beers maybe three might be better in a bottle or can.

Where’s beer headed? What am I going to be drinking next year?

Wade: More small breweries, more choice, more selection. There isn’t a whole lot of loyalty in craft, people are loyal to what’s in their neighbourhood.

Dave: Beer got really crazy for a while, with a lot of different flavours, but I feel like we’re getting into a time of more traditional styles, but really dialed in. People are showing the subtleties of the malt and the hops rather than the splashy flavours.

Roger: BC tends to follow what’s happening in Portland, so we’re starting to see hazy IPAs in a New England style. They’re really popular. But there are a lot of people innovating. BC might be the second best place in the world to have craft beer (behind Portland) and it might soon be the first.

If a big wizard came from the sky and said there could only be one craft beer in the world, and it was up to you to decide, what would you pick?

Wade: The Ale Apothecary. He’s a one man show out of Bend, Oregon in a little cabin in the woods and his beers are extraordinary.

Dave: This may shock you, but I’m going to say Hop Head IPA.

Roger: Oh, hard one. I’m gonna have to say the Driftwood Entangled. It has a tropical fruit profile and the wheat makes it really smooth.

Would you let the wizard have any?

Wade: I would always share with anybody who hasn’t had that experience just yet. Beer is about sharing.

Dave: Of course! Beer’s all about drinking with people and having fun.

Roger: Oh for sure. He’s probably doing a lot of hard wizardry. He should stop off at the Train Station for a beer.

After all that talk of beer, you’re probably thirsty now. So here’s a handy list of places in Downtown Kelowna you can take care of that thirst in a crafty way. You could also try out one of our more than 60 patios while you’re at it!


Bacaro Kitchen + Drink231 Bernard Avenue
Blue Gator Bar & Grill441 Lawrence Avenue
BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery 1250 Ellis Street
Cactus Club Cafe1370 Water Street
Carlos O'Bryans262 Bernard Avenue
Central Kitchen + Bar1155 Ellis Street
Curious Cafe1423 Ellis Street
Doc Willoughby's Pub353 Bernard Avenue
Earls Kitchen + Bar
211 Bernard Avenue
Fernando's Pub279 Bernard Avenue
FSH101-1405 St. Paul Street
Grateful Fed509 Bernard Avenue
Krafty Kitchen + Bar281 Lawrence Avenue
O'Flanngan's Pub319 Queensway Avenue
Oak + Cru Social Kitchen & Wine Bar 1310 Water Street
Rose's Waterfront Pub1352 Water Street
Salted Brick243 Bernard Avenue
Social 242 Lounge & Grill242 Lawrence Avenue
Sturgeon Hall1481 Water Street
Tonic's Pub & Grill1654 Ellis Street
Train Station Pub, The1177 Ellis Street
Tree Brewing Beer Institute, The1346 Water Street