May 12-14, Kelowna played host to the Great Okanagan Beer Festival. This is the second year of the fest which includes three days of tap takeovers, brewers dinners, nightly concerts, and of course the festival main event.
The main event was held at Waterfront Park which is right downtown at the lake. What an amazing space for a beer fest! The park has amazing views of the lake and surrounding mountains, a beach for swimming, and a pond with an island stage for live music. The organizers even made sure there was a lifeguard on duty at the beach so festival goers could go for swim. It was a warm sunny day but I personally found the weather still a little too cold for a swim. But with the beach right there, I had to at least tip my toes in for a bit.
This GOBF is the first festival I’ve ever been to that does not include beer tokens with the ticket. There was a VIP ticket that did include five tokens as well as other perks, but the general admission ticket did not. Last year’s fest included a few so I found this weird. Apparently, this is becoming more common to not include tokens with admission. There was also the option to add tokens when you purchased your ticket. I bought my tokens on site which they advertised as $15 for 10 but were actually $17.50. Again, weird!
The GOBF had 46 breweries pouring for nearly 3000 festival goers. There was something for everybody with several ciders and a wide variety of beers pouring. Rider Cider was even offering samples of a new SunRype product called Tomango (tomato and mango) which can be used to make Ceasers, Bloody Mary’s, or added to beer. I don’t get the whole tomato and beer thing. They had a variety of food trucks on site and even included a Grimm’s pepperoni stick with admission.
Ticket sales were double what they were last year so it was busy. To accommodate more people, the booths were spread out throughout the park more than last year. Great idea, but instead of having the booths backing onto the pond they faced the pond. As the lines grew right to the edge of the water, it became a challenge to not fall in. The festival was so busy it ran dry about an hour and a half before last call. Fest goers started to turn ugly when the last booths still pouring got swarmed and then ran out. Many people still had lots of tokens, so I hear the organizers ended up refunding unused tokens
Would I attend this festival again? Maybe!?! It is a great festival but there was very little that I haven’t tried before. It’s not a day trip from Vancouver which means you have to make a weekend out of it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in the Thompson/Okanagan. Many of the breweries are from the Vancouver area so it’s a great way for those out of the area to get to try them and meet the brewers.