Beer Me BC’s Insider Peek at the 24th Annual Okanagan Fest Of Ale

“One of my favourite things is bringing together great people who love good beer”, says Okanagan Fest of Ale‘s Event Coordinator Ginger Budinski. Beer Me BC can vouch for the fact that she’s not alone.

There’s just over a month until the 24th annual event kicks off. Set to take place on April 12th & 13th, it’s been operated since 1996 by the Okanagan Fest of Ale Society. One of the great things about non-profit events like these is that they tend to be community-focussed by nature. Given Penticton’s monumental level of inherent civic spirit, Fest Of Ale enjoys almost-unheard-of community and volunteer support. In turn, that allows it to give back at a level that no other beer event in BC can match.

But it’s not just all about doing good for others. Thanks to a stellar brewery lineup, attending Fest Of Ale is good for the attendees too. For 2019, that brewery listing has gotten bigger than ever. With a serious judging component and awards for best in show, Fest Of Ale has developed into one of the elite annual beer events in Western Canada.

Let’s have a word with Society President John Cruickshank and get his perspective on this unique event.


OFOAS board members Warren Everton, John Cruickshank, Mark Woods and Shawn Goodsell

Q&A with John Cruickshank, President, Okanagan Fest of Ale Society

Beer Me BC: This year’s Fest of Ale, to be held April 12th & 13th, has set a new bar with 70 breweries participating. That includes 15 new breweries this year, and a number of them are local to the Okanagan and region. But with over 175 breweries in BC, do you have more vendor demand than supply? How do you choose who participates?

John Cruickshank: It’s always a difficult decision-making process. For 2019, we narrowed the field down to BC-based breweries and cideries. We’re excited to have representation from virtually every corner of the province.

We had a great deal of interest from breweries this year and were able to adjust our floor plan to make room for a few more than we’ve had in the past. Thankfully, we were able to accommodate the majority of those who registered by the deadline. Since that time, we’ve had breweries reaching out regularly to participate. If we had room for a hundred of them, we’d have no trouble filling the space!

With over 200 different beers and ciders to try, the big question now is what to sample. Thankfully, we don’t have to make those decisions for everyone!

BMBC: Some breweries are bringing beers created especially for the festival. Can you tell us about some of these brews?

JC: With the event a month out, breweries are still working out some of what they’ll be showcasing, so we are just as excited to find out as our guests.

One thing we do is set aside the vendor’s fourth product offering for casks or collaborations. That helps ensure a mix of new and creative beers for tasting each year. We have word that several collabs and a few new releases are being debuted.

We’ll be posting the beer and cider lists on our website and on our Untappd Venue Menu as they start to roll in.

BMBC: What’s your favourite part of the Festival each year? 

JC: During the event, it’s amazing to walk the floor and see and hear the patrons and participants smiling and talking craft beer.  It is such a fun event.

Judging & Awards at OKFOA

BMBC: Penticton has been rated one of the top beer towns in Canada. The breweries and craft beer community there collaborate on projects like the Penticton Ale Trail, as well as present a number of satellite events leading up to and happening after the main event, from Thursday to Sunday. Which events are you looking forward to during “Festival Week”?

JC: We were pretty excited to be recognized as one of the top beer cities in Canada. Our craft roots go pretty deep here, and it’s great to have that recognized. There are so many incredible people involved in the local beer scene, and the sense of community in Penticton is amazing.

There are several great events going on around the festival, it’s hard to pick a favourite. Here are a few:

  • Every Beer Has A Story Tasting /Seminar with Joe Wiebe at Bad Tattoo Brewing – Thursday, April 11th
  • Strange Brews 2 Rare Beer Tasting at Craft Corner Kitchen – Thursday April 11th
  • Songs of Beer Karaoke at The Barley Mill Brew Pub – Friday April 12th
  • Murderer’s Row: Walk the Plank Cask Event at The Kettle Valley Station Pub – Saturday April 13th
  • Red Eye Brunch At the Barking Parrot – Sunday April 14th
  • Sunday Funday Wind-Down with Live Music at Cannery Brewing – Sunday April 14th

BMBC: The Festival, run by a non-profit society, is in its 24th year. So far, almost $700,000 has been raised through the event for local charities. Would you say the Fest has become an integral part of the fabric of Penticton, valued by community members over and above the beer itself?

JC: The Fest of Ale is one of the first large festivals each year in Penticton. With over 40% of guests coming from out of town, the event marks the start of the busy festival season to come. It helps jump-start tourism, as well as everything that brings to our local economy.

After all is said and done, listening to the charities who receive our donations talk about how the funds impact their ability to function really puts it all into perspective.

Okanagan Fest of Ale 2019

Friday April 12, 2019 @ 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Saturday April 13, 2019 @ 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
WHERE: Penticton Trade & Convention Centre (PTCC)
273 Power St, Penticton, BC V2A 7K9
COST: $29 (2-Day Passes $49)


Okanagan Fest of Ale 2019: Friday

Okanagan Fest of Ale 2019: Saturday

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Beer Me British Columbia: since 2012, BC's #1 resource for craft beer reviews, BC beer industry insights and career opportunities.

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