Every road trip has a long bomb: those days it’s better to keep on truckin’. Today was our long bomb. The drive from Oliver in the southern Okanagan to Kimberly in the Kootenay-Rockies takes seven hours, but it’s plenty scenic and there’s stuff to do and drink along the way.
The south Okanagan is semi-arid shrub-steppe with sagebrush, orchards, and vineyards. As soon as you climb out of Osooyos on the Crowsnest Highway, the scenery shifts from the Okanagan’s unique micro-climate to quintessential BC alpine forests. The change is sudden and dramatic.
We cut up our drive into three manageable parts:
- a picnic at a pretty Provincial Park
- a tour of a big brewery
- a thorough refueling at a brewpub
Columbia Brewing in Creston was our midway point. They produce one of BC’s classic and most ubiquitous brands: Kokanee lager. Kokanee is not bad for what it is: sweet, but clean. And it has solid sasquatch branding.
The brewery traces its roots to the late 19th century. In the 1950s, five small local breweries amalgamated into the Columbia Brewery. InBev later assimilated Columbia Brewery into their Borg collective, and the massive Creston campus now brews Budweiser and Alexander Keith’s too. Interestingly, they use the same equipment to churn out more than a half-dozen different beers. No matter what the brand, the beer has an incredible view.
Macrobrewery facilities can be fascinating. If not for the quality of the beer, you go to contemplate the magnificence of mass production. Drinking a fresh pint of Kokanee after the tour might not be transcendent but it was refreshing and probably tasted better than Kokanee ever would elsewhere. Well worth the stop. Their new and massive canning and bottling lines alone make it a cool visit. After the tour, you can choose which of their brands you want to pint. I chose standard Kokanee, Josh picked Kokanee Gold.
Anyway, back on the road. Next stop was the Fisher Peak brewery located in Cranbrook at a pub called Heidout. You can do a growler fill, or as we did, you can stop for a flight and a nibble. The beers could use some improvement but none were bad. Our favorites were the porter and the IPA.
Last brewery of the day was located in our final destination, the tiny ski town of Kimberley. Kimberley has a schtick, and that schtick is mimicking an Austrian-German alpine resort. The town centre is called the “platzl,” and all but a few of the gasthauses have German names, including the Mozart Inn and its Mozart Brewing company. Unfortunately, the Mozart Brewery seems to be using malt extracts. I found two of them to be unpalatable. However, the pilsner had a high degree of clarity, low yeastiness, and straightforward austerity for (an assumed) malt extract beer. Likewise, the stout came out alright with licorice and cola flavors.
Kimberley has timber-frame buildings in the platzl, which is dotted with tourist shops offering schnitzl and strudel. The German theme was planned, but is fake in the sense that the town was never really settled by Germans or Austrians.
Surprisingly, Kimberley’s kitch does not feel tacky. The town is pleasant and has a wealthy young population that can support hipster public houses the likes of the Pedal & Tap, which could be just as much at home in Vancouver’s city centre as in Kimberley’s. Just check out the work on the patio. Bicycle frames are welded right into the wrought iron rails. They had a few decent BC microbrews.
Unfortunately, the AirBnB luck we had in Oliver didn’t extend to our abode in Kimberley, where we were stuck with a dingy studio apartment in a cheap townhouse division filled with stoner kids and families on the cheap. But we sucked it up and watched Peter Lorre in the original 1934 version of Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. After a long bomb day, we were too pooped to care about the CRT TV.