North Basin Brewery brings craft beer to wine country
The South Okanagan is known for its excellent wines, but not everybody is a wine drinker, and some may enjoy switching to a locally brewed craft beer for a change.
“I think it’s just a fresh breath of air for Osoyoos, because we haven’t had craft beer for a long time,” said Wes Greve, owner of North Basin Brewing Co., which opened its doors at the Watermark Beach Resort in November 2020.
There are other craft brewers in the South Okanagan, including Firehall Brewery in Oliver and a handful in Penticton, but there hasn’t been one in Osoyoos since the Ridge Pub made beer a number of years ago, Greve points out.
North Basin is more than just a source of craft beer. It also provides a pleasant venue for enjoying a drink, whether you sit inside, in the front or on its terrace with views of the lake.
“We’re a little different than other places in town,” said Greve. “You can bring in your own food or order it from anywhere. We support lots of other local businesses from the food side of it. It’s just a little different vibe.”
The majority of customers – Greve estimates about 80 percent – come to North Basin to drink in the taproom or on the terrace. But the microbrewery also sells its beers in one-litre cans known as “crowlers” for those who want to take it home.
The beer is also available on tap in bars and restaurants in Grand Forks, Midway and Rock Creek, and during the summer it was available at the Osoyoos Golf Club. Greve would like to see it in a few more local venues, but he’s approaching expansion cautiously.
The beer is not sold in liquor stores in part because it’s not yet available in the standard smaller cans.
“That will hopefully happen down the road,” he said.
Greve, who worked 16 years as an auto mechanic, said he started North Basin as a way to get out of that trade and into his own business – a dream he’s had for about five years.
(Wes, Owner and Lisa, Manager)
“I wanted to do something where I could live and work in Osoyoos,” said Greve, 34, originally from Dawson Creek, B.C.
Starting his business in the midst of a pandemic was a bold move and Greve admits the first year wasn’t easy with Covid and wildfires through the summer that curtailed tourism.
“It was a struggle, but we’re still here, so that’s good,” he said.
There was a silver lining though. The pandemic played a role in Greve’s recruitment of head brewer Kody Rosentreter, who accepted a position at North Basin in early March 2020, just before the pandemic erupted and Rosentreter was subsequently laid off from his position with a brewery in Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
“I wanted to get out of cold Alberta and Osoyoos sounded nice,” said Rosentreter, who learned his brewing skills in a program at Olds College in Alberta.
The layoff turned out to be a blessing.
“It worked out because I could spend that time helping out with the build and doing all the planning instead of working,” said Rosentreter, who has been with North Basin since before it opened and is happy to be in Osoyoos.
He works in a back room where the beer is brewed in five-hectolitre tanks to make small batches.
(Kody Rosentreter, Head Brewer)
The other team member is Lisa Deleo, a 17-year veteran of the hospitality industry who is now taproom manager. She originally volunteered to train the employees but ended up taking the manager’s position.
“I jumped on board, and I’ve been here since the beginning,” she said.
The beers offered by North Basin change as new batches are brewed, but pale ale, IPA (India pale ale), and Pilsner are popular favourites, Greve said. There are also bolder beers like Big Shiny Porter, amber ale, and red saison.
At the time of the interview, a new batch of stout with coffee beans was in the works.
Tourism is an important part of the business, but in the winter there’s more opportunity to reach locals. Greve mainly tries to get the word out on social media.
“I know there’s a lot of people that haven’t been here who live here,” said Greve. “Come and check us out!”
North Basin Brewing Co.
Unit 226 - 15 Park Place
Story and photos by Richard McGuire