Bitterness more vice than virtue for brewer
New brewery on block in Kelowna tries for ‘round, soft, approachable’ beers
James Windsor’s favourite beer is always the last one he made. “So, that means my current go-to is The Humble Canuck, a B.C. pale ale made with local rye,” said the brewer from Kelowna’s Vice & Virtue Brewing Co.
“It’s floral and fruity with some toffee and spice flavours.” But favourites can change on a dime. Windsor’s working on The Brut, and upon its release it will become the new most-adored.
“Brut is associated with dry and Champagne in the wine world, and The Brut will be a dry ale, very Champagnelike,” he said.
Vice & Virtue is the newest beer maker in Kelowna. Its brewery, tasting room and restaurant just opened last month at 1033 Richter St., in the city’s industrial North End.
It’s on the same block as Tree Brewing at 1083 Richter, Red Bird at 1086 Richter and Kettle River, which is just around the corner at 731 Baillie Ave.
BNA Brewing & Eatery is just a few blocks away at the corner of Ellis Street and Clement Avenue.
Kelowna’s other specialty brewers are spread out with Boundary, Big Surf and Freddy’s up and off Highway 97 and Kind in downtown West Kelowna.
“Craft beer is on the rise,” said Vice & Virtue co-owner Matt Jewell.
“Kelowna has quite a few breweries now and there’s this incredible cluster right here in our area. It’s not where Kelowna is with wine, but it will get there. People are already coming to Kelowna on beer tours, and we get amazing support from locals too.”
Vice & Virtue was born of six friends making some half-decent beers in Jewell’s garage.
Talk turned to taking it commercial, but the boys knew they had to bring a professional brewer on to ensure quality, creativity and viability.
Jewell first mentioned on Facebook he was looking for an experienced beer maker.
Friend Andrew Windsor, the winemaker at Tinhorn Creek Winery in Oliver, replied, not for himself, but for his brother James.
James was the brewer at Good Lot Brewing in Caledon, Ont., and looking for a reason to move West to join his brother and reunite his pregnant girlfriend with her family.
“My approach to beer is round, soft, approachable,” said James.
“It’s a balance of simplicity and complexity with a level of sophistication. I know the West Coast seems to love bitter beer, but I come from the East, where we try to keep the bitterness in check. I’m bringing that to Vice & Virtue’s beers. Craft beer from some places can be over the top with too much bitterness and too many flavours. I’m aiming to make beers people will drink and like.”
Drink it and like it they do. A month into business, Vice & Virtue is selling three times as much beer as it expected at this point.
Besides the aforementioned Humble Canuck and The Brut, Vice & Virtue’s other current releases include The White Lie Pilsner, Love Potion Raspberry BerlinerVice, The Giver Pale Ale and The Homewrecker India Pale Ale.
Which brings us to Vice & Virtue and beer names. “There’s a duality to it,” explained James. “Beer itself is both a vice and a virtue depending on if you drink too much or drink in moderation to enjoy a carefully crafted brew. And the beer names are all poetic, either a vice or a virtue.”
Vice & Virtue takes its food as seriously as it does its brews.
Nelson Daniels, formerly of Waterfront Wines restaurant, is the chef and partner who creates the food to pair with the beers.
His favourite match is the beef brisket on a brioche bun with The Humble Canuck.
“The toasted rye in the beer really complements the barbecue flavour of the brisket,” said Daniels.
He also has chicken pate, ceviche, steelhead trout, pork steak, charcuterie platter and chicken on ciabatta on the menu.
The only way to take Vice & Virtue beers home right now is in refillable growlers, but the brewery does plan to get into production in bottles and cans as well.
Vice & Virtue is open noon to 10 p.m. every day except Monday.
All of Vice & Virtue Brewing Co.’s beers have vice-and-virtue-themed names, such as Love Potion Raspberry BerlinerVice, the two on theleft,TheGiverPaleAleandTheHumble Canuck Pale Ale.