A place to connect and tap into the real world.
It’s the feeling you get when you walk into a lake-side lodge and take your first, long, deep breath of fresh air. It’s the feeling you get when you recognize a plate you swear your grandma had. It’s the feeling you get when you walk into a familiar place and see faces smiling back at you. It’s the feeling that you belong.
Susi Foerg had all these feelings while visiting a craft brewery on Vancouver Island a few years ago. In that moment, her life shifted and her path changed.
With a passion for fishing, the wilderness, and connecting with nature and people, Susi began to shape her vision of a craft brewery here in the Okanagan. She wanted to create a place with a friends-and-family vibe that fosters connections with people and the community – a place that is special.
Rustic Reel Brewing Company, in Kelowna’s craft brewery district, captures these feelings and a kaleidoscope of others.
But what did an investment, banking and financial professional know about opening a craft brewery? Other than knowing how to drink beer and the experiences she wanted to create while drinking beer, the answer is: not a heck of a lot.
In a leap of faith, combined with intuition and an impressive amount of drive, self-determination, and entrepreneurial spirit, Susi left her decade-long career and stepped foot on a new path into a whole new industry.
She learned the foundations of craft brewery through a brief internship in Vancouver, supported by an industry friend. After that, through sheer luck or some may say fate, Susi was connected with the owners of an unused industrial building in Kelowna’s North end. Susi explained to them her vision and together they agreed on a new future for the building.
After an extensive facelift to the exterior and an overhaul of the interior, Rustic Reel Brewing Company was born in 2019.
Susi designed the brewery with the purposeful intention for people to connect with each other. There are no big-screen televisions posted high on the walls, there is no complimentary Wi-Fi to encourage screen time, drinks and food are ordered through counter service, and family-style seating is promoted (when not under COVID-19 restrictions).
The space is for people to enjoy real life and to have an interactive restaurant experience.
Crafted out of her love for fishing and the outdoors, hook-line-and-sinker decor is spread throughout the building – framed photos of fishing trips with Susi’s family and friends, antique fishing reels mounted to the walls and, of course, the brewery name embodies the cabin-style feel of a fishing lodge.
As a classic ale house, Rustic Reel uses the traditional warm fermentation method to produced well-balanced, full-bodied, smooth-tasting beer.
From ales to IPAs, to a porter and a stout, and everywhere in between, there’s a brew to compliment any desire.
For the non-beer drinkers, Sandhill Wines are available, as well as mulled wine, whiskey, hot apple cider, and kombucha.
The infusion of Rustic Reel is embedded in more than just the beer.
Chef Jeff Kreklau has created a feel-good menu of comfort food. Everything is made in-house from scratch and he combines the soul of the beer into the essence of the food.
The brewers yeast is used in the house-made pasta. The brewers grains are used in the freshly baked bread for their bakery (yes, they have a bakery!). The porter is used in the lamb ragout and the blonde ale in the Beer Cheese dip. With a German flair, the menu is approachable, fun and great for sharing.
For the gluten conscious, the blonde and amber ales are reduced gluten, and the menu offers gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options – no one is left out.
Well known for their Reel Nachos, smothered in Reel Queso cheese sauce and chimichurri – it’s a taste-bud sensation.
Serendipity shines again when Susi hired her tap house manager Mitch Martin. Mitch turned out to be the nephew of Susi’s former boss from the banking industry.
Together, Mitch and Susi have created a staff community that embodies respect; they have been shoulder deep together in the fermentation tanks clearing out the malt; and they have weathered the COVID-19 storm, even as challenges continue to roll in.
In the year ahead, the Rustic Reel team will dedicate time to pay it forward to the community. They plan to host events with a charitable cause, have regular speakeasy and live music nights, and even self-sponsor a Rustic Reel fishing derby.
Rustic Reel makes every effort to support fellow local businesses, creating product partnerships wherever possible.
- The Village Cheese Company in Armstrong supplies their Aged White Cheddar for the Reel Nachos.
- The Shucked Oyster Co. team shucks oysters by the plate, every Saturday from 3-8 p.m.
- The on-site market, The Tackle Box, sells locally made products including: Taste of the Okanagan artisan food, Bliss Bars Soaping Co. handcrafted soap, and Luna Negra brewery jewelry.
Rustic Reel is not just a place to have great food and beer, which is, of course, readily available. It’s the experience that make it memorable. As Susi says:
“it’s the feelings that people get when they go somewhere, that draw them back again and again – this is what we’re creating in our craft brewery and everyone is invited.”