From left to right: Jim Hamilton, President, Okanagan College; Daniel Bibby, Executive Director, Spirit Ridge Resort and Co-owner of Nighthawk Vineyards; Linda Larson, MLA Boundary-Similkameen; Andrew Hay, Vice President Education, Okanagan College; and BCBTAC logo. (Submitted photo)

‘Game changing’ beverage technology coming to South Okanagan

Penticton Okanagan College campus will be the site of the new beverage access technology centre

Penticton will be home to a new $1.75 million B.C. Beverage Access Technology Centre, the only one of its kind in Canada.

Thursday’s announcement means the wine, beer, cider and distilling spirits industries will have a new source of support, as a result of the initiative by Okanagan College and government funding.

Kristy Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport, announced federal sponsorship for 12 technology access centres, including Penticton’s, which is the only one dedicated to the beverage industry, Thursday at Georgian College in Barrie, Ont.

A joint announcement was made Thursday at the Penticton OC campus.

Scheduled to be in operation by early fall, the centre will provide testing, business services and applied research assistance province-wide.

The funding will be be provided over a five-year period, with an option for renewal.

Renovation work is currently underway in the sensory lab of the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence building at the college, which will house the centre.

Penticton Cannery Brewing co-owner Patt Dyck described Thursday’s announcement as “game changing.”

“But to some extent this is unknown to us.We’ve never had the luxury of access to the kind equipment and technology and expertise that something like this can bring to our industry and our area,” said Dyck.

READ MORE: Wine industry invests in Penticton college campus

“I would say with us becoming more and more beverage heavy as we go along, the ability to find answers and solutions and look for innovative ways forward and processes, we on our own have no real way of tackling, it could prove to be just huge, just huge.”

She added over the years for many in the industry it’s been a matter of “trial and error” to find solutions and new directions.

“We have a microbiologist on staff which has been enormously helpful for many of the day-to-day things but with things changing so rapidly and so many innovations becoming available, most of them also come with enormous price tags that a small microbrewery could never afford,” said Dyck.

“Some of those pieces of equipment our microbiologist would probably give a leg to have in his lab.”

Mayor John Vassilaki also heralded the announcement.

READ MORE: Penticton among top beer cities in Canada

“Wine, beer cider and spirits, is going to be one of the main industries in the Valley in the upcoming years so for us to have it headquartered right here in Penticton I don’t think we can ask for anything better,” he said.

“(It will be a place) where the industry can actually come and get the information and whatever it is they need to improve what they’re doing.”

Okanagan College estimates within its catchment area, there are 19 craft cideries, 219 wineries, 16 craft distilleries, and 24 craft breweries, with those numbers growing weekly.

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