SALMON ARM – Stu and Kathy Bradford are brew pub pioneers.

The couple started Barley Station Brew Pub long before the craft beer industry exploded, and created their establishment from the ground up.

Now in their 13th year, Barley Station serves an array of original classic and seasonal brews, with high quality food to match their high quality beer.

When the Bradfords started planning for Barley Station in 2005, the Okanagan craft beer industry was in its infancy. Both Stu and Kathy had experience in different areas of the service industry, but neither had any experience in brewing.

“When we started planning for the brew pub, we had a lot to learn about the craft brewing industry,” says Stu. “It was tough to find a lot of information about brewing craft beer or running brew pubs at the time, so a lot of our preparation involved learning about the brewing process and get the right equipment.”

The Bradfords traveled to various existing breweries in Western Canada and the United States to learn about the various components of running a brew pub operation.

They found the perfect location right on the Trans Canada Highway and renovated the building to make room for the brewery, before officially opening in early 2007.

“When we opened, most customers were not aware of what they were in for when it came to craft beer,” says Stu. “It was a phenomenon found in larger centers but not in small town Salmon Arm.

“12-13 years ago, we had to educate almost every customer who walked through the door about our product. A lot of people didn’t know what craft beer was. We had a visible brewery in the restaurant so we could show people how it was made.” But we still had to educate our customers on why our beer was a better choice than the typical domestic beers that we were all used to back then.

Thanks to the recent craft beer boom, customers are now much more familiar with craft beer culture and terminology.

“Everybody seems to be an expert now,” Stu chuckles. “We’re able to talk about different craft beers because they know a lot more about the industry.”

Barley Station started with five house beers, with a range of flavours meant to appeal to a wide variety of consumers.

“Today, everybody loves brews like Double IPAs, but 12 years ago, that would have scared off a lot of customers,” says Stu. “We started with very accessible beers that everyone could enjoy. Today, these five beers are still our mainstays, and they’ve won both local and national awards. They’re great drinking beers, period.”

In addition to these five, the Barley Station regularly offers seasonal brews, like their Raspberry Blonde Ale, which is currently on tap, an Oktoberfest in the fall and a delicious dry Irish Stout in the winter months.

Each May, the pub sells a batch of their Sixty Five Roses Honey Red Ale, which raises funds for cystic fibrosis research.

“There was a young 4 year old boy who suffered from cystic fibrosis, and he would call it ‘sixty five roses’ because he couldn’t pronounce the name,” says Stu. “We donate 20% of the sales from this beer to help find a cure for the disease.”

Barley Station is big on giving back to the community, and give through various projects and sponsorships whenever they have the opportunity.

“Our hope is to run an operation that can provide both good food and good beverages to the people in our community and beyond,” says Stu. “We keep the business running at the highest level we can, and are always endeavoring to create great food and great beer.”

20 Shuswap Street, Salmon Arm