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New Kelowna brewery born from a food truck and a local couple’s dream

Liam Mitchell says he and his wife Crystal Cain have long dreamed about opening their own brewery and, as many couple do, often talked about the dream when they “played house.”

But that dream has quickly become their reality, as they’re ditching the wheels of their popular vegetarian food truck for a permanent spot in Kelowna’s constantly-growing brewery district.

Buffalo Rouge Brewing will open its doors at 105-1111 Gordon Dr., just north of Clement Avenue at the foot of Knox Mountain, at some point this spring.

Mitchell and Cain are working feverishly to get the new space ready for opening day, but the work is the culmination of a long journey between the two that began one province to the east and a few hundred kilometres north.

The couple met a few years ago in Fort McMurray while Mitchell was working as a site supervisor and Cain was establishing her food truck that was set up nearby.

They got to know each other through that and eventually fell in love, so when Mitchell moved back to Kelowna to start his own plumbing company in 2016, Cain wasn’t far behind.

When she eventually brought her food truck to the Okanagan, it became a common sight outside of some of Kelowna’s newer north end breweries.

While Cain served hungry patrons outside, Mitchell was a key contributor in the builds of new breweries like Kettle River and Jackknife, which helped him learn a lot about the business.

“You just had to be willing to do it, do all the hard work,” he told KelownaNow. “You too could have a different business than you have right now.”

And that’s exactly what Mitchell wanted, as he eyed a change from working in the trades as he progressed through his 30s and his career choice continued to get more difficult on his body.

Recently, the couple started to look at commercial spaces to build a kitchen of their own for Cain’s food business, which included catering and meal prep alongside the food truck.

But with plenty of developers looking to scoop up similar properties, it became apparent that it was not going to be a cheap endeavour.

"Once we realized what rent was going to be per month, I made a decision that we needed to sort of go all in right away in order to pay the rent regularly,” Mitchell explained.

That meant their brewery dream was about to become a reality a lot quicker than they had once imagined.

Fortunately, those “play-house” discussions over the years meant they already had an idea of what they wanted to do and they were able to quickly jump into action after signing the lease.

Once they finish the build, Mitchell and Cain will take the heart and soul of the menu from the food truck and bring it into the brewery to “elevate and expand on it.”

According to Mitchell, that means plant-based takes on comfort classics, funky new dishes and some international flare.

As for the beer, he’s excited to take what he’s learned as a home brewer in recent years and produce it on a much bigger level.

Mitchell promised a rotating draft menu with seasonal offerings, and some flagship beers that will be established based on what customers are responding to.

“I’ve got an idea of what I think the flagship beers will be, but sales will dictate that more than my opinion,” Mitchell said with a chuckle. “So that will be its own fun little process.”

And if you’re wondering about the brewery’s unique name, we got an explanation for that from Mitchell as well.

Buffalo is an ode to Wood Buffalo, the municipality that Fort McMurray calls home, where Mitchell and Cain met.

They have since adopted the buffalo as their “patron animal” and often buy each other little gifts that have buffalos on them. They even got buffalo tattoos together on their third wedding anniversary.

As for rouge, it stems from an off-hand nickname from Cain’s best friend in Victoria, as she once called the red-haired Mitchell "Papa Rouge" and it seemingly just stuck.

They slammed the two words together for a name years ago when they were still just daydreaming about the idea and it withstood the test of time.

"It's kind of cool because not only does it represent our little love story coming together to do this, but it kind of in a way paints a picture of the vibe we're going to end up doing with the bar,” noted Mitchell.

If you want to stay up to date on the build at Buffalo Rouge Brewing, give them a follow on Instagram. We will try to keep you up to date on their opening day as the date gets established and draws closer.

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