A Christmas dilemma: the joys of flying versus the open (hopefully snow-free) road. Your choice.
Beer of the Year?
This black-as-night imperial coffee stout is my fave beer of 2022
You just can’t beat serendipity.
So, we’re in Canmore’s Angry Bear Growlers, sampling a healthy number of the 60-odd, mostly regional, beers on tap and having a grand time with our pourer, Euan.
Euan poured us multiple samples at Angry Bear Growlers in Canmore
In walks a sales rep from nearby Canmore Brewing Company to replace a spent cask. He happens to mention a new beer the brewery and Lacombe’s Blindman Brewing have concocted. It’s an imperial coffee stout—three magical words to my ears—so it takes no convincing for us to toddle a few blocks over to the brewery to pick up a four pack.
Blindman Brewing in Lacombe, Alberta is a partner in this mad concoction
It’s called Brewers’ Breakfast and, should you heed the morning admonition, this oat-laced stout has got enough wallop to propel you out the door or back to bed, your choice.
Not surprisingly, it’s labelled a “strong beer”, weighing in at 8.5% alcohol. In the brewers’ words, it contains a “truckload of roasty, toasty and chocolatey malts from Red Shed Malting (Red Deer County) and an overzealous dose of freshly roasted Mocha Java coffee from Eclipse Coffee Roasters” (Canmore).
I might call it a thick sweater to coat and roll around your tongue on a frosty winter’s day, when the long nights are as black as this brew. Indeed, late in December, I think I’ve found my beer of the year for 2022.
If you fancy a brew with full-on intensity, you might want to pick some Brewers’ Breakfast up while this seasonal ale is in stock.
Angry Bear is happy to seal anything on tap in cans for takeway
Canmore Brewing Company
1460 Railway Avenue, Canmore, Alberta
Taproom opens at 1 pm daily except closed Tuesday
Angry Bear Growlers
105, 304 Old Canmore Road, Canmore
Opens at 3 pm daily except closed Monday
Note: Besides growler sales, Angry Bear will seal any beer on tap in 16-ounce cans.
Day Trips From Calgary a Great Christmas Gift
If you’re looking for a great, locally produced and locally focused Christmas gift, may I humbly suggest my Day Trips From Calgary book, just out in its fourth edition.
Why? It unveils nearly 100 things you can see and do on day trips within a two-hour drive of Calgary. They range from visits to world-class museums (like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump) to nearby picnics (Big Hill Springs Provincial Park). From native-grass walks (the Whaleback) to scenic drives through prairies, foothills, mountains and badlands.
The Whaleback in southwest Alberta
Did I mention these are day trips, where you can just hop in the car and discover all the great landscapes of southern and central Alberta… and be home in time for dinner?
In other words, no horrors of airports, flying or wondering about the maskless coughing of a seatmate? Or, if you’re driving stateside, about lines at customs and dollars that cost nearly $1.40 Canadian.
Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in eastern Alberta
Did I also mention it’s expensive to travel internationally these days, whether it’s flights, hotels or car rentals (yikes!). On a day trip from Calgary, your primary cost is gasoline, which has recently come down to under $1.30 per litre.
So why do you need my book? Well, it’s been in print since 1995 and sold more than 60,000 copies, so at least some folks think it’s worth keeping in their glovebox. It’s got a ton of trip ideas and enough detail to provide a rather complete natural and human history of Alberta, from the Crowsnest Pass north to Wetaskiwin, from Dinosaur Provincial Park to Lake Louise.
Historic Flat Iron building in Lacombe
Plus, in this edition, there’s a fairly comprehensive list of good, affordable eats and drinks in cities, towns, hamlets and roving food trucks (You knew there had to be a tie-in to Marathon Mouth). The photos are mostly new and better; thank you iPhone Pro.
Fabulous Homestead Bakeshop in Fort Macleod
It all adds up to nearly 400 door-stopping pages, for a steal-of-a-deal price of about $25.
Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park in central Alberta
Where can you buy it? Pretty much all the great, local, independent booksellers—Owl’s Nest Books, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books and even Cafe Books in Canmore—carry it. As do the online giants Amazon and Indigo Chapters.
On the Road Again
Two-and-a-half years later, it was time to head out on another road trip to the southwestern US, featuring all those red states south of Alberta: Montana, Idaho, Utah and, mostly, Arizona. Twas a grand time for warm, early winter hiking.
Along the I-15 in northern Montana
Lovely walking paths above Butte, Montana
Moose near Melrose, Montana along the I-15
Irrigation ice-up near Dillon, Montana
Always have to stop for a burger at In-n-Out
Along the Zen Trail in St. George, UtahRiver rules at casino in Laughlin, Arizona
Petrified sand dunes in Snow Canyon State Park, near St. George
Flatiron hike outside Apache Junction
Antelope slot canyon tour in Page, Arizona
View from the I-15 in Fillmore, Utah
Best Western Paradise in Fillmore
Wind turbine blades heading north to CanadaBest almond croissants in the world at the Homestead Bakeshop in Fort Macleod, Alberta. Welcome back to Canada!
You Can’t Have Too Many Farmers’ Markets in Calgary
If you ever thought Calgary was oversaturated with farmers’ markets, think again.
When the Calgary Farmers’ Market opened its long-awaited second location last week, in the city’s west end near Canada Olympic Park, there were 35,000 shoppers and gawkers who passed through its doors, a vendor told me… in one day!
Its high-ceilinged, 55,000-square-foot indoor building, and its some 75 vendors, seem capable of handling such mobs. I’m not so sure about the traffic.
When I visited on a glorious Friday morning, a week later, it was a game of musical cars, with multiple motorists waiting for someone to leave so they could park. The traffic spilled over from the paved lots to a gravel yard to the north.
It’s not like everyone was rushing to save money. I saw lots of meals, from the various food vendors costing $15-plus dollars. The produce and other foodstuffs are nice but not exactly cheap, for anyone expecting a rural, bare-bones experience.
But this is Calgary, where folks are accustomed to, and maybe even expect, upscale farmers’ markets. Indeed, it’s a pleasant place to shop, wander and meet with friends.
And the aisles are sufficiently wide to avoid the indoor traffic jams—known as stroller Fridays— that plagued previous incarnations of this market.
Calgary Farmers’ Market West
25 Greenbriar Drive NW, Calgary
Wednesday to Saturday 9 am-7 pm, Sunday 9 am-5 pm
Serving Up Pie in Alberta’s Remote Foothills
I’m not sure there’s a foolproof formula for a successful restaurant, especially after all the shutdowns and draconian regulations of the past two-plus years. But if there is, I’m betting it has something to do with pies.
It’s hard to resist the temptation, and aroma, of fresh-baked fruit pies, witness the allure of places like Shuswap Pie Company in Salmon Arm, B.C. or Pie Junkie, and their butter-rich crusts, in Calgary.
But to prove that a pie-laden concept can work even in the boondocks, I present as evidence The Miners’ Café, in the forested foothills of west-central Alberta.
Where? An hour’s drive west of Rocky Mountain House. Where’s that? More than two hours north of Calgary.
Let’s put it this way. Nordegg is a former coal-mining town that’s been elevated from ghost town to hamlet, population less than 100.
And yet, there were half a dozen people in line ahead of me, when I pulled into The Miners’ Cafe on a recent summer’s weekday.
Some, like me, were ordering mid-afternoon soup, sandwiches and coffee. But it seemed pretty much everyone was also getting a wedge of peach-apple or strawberry rhubarb to stay or to go. Others were loading up on whole pies, fresh or frozen, of blackberry-apple or ginger-pear.
I mean who’s going to compete with $22 for a whole, frozen pie? Or a deep-dish pie that packs in nine cups of fruit?
It’s enough to make you jump in your car and drive a long, long way north and west.
The Miners’ Cafe
619 Miners Crescent, Nordegg, Alberta
Daily, mid-morning till 4:30 or 6:30 pm