Category Archives: beer

Small-Batch Stars at Inner City Brewing

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A flight at Calgary’s Inner City Brewing

The backbone of pretty much every craft brewery is its core beers, ones always available in the taproom and liquor stores. But for Inner City Brewing, it’s the more experimental brews that may grab your attention.

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This is where the small-batch magic happens

So while you can easily pick up standards like the Bridgelandia Blonde Ale and the 800 Block New England IPA in local liquor outlets, you’ll have to saunter down to Inner City’s taproom to sample small-batch offerings like sorghum beer and coconut Hefeweizen.

Location As the name suggests, Inner City is in Calgary’s near-downtown Beltline district, a few doors down from stalwart Brewsters.

Ambience Warehouse chic, with high ceilings, open ductwork, dark interior, exposed brick and a wall of stainless steel brewing tanks

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Warehouse chic design

Food Other than a handul of locally made snacks, your best dining bets may be deliveries from nearby restaurants or bringing your own food

Signature beer Bridgelandia, a modern, hazy blonde ale (5%), featuring juicy hops and tropical fruits. Among the small-batch beers, a standout is The Corner of Here & There, an English red ale

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Half a dozen small-batch brews on tap

Inner City Brewing
816 11 Avenue SW, Calgary
Sunday 1 pm-9 pm, Monday to Wednesday 11 am-10 pm, Thursday to Saturday 11 am-midnight
587-880-8600

Beer and Food a Perfect Pairing at Citizen Brewing

Citizen Brewing 6

Fried chicken and beer at Citizen Brewing

Citizen Brewing is noted for its excellent pub food, crafted by chef Brad Stefaniuk. Think chuck burgers, chicken sandwiches and pulled pork banh mi.

But an even bigger deal the day I was there was a bus full of thirsty German tourists. Now that’s a discerning audience.

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The Germans are coming!

Location On an industrial side street, not far from Fox Hollow Golf Course

Ambience Long tables, outdoor hop garden and patio

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The brewery is right beside the taproom

Food Acclaimed burgers and fried chicken

Favourite beer The Hijacked IPA (7%, 80 IBU) has a better story—stolen food truck—but I like the balanced Batch 2 North West Pale Ale (5.5%, 55 IBU)

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A flight of beers

Beer availability Widely available in pubs and in liquor store cans

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A good selection of beers on tap

Citizen Brewing Company
227 35 Avenue NE, Calgary
Sunday to Thursday 11 am-10 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-midnight
403-474-4677

Eighty-Eight Brewing Produces Olympian Beers

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Eighty-Eight Brewing is neon cool on two floors

Eighty-Eight Brewing Company is named in honour of Calgary’s Winter Olympics (yes, in 1988). It boast an impressive list of about 15 core and seasonal beers.

The clincher is Noble Pie, which makes 18-inch pizzas—featuring aged and fresh cheeses—hand crafted by Mike Lange and fired in a little upstairs oven. They’re only available Thursday to Sunday or until the dough runs out, a great incentive for showing up early.

Calgary 88 5

Beer and hand-crafted pizza: Can’t beat that

Location In a little industrial strip mall off Blackfoot Trail near Crossroads Market

Ambience Neon cool, on two levels

Food Hand-crafted, in-house pizzas from Noble Pie

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The roster of pizzas

Favourite beer Double Dare Imperial IPA (7.7%, 88 IBU; 500-ml bottles only). Knocks you down and attacks your tastebuds. Three words: “Big, Dank, Pine.” Enough said.

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The Double Dare IPA might leave you seeing double

Beer availability Widely available in 500-ml bottles in liquor stores, restaurants and bars

Eighty-Eight Brewing Company
1070, 2600 Portland Street SE, Calgary
Tuesday-Wednesday 4 pm-9 pm, Thursday 4 pm-10 pm, Friday-Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon-7 pm. Closed Monday
403-452-5880

Craft Beer Booming in Calgary: Too Much of a Good Thing?

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The colourful Cold Garden Beverage Company is one of some 50 craft breweries in Calgary

At last count, there are more than 50 craft breweries in Calgary, compared with a relative handful five years ago. Admittedly, not every brewery on this list seems to actually be making beer yet.

But still, it’s a heck of a lot. By comparison, the apparently less thirsty folks of Edmonton only have about 15 local craft breweries to choose from. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of a bunch of Calgary operations—Goat Locker Brewing, New Level Brewing, Born Colorado Brewing, O.T. Brewing Company, etc.—despite making a reasonable effort to keep track of what’s brewing in Calgary.

It’s great to see this beer boom in Calgary. But the question is this: How do you stand out sufficiently from the crowd to create a viable business and start paying off all that expensive beer-making equipment? (One entrepreneur I talked to recently said his partnership was spending $1.3 million to build a brewery outside of Vancouver.) Given this increasingly crowded Calgary beer market, it would seem not everyone is going to survive. This interview with Steve Carlton, co-owner of the recently closed Red Bison Brewery, illustrates the challenges facing local craft brewers.

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You often need lots of space to make beer, like Caravel Craft Brewery, near Calgary’s airport

There are a few essential ingredients to success. Good beer, obviously. Some standards in one’s beer lineup: an India pale ale (IPA), a pale ale, maybe a stout or porter and, increasingly, a sour. Maybe a unique brew—exotic ingredients include marshmallows, bacon, Chile peppers, doughnuts, you name it.

You also need a comfortable, convivial taproom. It certainly helps to have good food options such as a local chuck burger, fried chicken, barbecue, house-made snacks or hand-crafted pizza.

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Citizen Brewing does some killer fried chicken

Location is also important, to some extent. There are emerging collections of craft breweries in Calgary, such as five in Inglewood and half a dozen in the Manchester area, which encourage things like beer “hops”. And if you can establish a neighbourhood brewery/pub that attracts nearby residents, so much the better.

Annex Ale Calgary

Annex Ale Project is nicely located for a beer bike hop in southeast Calgary

But no doubt because of the cost and amount of real estate needed to make beer and build an attached taproom, many Calgary craft breweries are popping up in industrial areas around the city. Which means convincing patrons to a) find you and b) make the trek to your premises (here’s a map showing the locations of most Calgary craft breweries). You also might need hooks to get people in the door: arcade games, military history theme, board games, live music nights, no-tip policies.

Marketing plays a huge part in creating a successful craft brewery. This includes getting your beer into pubs and restaurants and onto liquor-store shelves. Let’s face it, even beer-dedicated places like National and Craft Beer Market aren’t going to put offerings from 50 Calgary breweries on tap.

There’s a myriad other things to consider, like whether to primarily sell your product in kegs, bottles (12-ounce or 22-ounce “bombers”), cans (tall or regular) or growlers. Keeping abreast of provincial regulations and taxes governing Alberta craft breweries is another factor.

So, best of luck to all the brewers trying to make a go of it in Calgary.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of Calgary’s craft breweries, focusing on what makes them stand out. I’ll randomly start with Ol’ Beautiful.

Location: In the heart of Inglewood’s craft beer scene. Indeed, it’s a 20-second stroll across Ol Beautiful’s patio to the colourful Cold Garden. The only intermingling they don’t encourage is carrying drink/food from one location to the other.

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Ol’ Beautiful’s patio is just a few steps away from Cold Garden in Inglewood’s Barley District

Ambience: Comfortable, relaxed

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A cozy, relaxed taproom

Signature beer: Okami Kasu, a Japanese-style, easy-drinking ale that includes rice, plus the leftover rice from sake production, giving the beer “a subtle hint of boozy, creamy funk in the finish.”

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Food: Mostly packaged snacks

Beer availability: Tall bottles and growler fills at select drinking establishments and liquor outlets

Ol’ Beautiful
1103 12 Street SE, Calgary
Tuesday to Thursday noon-10 pm, Friday-Saturday noon to midnight, Sunday noon to 8 pm. Closed Monday
403-978-4721

Hey, use the “leave a reply” link in the upper left to promote your favourite local craft brewery and what makes it special; it doesn’t have to be in Calgary.

Best Road Trip Food & Drink of 2018

Sought and Found 4

Best Coffee: Caleb and Kitty Leung make exacting coffee in their gorgeous Sought and Found Coffee Roasters in Calgary, Alberta

Vancouver Island 4

Best coffee mugs: Katy Fogg’s sublime, hand-thrown mugs, at Tin Town Cafe in Courtenay, B.C.

East Calgary 13

Best brunch: Deane House, Calgary

La Baguette muffin

Best muffin: La Baguette, Revelstoke, B.C.

Edmonton coffee 21

Best doughnut: Made-to-order Portuguese-style doughnut at Edmonton’s Ohana Donuterie

Southeast Arizona 36

Best Bakery: Don Guerra’s Barrio Bread in Tucson, Arizona

Vancouver Island 17

Best bakery treat: Focaccia bread at Fol Epi in Victoria, B.C.

BreadMeat 3

Best sandwich: Meat balls on ciabatta at Meat & Bread in Calgary

Southeast Arizona 11

Biggest Feed. A tie: Sandwiches for three (three days!) at Salt Lake City’s Grove Market

B.C. West Coast July 2018 17

And the Oinker At Bubba’s Big Bites in Chilliwack, B.C.

Grande Prairie 1

Best Mexican: Owner James Nelson and his made-to-order corn tortillas at El Norteno in Grande Prairie, Alberta of all places

Southeast Arizona 231

Best hot dog: Can’t beat the Sonoran hot dogs in parking lot Ruiz in Tucson

Sunshine Coast 49

Best beer: Belgian-style Townsite Brewery in Powell River, B.C.

Vancouver Island 27

Best burger: Chucks Burger Bar, in Sydney, B.C.

Edmonton coffee 6

Best complimentary breakfast: The Le Creuset pots were the clincher at Hyatt Place Hotel in Edmonton

Atco Cafe 6

Best restaurant architecture: ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Cafe in Calgary

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Best farmers’ market: cSPACE in Calgary

Market Bistro Canmore 5

Best service: Brande at Market Bistro in Canmore, Alberta

Southeast Arizona 255

Best gas station experience: Maverick in Fillmore, Utah

Monkman iPhotos 17

Best foraged food: Wild huckleberries on Monkman Pass Trail near Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

Southeast Arizona 272

Best dining experience: As always, incomparable Carmen making fresh tacos in Hamer, Idaho

Great Food, Service at Canmore’s Market Bistro

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Market Bistro is a casual, fine-dining spot removed from the Canmore crowds

Now, this is what I call service.

We’re sitting inside The Market Bistro, a lovely little dining room sheltered from the madding crowds of nearby downtown Canmore, Alberta. I order an Alberta craft IPA, which the server says has orangey notes. That it does, but without the hoppy bite I’m expecting.

Upon her return, she asks how I like said ale. I give an indifferent shrug. Immediately, she whisks away the beer and returns with two other options, including a more satisfactory (from my perspective) Railway Avenue rye IPA from local Canmore Brewing Company.

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A fine rye IPA from Canmore Brewing

The exceptional service, from sharp-as-a-tack Brande, is just one of the details that makes Market Bistro a fine destination for a quiet dinner in the mountains. Another is the open kitchen, from which French-born co-owner and chef Anthony occasionally emerges to chat with regular customers.

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Great service from Brande

Most of all, of course, it’s the bistro-style French cuisine. It’s a step up from my usual cheap-eats meals but quite reasonable for the skill and time that goes into dishes such as chicken tajine and duck confit. Consider my exquisite beef back ribs ($27), braised for hours to fall-off-the-bone tender and served with Gorgonzola polenta, mushrooms and braised kale.

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Fall-off-the-bone braised beef ribs

Of course, you can’t finish a meal at Market Bistro without a slice of its famous lemon pie. Brande cautions other diners that it’s not the overly sweet confection they’re probably used to. Indeed, it has wee slices of lemon rind and a pungent flavour that lingers on the tongue.

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You haven’t had a real lemon pie till you try Market Bistro’s distinctive version

Lemony tones, certainly. Definitely not sending this one back.

The Market Bistro
102-75 Dyrgas Gate, Canmore, Alberta
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 11 am-8 pm, Friday-Saturday 11 am-9 pm. Closed Tuesday
403-675-3006