I have always looked at craft beer as a cultural experience with every sip telling a story about how the brewery was founded. I believe a successful brewery showcases themselves through quality, choice, and innovation of their brews rather than through price and image alone. CBC news reported, "The number of craft breweries in Alberta has tripled over the last three years, and the trend is expected to continue, with at least 30 new breweries being planned in Alberta this year, say industry insiders." Calgary's craft beer market share has grown extensively in the past few years; with the establishments we visited all less than 3 years old. Creative young brewers and radical flavors have made people excited about beer in Calgary. A shift in drinking habits is well underway, and the perception of what beer can be is evolving in YYC.
728 17 Ave SW, Calgary, AB T2T 4M2
The first thing I noticed as I walked into Trolley 5 Brewery was a clean modern feel with attention to detail. They pride themselves on community and I felt at home as our server Sierra came over and asked our names and what we would like to drink. It was a nice touch and made us all feel welcomed in a new place. Greg, the general manager, greeted us and offered a tour of the establishment. The owners chose the name because the area was originally known as the Beltline, which was also called the No.5 Trolley line. 17th Avenue was always an area that brought people together and Trolley 5 is doing just that by collaborating on batch's of beer, allowing spaces to hold private events, and having great happy hours with delicious food options. We were told that PJ and Ernie, the owners put all of their efforts into building a large space for multiple events with a main focus on great beer and people who would enjoy their brews together.
Trolley 5 won both our hearts and our tastebuds. First, the beers! We started with Betty's Grapfruit Blonde Ale, a collaboration with 8 women for National Women's Day. It was light on the grapfruit notes and will be an instant summer drink. Next we had the Trolley 5 flight of 5 beers:
Conductor Beltline Lager: I would say this amber lager is the flagship. Very drinkable, light hops, and very well made.
Up Beat Wheat: This light orange wheat beer got better with each sip, it grew on me. Fruity with a light tropical flavor to it.
Derailed Pale Ale (APA): Very sessionable with a golden color. Creamy to start with a light hoppy bitterness; very well balanced.
High Five IPA: A cloudy gold brew with earthy hops. Very refreshing as the hops are not overwhelming.
Skinny Minnie: A take on an Irish stout, was not my favorite out of the flight but offered a creamy start with a bold finish.
Brunch on a Sunday is a must do at Trolley 5. With music video's playing, beer flowing, and both breakfast and lunch options; how can you go wrong? We had the eggs benedict, the gyoza dumplings, grilled cheese and avacado toast with eggs. Each of us cleared our plates and our pints to say the least!
Click for Brunch Menu
ANNEX ALE PROJECT
4323 1 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 2L2
Only about 1 year old, Annex Ale project was opened by Andrew and Erica who had a passion for unique beer in a relaxing space. We walked into a bright tasting room with a great seating area where you can grab a pint or a flight. During the summer there will be more seating as there is a garage style door for an outdoor area. Erica set us up with the delightful manager, Jayme, and he greeted us then whisked us away to the back for a walk through of the brewery. Over 3000 square feet, it was a nice open concept with a lot of room for growth. Currently bottling beer with a hopeful future in canning their core brews this clean space has a bright future. Annex can cater to small parties where you can order in food and enjoy delicious beers.
Jayme told us that while waiting on a licence the brewers developed an all natural craft rootbeer, which you have to try! There are now two craft sodas; root beer and the recently launched ginger beer. Colin, with the great stache, was behind the bar and poured us some flights to sample. Annex has two core beers: Bitter Division North American Bitter and Metes & Bounds XPA, and a also limited edition small batch beers. These can be paired with light snacks like hop potato chips and Lebanese string cheese; and I suggest you do not skip the string cheese!
Metes and Bounds XPA: Very drinkable IPA, fruity to the smell and light bitter finish. Solid core beer
Bitter Division: Very sessionable, medium hop and easy drinking
Forward Progress: hazy yellow color with Mosaic hops, bold with a hoppy finish, not my favorite
New Material: Really enjoyed the liquid and a nice patio beer, citrus blend with fruity finish. One of the fan favorites
Grand Illusion Porter: Chocolate and coffee profile
Where Its At: Summer brew with light fruit taste. Tropical aroma.
Perfect Fraction Pale Ale: This was a collaboration with Steel and Oak Brewery. Great mix of light hops ans citrus, this was one of my favorites
Unifying Concept: An American Stout with a bold creamy flavor with coffee notes
COLD GARDEN BEVERAGE COMPANY
1100 11 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4T3
Cold Garden Beverage Company was the most eclectic brewery I have ever been to. The owners had some fun decorating and adding their own story to the space. It was a bit difficult to find as there is a parking lot behind the building with a door leading inside. Only open for a few months, we were impressed with the steady flow of patrons; a true testament to Cold Garden as the local community has embraced them with open arms. Brad greeted us as we arrived and was all smiles when we asked for a tour that was graciously set up by Candice. Stepping away from the busy bar Brad showed us around the around 2,000-square-foot tasting room. The first thing I noticed was the colorful pool noodles covering the beer lines, which added flare and purpose. Brad told our group that Cold Garden wanted to be an old school or backyard brewery that creates different beers for the consumers. There are 7 core brews, however they are always so busy that they are trying to keep stock as best as they can. The name, Cold Garden, comes from a small island in Scotland, called “Calgary”. One of the original stories surrounding the islands name involved the vikings, centuries ago. The name come was derived from an old Norse phrase, “Kold Gart,” which translate to “Cold Garden.”
The beers are just as unique as the space, with beers such as the Cakeface lager, and Red Smashed in Buffalo Jump. The brewers are trying new ventures and stepping outside of the box. For example, Fool's Gold is made with a Pina Colada mix making the beer develop a frothy milk base. After our tour Brad shared with us some samples and spoke about the great brews. If you have not been, you have to stop out and see what they have to offer.
This Must Be The IPA: One of my favorite IPA's. With a subtle fruit mixed with light hops; this was the perfect blend!
Cakeface: vanilla bean notes giving it a sweet "cake" taste.
One Summer in Saskatoon Saison: Won bronze at the Alberta Beer awards. Light sweetness with the saskatoon berries.
Fools Gold ISA: Very different liquid, but you have to try it. As advertised, tastes like Pina Colada and light hops. This was not for me, but many people were enjoying pints and two friends loved it.
119, 519 34 Avenue Southeast, Calgary, AB T2G 1V1
Banded Peak opened their doors about two years ago in downtown Calgary. The location is hidden away off Mcleod Trail in an industrial area, which added to the brewery flare. Mark greeted us as we walked into the open concept tasting room. It's a modest space with a nice assortment of fresh brews including their core beers and some seasonals. Mark gave us some history as he poured us two flights. Childhood friends, Colin, Alex and Matt have a passion for mountain culture and with the Canadian Rockies as their childhood playground they chose Banded Peak. Banded Peak is a distinctive mountain about an hour away with a band of steep cliffs circling the top of the mountain, giving it a visible line of black rock just below the snow-covered summit. The tasting room offers a small gift shop, varieties of beef jerky, tours and options to hold small parties at the venue.
The beers are brewed with the best hops North America has to offer with the majority coming from the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington. Banded Peak's core beers are available in 16oz sleek cans. There are three flagship beers currently, with plans to add to the line up soon.
CORE BEERS: YOU CAN GET IT IN THE CAN
Chinook Saison: light spice with earth notes. This was a popular choice amoungst the group and a great spring time brew.
Plainsbreaker: tropical flavors with a light bitterness.
Summit Seeker: standard IPA with a pine scent. A deep amber color and hoppy.
Southern Aspect: A 7% American IPA with a piney smell and a wild mixture of many flavors: carmel, fruit, pine bitter, hops, and more
Javalanche: a delicious coffee stout that I wouldn't mind drinking in the morning. This was my friend Kristen's absolute favorite.
Dawn Patrol: extremely light beer with almost a clear color. At 3.7% this was the least favorite
Wintervention: Brewed with oak soaked gin spirals, this was a fan favorite. Sweet caramel notes with bold hops.
HIGH LINE BREWERY
1318 9 Ave SE #113, Calgary, AB T2G 0T3
High Line Brewing (HLB) opened December 2016 in a small space in Inglewood, Calgary. With only seating for about 23 in the tasting room, the brewery allows a cozy hometown feel. The space allows you to have small parties and bring in outside food in with garage doors that open into the parking lot/ patio area for the summer. Jordan was behind the bar playing vinyl records and greeted us as we walked in. He explained that the owners opened HLB because they wanted to spice up and add variety to the local beer scene; as they come from a very lush beer backgrounds. I just They have a local focus that starts with the brewery’s ingredients; with the majority of grains coming from Southern Alberta, and hops coming from nearby British Columbia. It was nice to see a variety of beers and a handful of patron's stopping in in to fill their growlers. We will have to return to the brewery on a busier night to get a better feel of the atmosphere.
The High Line Pints:
Smokes Scotch Ale: a light sweet caramel note and roasted malt with a smoky flavor
Talking Hops IPA: Fruity front with rich malty middle and bitter back end, one of their core liquids. This was the most popular with our group.
Heartless Romantic Sour: Came out for Valentines day. If you enjoy sour beers this is a nice tart, bitter brew with a kick of hops; a real love story
Wild Rose Brewery
#5505 72 Ave SE, Calgary Alberta
Wild Rose can be considered the seasoned veteran of the Calgary Brewery Scene. Walking through the doors, we immediately got the feeling of a positive company culture that is dedicated to driving business. Excited to tour of the 40,000 square foot brewery, we were greeted by Brian who has been with the company for 10 years. Named after Alberta's flower, Wild Rose is 100% locally owned and operated since 1996, and is only available in Alberta. They started producing their award-winning beers in kegs, with distribution in a number of local pubs and bars in Calgary. Demand began to grow and Wild Rose started bottling in 2003, and canning in 2015 with a partnership with local canning company, Crown Metal Packaging. With over 50 employees and 60% draught volume Wild Rose is continuing to grow and they are not slowing down.
The craft beer market is exploding with a number of different flavors and styles. Wild Rose has internalized this notion by allowing their brewers to experiment with small batches. There is a growing thirst for tastier, small batch beers from regional brewers and after sampling the brews at Wild Rose, Calgarians now have more options to quench it.
Velvet Fog: The flagship of Wild Rose. This Wheat Ale is blended with 50% wheat malt and 50% barley gives this unique unfiltered ale a distinctive foggy, golden color. Easy drinking patio beer with a light hop note.
42: American Session Pale Ale. Designed for the Pink Boots Society this flavorful and light hoppy beer was my favorite! Pale golden to reddish amber color with a medium body and light citrus. Hoping this becomes a core beer in the future!
Cedar Sake Stout: A pleasant surprise with a unique blend of flavors. 5.5% smooth dark chocolate taste with a splash of spice from the cedar chips that were soaked in sake.
S.O.B Pilsner: A pale amber spring seasonal, with a light fruit note
WRED Wheat: a red amber wheat ale with a nice balance between multiple malted wheat and barley.
Belgian CerevisiaeX: A Home Brewers Club collaboration for their 10th anniversary. Light hops and bold spice.
Ponderosa Gose: Second year for this summer seasonal, this fruitful gose has a salty ending. Light bitter and citrus notes at 3.5%.
After doing the first YYC brewery tour a couple years ago many new breweries have been serving pints in Calgary. I wanted to add these to the brewery tour list as they are also overcoming opening before COVID19.
Bitter Sisters Brewery
510 Heritage Dr SW, Calgary, AB T2V 2W2
Surprisingly Bitter Sisters opened their doors just before a pandemic; however they swept that under the rug as we were greeted at the door with smiling faces, fantastic service by Kathryn and a busy patio. This remodeled establishment is inviting and ready to pour pints 7 days a week. There is both indoor and outdoor seating that is kid and dog friendly. There’s lots of room inside and outside to sit down, and they offer a full menu. We waited about 5 minutes to be seated outside where we each got a flight for 4 beers and food. The upscale take on bar food was perfect for a lunchtime base for our Saturday brewery tour. I highly recommend the Nashville fried chicken sandwich or the burger, as they were delicious (menu)!
Big Brother Butch: An American style pale ale with light floral aroma and bitter forward. Refreshing ending and paired great with my chicken sandwich.
Timid Tom: Mild ale with brown coloring and roasted chocolate notes. Flavorful but very light and easy to drink.
Tarty Cousin Sue: Wheat style beer with a cranberry tang. This was surprisingly one of my favorites, as it looked to taste fruitful, however it was light with a light citrus tart.
Dank Frank: Golden pale ale with a dry light fruitful flavor on the initial taste and mild hop to finish.
Bow River Brewing
#110 5769 4 St SE, Calgary, AB
You would never know when driving by this warehouse inside holds a fantastic brewery. Upon entering we were greeted immediately by Ian, one of the head brewers/owners. He poured our group a bunch of flights and took a seat to chat about how Bow River Brewing opened their doors at the start of 2019. During the pandemic, Ian has not lost his passion for beer or the brewery and has continued to work hard to get the liquid in people's hands. If consumers cannot make the trip to the brewery itself, you can order off Skip the Dishes. He also mentioned he has introduced unique special events held at his space on 4 Street SE, such as bagpipe lessons! It was nice to see this brewery rooted in the Alberta tradition, especially with the beer names chosen.
Riverfest: Amber color lager that was smooth and full of flavor. Very tame caramel and earthy malts that gave this beer a nice easy drinking feel.
Scared Rabbit: Hoppy Pale Ale has a malt citrus smell to it. Initial taste is a piney/grainy malt, some light orange and grapefruit citrus, and ends with earthy floral hoppiness. Ian told the group the story how the beer got its name from his son. On the way to the brewery his son saw a rabbit get swooped up by an owl. When he was telling this story at the brewery his son said, 'Hoppy Hoppy like the rabbit' and also like the beer.
For Calgary ISA: Citrus mild india session with rich hops and a nice light finish.
YYC Calgary Ale: Pale Ale with a tart yet crisp finish. Named after the home town of Calgary, this is a nice session-able ale at 5%
Athabasca Wit: Cloudy Belgian Wit Beer with spicy citrus notes to the smell. Great drinkability, and soft orange tasted throughout that is truly a great summer brew.
Cherry Raz: Witbier where they mix Athabasca Wit and add tons of sour cherries and raspberries to it. Surprisingly a nice mellow sour.
607 Manitou Rd SE, Calgary, AB
The Outcast taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday and prior to stopping in I received and email from owner/ brewer, Patrick. This unique space had a homey and welcoming open concept. The bartender told us her favorite brew available was the I am Froot, so we got to ordering some flights with many great styles to choose from. There was a think outside the box feel which truly makes the beers and establishment one of a kind. As we were finishing up, we got to meet Patrick. We briefly chatted about how he opened Outcast; a brewery named after himself as he had bounced around a couple other breweries in the city and thought he was a bit of an outcast. Now being the boss allows him to add his own touches and creativity; such as the PB&J stout which pairs well with the Ritual Donuts collaboration for purchase at the brewery.
Best-Ish IPA: Hazy dark yellow color with a bread/yeast smell. A lot of flavors in this IPA from grapefruits to earthiness, and ended pretty smooth.
PB&J Stout: This unique stout poured brown and smelled of chocolate and peanuts. Truly tasted like a boozy PB&J in liquid form.
J'adore les Houblons: Poured a hazy orange and smelled like oranges and peaches. Upfront you get a citrus taste and then a sweet tang at the end. In french it stands for I love Hops, and this was a great liquid.
#5000: American IPA with a hazy apricot color. Citrus and fruitful hops upfront, with an apricot finish. Sessionable ipa with a nice summer tropical flare.
Black Is Beautiful: Is a worldwide charity brew that correlates with the Black Lives Matter movement. This 8% smoky stout is packed with bold roast flavors.
I am Froot: Surprisingly delicious, as I am not the biggest fan of sours. However this light blueberry sour had a hit of sweetness and was not overdone.
There are still a lot of Calgarians who haven’t yet discovered the craft beer category. Beer culture has developed immensely, and craft brewers still face an uphill battle: whats' next? Calgary's local breweries require an educated consumer who cares about where their beer comes from, who makes it, and where the money is going. Visit these local breweries and form your own opinions on the amazing liquids they are producing in your own backyard! #DRINKLOCALYYC