Thanksgiving weekend Tys and I took a short and sweet trip out west. We were traveling to Calgary, AB for a Ryan Adams concert, but we tacked on a scenic drive north west to the mountains with stop offs in Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise. This was my first trip west and I throughly enjoyed the landscape, the vistas, the natural beauty and of course the food and drink. True to form Tys and I jammed every day full to the brim with activities and socializing, staying up late most nights and rising early the following day to take in more of the lovely province. Many beers were sampled and consumed during our brief stay and I would like to share with you some of my favourite Albertan brews that I jotted down in my beer diary.
First however, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our gracious host, long time friend of Tyson’s and my self proclaimed beer scout Pete:
As a beer scout Pete travels, drinks and reports back on all of the beers I need to try. It is a tireless job, but someone has to do it. This time we were in Pete’s hood and we got to sample and compare notes on quite a few craft beers from Alberta. Here are our favourite breweries and brews that we got to try:
Original 16 Canadian Copper Ale by Great Western Brewing, Saskatoon, SK. So our very first beer in Alberta wasn’t from Alberta, but it was delicious. Our first stop on the way to Lake Louise was to the Hogs Head in Canmore, AB. An old friend from Ontario runs the kitchen there so we decided to stop in for a bite and sample some of the delicacies that Beja has been creating. Tys had the beef burger and I had the elk burger and they were to die for and were well matched by the clean, crisp flavours of the Great Western brew.
Colour: Deep copper brown, with amber red tones.
Smell: Clean with fresh minerality.
Taste: Clean and refreshing, minerals, yeasty bread. Well balanced and flavourful. Simple, clean and easy drinking.
Big Rock Traditional Ale (LCBO# 197939) from Calgary, AB. This English style brown ale became Tys and my go-to beer during our stay out west. It was crisp, clean, refreshing and flavourful and was the type of beer you could drink all night while socializing with good company. We enjoyed Big Rock Traditional from the lobby bar at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise to the downtown Calgary pub hot spot The Ship and Anchor. Easy drinking and perfect for any occasion.
Colour: Amber, deep reddish brown.
Smell: Honey and caramel.
Taste: Caramel and malty. Well balanced, clean and crisp at the front with a slight bite towards the end.
Rutting Elk Red by The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, Canmore, AB. Rutting Elk is a traditional Scottish style amber ale. It was dark and delicious- very easy drinking. It accompanied our prime rib dinner in Lake Louise quite nicely and was also enjoyed during a jam session in Pete’s living room before the Ryan Adams concert. Very approachable, enjoyable and would appeal to a wide range of beer drinkers.
Colour: Dark red, almost black red.
Smell: Burnt caramel, very malty.
Taste: A malty but smooth front, lots of caramel notes and minimal hop intensity. Easy drinking.
People Skills by Tool Shed Brewing, Calgary, AB. We bought it for the name and the graphics on the label, but we ended up loving it for the taste and its session-able ability to kick off our last night in Calgary. Not just a pretty and clever package, this session-able cream ale went down easy and got our night off to the right start. Side note, for those of you who don’t know what a session beer is, Beer Advocate has kindly provided a concise, yet thorough definition: “Any beer that contains no higher than 5 percent ABV, featuring a balance between malt and hop characters (ingredients) and, typically, a clean finish – a combination of which creates a beer with high drinkability. The purpose of a session beer is to allow a beer drinker to have multiple beers, within a reasonable time period or session, without overwhelming the senses or reaching inappropriate levels of intoxication.” Awesome.
Colour: Golden, straw yellow.
Smell: Mineral, lemon, campfire and yeasty biscuit notes.
Taste: Creamy, toasty and yeasty. Very easy drinking, smooth with a clean finish.
Electric Avenue by Wild Rose Brewery, Calgary, AB. This golden lager gets it namesake from a nightlife district that existed in Calgary in the late 80’s and early 90’s that crammed two dozen bars into a four block strip. The beer is a tribute to a wild bit of Calgary’s past. We enjoyed Electric Avenue on the balcony on a sunny Saturday afternoon while snacking on some pre dinner delights and having a little jam session al fresco.
Colour: Crisp golden. Very clear and clean with a frothy, coating foam.
Smell: Yeasty with candy/sweet tart and berry notes.
Taste: A sharp front that is tart and slightly sour with lemon and berry. Clean finish.
WRaspberry Ale by Wild Rose Brewery, Calgary AB. A preservative free fruit ale with thousands of raspberries used in every batch. This ale was light and sweet just like our singalong jam session we had out in the sun on Pete’s patio.
Colour: Light honey gold with slight cloudiness. Gold with amber tones.
Smell: Honey and tart berries.
Taste: Raspberries with a tart, tannic sharpness at the front and a clean refreshing finish.
Village Blacksmith by Village Brewing, Calgary, AB. This is a phenomenal hand forged India Black Ale that was a definite favourite for Tys and I during our trip. Deep, dark, complex and thirst quenching we enjoyed this brew before the Ryan Adams concert at the Kensington Pub and also on Pete’s patio with an array of meats and cheeses. This black ale was well balanced and lovely!
Colour: Black with red undertones. Opaque.
Smell: Smokey and malty.
Taste: Briney and malty with a slight smokiness. Flavourful and lingering.
Velvet Fog by Wild Rose Brewery, Calgary, AB. This ended up being the beer that carried us through our last night in Calgary. We sampled it at Pete’s place and then enjoyed it on draft at Market during our PHENOMENAL last dinner in Calgary. Side note- THANK YOU Market! I am a HUGE foodie fan from Ontario and I adore your restaurant and all you do!
Ok- back to the beer! Velvet Fog combines 50% wheat malt and 50% barley malt. It is unfiltered, giving it a cloudy appearance. It was easy drinking and paired wonderfully with our food, conversations and live music. We also enjoyed Velvet Fog at the beautiful and expansive beer haven the Craft Beer Market, which is a destination for beer drinkers in Calgary with over 100 beers on tap. Very impressive.
Colour: Golden and cloudy.
Smell: Clean with slight citrus notes.
Taste: Yeasty with citrus notes. Very refreshing with a clean finish.
One more shout our goes to the wonderful breakfast that we had at The Brasserie Kensington. Although I did not partake in a beer at your establishment I did enjoy your caesars and the melt in your mouth delicious bacon- thanks for the wonderful time and amazing food!
Thank you Alberta, Albertan breweries and a special thank you to my beer scout/ our gracious host Pete! We had the best time in your beautiful province. Cheers!