Welcome back to the ABX Beer Chronicles, straight from the desk of the Beer Baron. Once again thanks for taking the time to stop by and read up on what’s new in the Alberta beverage industry.
Lots on the Go!
What a week! We have a lot to talk about in this issue; and it is going to be less about fun beer releases, and more about some big ticket news items that occurred over the past week. For starters, Sleeman made an offer to purchase Wild Rose, we also have the formation of the Central Beer District coming, we had the newly formed Canadian Craft Brewers Association, the Canadian Brewing Awards where Alberta breweries took home 17 awards (!), and of course the Calgary International Beerfest. Buckle up, we’re about to dive in!
Calgary International Beerfest
Being a fairly new resident of Calgary, this was the first International Beerfest I’ve attended here. It came with a lot of hype, “the biggest beer fest in Canada” certainly sets some kind of expectation when you hear that. But it lived up to the hype. Upon walking into the BMO Centre, I was blown away; there were breweries, distilleries, food tents and trucks, and importers sprawling as far as the eye could see. There were breweries from Alberta of course, with sprinklings of breweries from Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, BC, and even a few from America. Options were endless, which samples do I decide on, how do I stretch my tokens as far as I can? Then I learned there was a second room, just as large as the first with even more vendors? I was in awe at the scale of this event. I had a great time mingling, and it was great to put some faces to names of people that I had chatted with over e-mail. A personal highlight for me was Hawk Tail’s 1976 ‘Ran Van’, I hope you were able to get inside for a picture (and a smell of its original interior), I was instantly taken back to the van my grandfather once had from the same year. I enjoyed chatting with members of the recently created Central Beer District (more on that in a moment), and some of the instructors from Olds College and trying the Alberta Beer Festivals ‘Be the Brewer’ contest beer ‘Ctrl-Alt-D’Wheat’. There were great seminars, some great live tunes, with some local bars providing plenty of entertainment for both evenings. Overall, I really enjoyed my time at the Calgary International Beerfest, I’ll be back next year for sure.
Introducing the Central Beer District
You may have seen a select few breweries and bars in Calgary’s downtown core championing the new Central Beer District around social media over the last few days. There are a few beer alliances around the city: The Barley Belt, The Brewery Flats, and The Brewmuda Triangle, but downtown has a fairly dense concentration of breweries and, before last week, had no group which unified them and celebrated their history. Unlike the other beer regions, the Central Beer District also represents a select few bars: National, Broken City, Pig & Duke, Bottle Screw Bill’s, and Craft. A soon-to-be-open destination beer boutique right beside Sunalta Station might also find its way into the lineup of the CBD (spoiler alert: it’s the Alberta Beer Exchange). Last Best, Trolley 5, Brewster’s, Mill Street, and our neighbours and the soon-to-be-open Two House Brew House are the breweries involved. The group is meeting in a couple of weeks to begin planning a June 8th event. You can find those details here once they’re available.
...and the Canadian Craft Brewers Association
Another beer group was formed over the last week, but on a much larger scale. Finally, a long-overdue, unifying, coast-to-coast Brewers Association has been created in Canada with the introduction of the Canadian Craft Brewers Association. For the record, the American Homebrewers Association has been around since the ‘70s, and the American Brewers Association has been around since the 80’s. Craft brewing started in Canada in the ‘80s as well so we’re a bit late to the race in terms of creating a nation-wide lobbying group, but it’s certainly a welcome arrival in my books. The CCBA represents 700+ Canadian craft breweries, if a brewery is a member of their provincial brewing association (Alberta Small Brewers Association, PEI Craft Brewers Alliance, BC Craft Brewers Guild, etc.) they’re automatically granted membership of the CCBA. Companies, trade associations, educational institutions, or individuals acting in the interests of the CCBA may also apply for membership. Members may use the Canadian Independent Craft Seal on their cans and bottles, participate in the Gemini Benchmarking System (to be launched in Fall, 2019), and access to the National Craft Brewers Information Database. Members also have access to the CCBA Supplier Partner logo, invitation to the CCBA AGM, and Membership in the Supplier Partner Advisory Council. I’m excited to watch this grow and think it will become something great in the years to come.
And the Oscar Goes To…
Okay, not an Oscar, but it’s the Oscar equivalent of the Canadian brewing industry (or rather, a Juno I suppose?). The Canadian Brewing Awards were held Saturday night with Alberta taking home 17 awards: 6 bronze, 4 silver, and 7 gold (some of those winners are pictured above, photo courtesy of the ASBA’s Mike McNeil). In 2018 Alberta brought home 10 awards; I think the jump from 10 to 17 speaks volumes about what’s happening with the industry in this province with only more great things to come. It should be mentioned that these awards are determined by blind taste test. Big Rock, Town Square, and Common Crown each took home two awards (gold and bronze each), and Grain Bin took home a silver for the American Belgo-style ale category (which seems like an oddly specific and equally obscure category – the ASBA were just as confused). Cold Garden won gold for their IPA, ‘This Must be the IPA’ – a huge win for them. We at ABX are really excited about Ribstone Creek’s silver for Abbey Lane English Mild, we’ll be opening with it in our initial lineup. Congrats to everyone who entered and everybody who won.
Here’s a full list of all the Alberta winners
- Baltic Porter: Bent Stick – Baltistar Galactiporter
- Brown Ale: Coulee – Bear’s Hump Nut Brown Ale
- Scotch Ale: Common Crown – Andy’s Wee Heavy
- English Bitters: Big Rock – Warthog English-Style Mild Ale
- American Style IPA: Cold Garden – This Must Be the IPA
American Style Imperial IPA:
- Outcast – The Forgetful Brewer
- Smoked Beer: Town Square – Prairie Fire Rauchbier
- North American Style Pale Ale: Annex – Forward Progress Pale Ale
- American Belgo-Style Ale: Grain Bin – Grain Bin Landlocked IPA
- American-Style Brett Beer: The Establishment – Dry Hopped Brett Saison
- Session Ale: Ribstone Creek – Abbey Lane English Mild
- Bock – Traditional German Style: Hell’s Basement – Elevator HBB Seasonal Strong Ale
- Wheat Beer – German Style (Weiss): Brauerei Fahr –Fahr Away Hefeweizen
- Porter: Origin – The Darkness Porter
- North American Style Amber Lager: Town Square – Pond Surfer California Common
- Light (Calorie-Reduced) Lager: Big Rock – Jackrabbit
North American Style
- Blonde/Golden Ale: Common Crown – Brewmaster Blonde Ale
Sleeman makes bid for Wild Rose
In a release on their website Wild Rose has said they’ve had several offers over the years, but this is the one that’s been the best fit so far. They see a great cultural fit between the organizations and none of the recipes will change: Wild rose will continue to use the same brewers, and ingredients. If anything, under the right circumstances this could be a great thing for Wild Rose. Often when big beer buys out one of the micro brewers with no interest in shutting them down it gives that micro brewer access to a much wider distribution network; distribution and expansion to other territories being one of the most difficult things for a micro brewery to do. People had concerns when Sleeman bought Unibroue in 2004, but the Chambly, Quebec brewery has mostly been left alone and allowed to continue making world-class beers without much interference. Though it should be said it was likely a strategic move by Sleeman so they’d be able to sell their products in Quebec. Unibroue now has a large distribution network across Canada and the US thanks to Sapporo-Sleeman’s ownerships and partnerships with companies like Strohs; Unibroue has become highly regarded among American beer aficionados, and Canadian imbibers too: it is genuinely good beer. The buyout didn’t change that, but it did give them access to greater resources. The greatest thing that could happen in all of this is Wild Rose being sold in other provinces, people unfamiliar with the Alberta craft beer scene start getting more familiar with it and begin demanding access to other Alberta products. This was a lot of talk all for something that may not even happen. I do have appointments to speak with Wild Rose CEO Bill McKenzie and Peter Bodenham, Sleeman’s VP of Marketing, on the morning of the 10th which will be included in next week’s newsletter. All that’s left to say is this: Dear Wild Rose/Sleeman; if you do decide to move forward with the buyout, for the love of God and all that is holy, please do not take the bison brisket off the taproom menu.
- Last Best is running a fun contest with their ‘Tokyo Drift’ cans. Be on the lookout for cans with a gold lid, if you don’t notice the gold lid but do find glitter in your beer – don’t worry, it’s not off – you just won yourself a brew day with Last Best’s head brewer Natasha Peiskar! There are 10 of these gold lid cans to be found, so make like Grandpa Joe and spring out of bed and go look for one while you can find them.
- Dandy released their collab with Quebec brewery, Dieu du Ciel called ‘The Richard Riot’ an “Est-West IPA” featuring all Alberta malt and all Quebec hops.
- In the 2019 best of Calgary Awards Cold Garden won Best New Bar while Village won Best Brewery.
- Rapid Ascent is now open in Calgary and Odd Company is now open in Edmonton.
- And lastly, Olds College Brewery students have put together a collaborative fundraiser in order to send 18 students to Germany and the Czech Republic for their History of Beer class in April 2020. You can support their fundraising efforts by buying a pint of ‘Educational Pursuit’ at Analog, Last Best, Origin, Fitzsimmons, Troubled Monk, Undercurrent, Zero Issue, Cabin, Prairie Dog, Red Bison, Common Crown, Half Hitch, Township 24, and High River. But be aware, quantities are limited!
And that will wrap up this fourth edition of the ABX Beer Chronicles Vol. 4. Check back next Monday for Vol 5.
The Beer Baron
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Light at the end of a Long and Windy Tunnel!
We made progress this week! We may have all of our fire permit issues solved by weeks' end - that means we are on our way to getting our licenses to operate and can order inventory to fill our shelves! The end is nigh (well for the build out phase anyway). Stay tuned for more updates.
in CRAFT BEER
Annex – New beer release: ‘Bright Nights’ Sour Orange Wit, “a partially soured Witbier brewed with Norwegian Kveik yeast, soft little fluffy oats, coriander, and piles of hand zested orange peel.” - canned for their 2-year anniversary party yesterday
Cabin – New beer release: ‘Rise & Shine’ Hefeweizen, “Banana and juicy fruit notes from the German yeast strain are accentuated by a healthy sprinkling of Sabro hops, which add another layer of fruity goodness. The grain bill is two-thirds wheat - so the bready aftertaste lasts and lasts.”
Cold Garden - Voted Best New Bar in the Best of Calgary Awards, 2019
Common Crown – New beer release: ‘Twerp’ Belgian Blond Ale, “Old Belgian folklore tells a story of a troublesome giant, a Twerp some might say. This menacing giant would travel from town to town drinking fine Belgian Ales by the barrel as if it were a cupful. Light bodied, with peppery spice and hints of fruit, which is sure to be welcoming to a thirsty giant.”
Dandy – New collab release: ‘The Richard Riot’ Est-West IPA collab with Quebec’s Dieu du Ciel (featuring Alberta malts and Quebec hops), “Brewed with top quality ingredients sourced from our home turf, this beer is a clean, fresh, and Bright IPA! Super bright and super tasty!”
Elite – New beer release: ‘Shore Leave’ Summerweizen, “sunshine + peach + apricot”
Freehold – Have created a 12-can mix pack of The Everyday Series featuring ‘Clearwater County Kolsch”, “Amber Valley Red Ale”, and “Willow Creek Grapefruit Wheat”
Good Mood – Brought back seasonal ‘Hefeweizen’ and released ‘Session IPA’
High Line – Brought back ‘The Dadge’ Cucumber Ale, and have canned their ‘Q: High PA?’ DIPA
Last Spike – ABF beer release: ‘The ABF Continental IPA’ (6% ABV, 45 IBU), “a double dry-hopped IPA with Amarillo and Cascade, every sip offers a healthy dose of pine and citrus. The finish is crisp and dry with a welcoming bitterness!”
New Level – New beers for Calgary Beer Fest: ‘Heavy Metal Horchata’, “Designed to be the beer version of the delicious Mexican beverage. Sweet and full bodied with loads of cinnamon.” ‘Sea Witch’ Passionfruit Berliner Weisse, “A sour bursting with Passionfruit. It's more passionfruit than actual passionfruit. It'll have you casting spells in the deep sea in no time.” ‘Cinnamon Toast Reaper’, “Our heavy-duty West-Coast IPA conditioned on Strawberries, Cinnamon and Vanilla.”
O.T. – New beer release: ‘Sooooo Pitted’ Double IPA (8% ABV), “with notes of tangerine and melon, this brew is the perfect beer to enjoy after a long day of dropping in and getting spit out!”. Went through a full rebrand of their core lineup
Rapid Ascent – Now open in Calgary
Red Bison – New beer alert: ‘Blush Raspberry Ale’
Revival Brewcade – New beer release: ‘Hop-Tart Sour’ (5.4% ABV), “dry-hopped with Belma and Cashmere hops”
The Establishment – Will release some more barrel-aged beers within a month or two
Tool Shed – New beer: ‘Passion Fruit Blonde” to be released May 7th
Village – Voted Best Brewery in the Best of Calgary Awards, 2019
Wild Rose – New beer releases: ‘The Untrue Colours Coffee Ale’, “Surprisingly pale-colored coffee ale. Blended with coffee beans from Guatemala, using the dry-beaning technique (soaking whole beans in the beer). This beer has a nice fruity, toffee aroma and mild roasty taste.” Blushing Brew 3’, “this delicious brew combines our ‘Ponderosa Gose’ with Wild Tea Kombucha’s hibiscus and grapefruit kombucha.”
Zero Issue – Brewed a collab with Doan's Craft Brewing Company from BC
Alley Kat – New back ally brew: ‘Baldwin Steam’ California Common, in honour of the Baldwin Steam train in Fort Edmonton Park, which happens to be celebrating a 100th birthday
Analog – New beer release: ‘Mana Potion’, brought back ‘Porter Fandango’ with a great new tap handle to match
Bent Stick – New beer release: ‘First Pull’ Coffee Amber (5% ABV), “featuring Tariku Mengesha coffee beans chosen by our coffee ninja pals from The Colombian to compliment the beer perfectly!”
Odd Company – Now open as of May 2
Situation – New beer release: ‘Salty Señorita’, “This lime and tequila infused sour tastes just like a margarita to satisfy those summer cravings.”
Two Sargeants – Will launch several new beers soon. Enough to fill a fight's worth
EVERYWHERE ELSE, ALBERTA
Belly Hop – Working on a secret project with Red Shed Malting and Alberta Barley
Half Hitch – New beer release: ‘Coin Toss’ Brut IPA (6.5% ABV, 45 IBU), “This IPA is super juicy hoppy and features Alberta wheat, rye and oats. It’s sure to please IPA lovers and pale ale aficionados alike!”
Hard Knox – New beer release: ‘Brown Eyed Ginger’, “A Dark Ale with a nice balance of malt and hops, delivering notes of coffee, bittersweet chocolate, with a medium mouthfeel and generous Ginger notes.”
Hell’s Basement – New beer release: ‘Padda-Juan’ Lime Pale Ale collab with Snakes and the Riot
High River – New beer release: ‘English Style Pale Ale’
Medicine Hat – Brought back seasonal ‘Hefeweizen’ (4.7% ABV, 12 IBU)
Red Hart – New beer release: ‘NEPASH #2’ (6.5% ABV), “Chinook hops, smooth and creamy. Notes of orange, grapefruit and melon.”
Sawback – New beer release: ‘Aussie IPA’, “Dry hopped with Galaxy and Ella”
Siding 14 – New beer release: ‘Juicy IPA’
Stronghold – New beer release: ‘Beergarita’, “Finished with key lime purée, it’s sour, refreshing, and tastes more like a margarita than a beer.”
Troubled Monk – Teased new beer: ‘Badlands’ Sour Brown Ale collab with Red Racer for their Across the Nation Collaboration, available soon
Undercurrent – New beer release ‘Educational Pursuit’ Pale Ale collab with Olds College Brewmaster students. Also lending wisdom to this collab were Analog, Last Best, Zero Issue, Red Bison, Township 24, Origin, Fitzsimmons, Half Hitch, Cabin, High River, and Prairie Dog
… in CRAFT SPIRITS
Elk Island – teased a new product launch in about 4 weeks with an official launch to come Canada Day
…and CIDER (nothing this week)
May 4 – Hush Gala, 6:00pm at Trolley 5 Brewpub. Use code TROLLEY5 to receive $25 off, $200/person
May 5 – Home Brewing Workshop at Situation Brewing, 9:00am. $75/person
May 16 – Spring Brewmaster Dinner, “This unique experience includes a 5-course meal created by our Executive Chef and Brewmaster paired with Barrel Aged Beers, Seasonals and a special conditioned cask made just for that evening!”