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Summer à la Calgary: The land of buds and suds

By Thomas Johnson, April 26 2018 —

Five degrees or 30 degrees — what’s the difference? It’s now comfortably in the middle of that range and it’s safe to say there probably won’t be a torrential dump of sleet and snow for a brief while. Calgarians are sun-obsessed, patio-hungry creatures fuelled chiefly on lo-fi power chords and the alchemy of yeast, water and wheat. Beer makes up 10 percent of our plasma, and 10 hours of light a day means we have 10-plus hours to indulge in our preferred elixir. Alberta’s crop of breweries show no signs of relaxing since their unprecedented boom earlier this decade and 2018 is slated to be another summer brimming with countless batches of that sweet, sweet wheat juice. Here’s the cream of Calgary’s crop.

Annex Ale Project:
Annex’s beer settles left of norm, with their only two standards being an XPA —an experimental pale ale — and a western, heftier variant of a bitter. Because of their reliance on small batches, their rotation is constantly shifting but always intriguing and inspired. At the time of writing, the rotation consists of west coast Pale Ale, a Cranberry Session Ale and a tropically stained New England IPA.

Banded Peak Brewing:
Banded Peak’s core lineup makes an argument for the strongest in the province, let alone the city. Dominated by a saison and three mighty IPAs — the unfiltered, citrus-heavy Plainsbreaker being the standout — BP has a healthy collaborative resume. Currently, their premier joint-project is a unpasteurized hopped kettle sour with Dandy Brewing Company, The Hans & Bruno Sour.

Citizen Brewing Company:
Citizen is a relative newcomer, though no discernible trepidation shows in their roster. Their usual suspects are tried, true and approachable, checking all the boxes: Session Ale, NW Pale Ale, IPA and Stout. That being said, they use their seasonal brews as opportunities to cull disparate influences. Currently, they’re pouring The Cardinal, an equal parts malty and hoppy double IRA, and a nitro-treated, caramelly red ale dubbed the Red Setter.

The Dandy Brewing Company:
Dandy might be the most challenging brewery in the greater-Calgary area, but their reputation as Alberta’s most adventurous brewmasters is well-deserved. A true nano-brewery, the foursome at Dandy’s heart forged their own custom brewery to house their unorthodox experiments. For reference, their flagship beer is an intense Oyster Stout. They built their name on their sours though, which they seem to pump out at a rate that renders a write-up obsolete. They recently moved their taproom to Inglewood, far more accessible than their original location deep in the north. Just go.

Last Best Brewing & Distilling:
The godfather of Calgary’s microbreweries, three of Last Best’s core beers are among Calgary’s most popular brews. The Show Pony Pale Ale, the self-titled IPA and the Dirty Bird Black Lager taps can be found on nearly every bar in the city. More than likely, they were your introduction to Alberta’s craft beer scene. They also house the city’s lone core Kolsch, so their lineup is about as suited for the warmer months as any. Currently in the works are a collaboration with Washington’s Bale Breaker Brewing (a black IPA), and an as-of-yet unspecified collaboration with Ten Foot Henry’s. Disclaimer: they are also unapologetically obsessed with hops, not that anyone should be apologetic about hops.

Railyard Brewing:
Railyard Brewing’s main sell is their beer, of course, but closely behind is the vibrant artwork that adorns their canned product. They cover the bases — a lager, pale ale, IPA and nitro stout — each tallboy a slick work of striking art in and of itself. Theirs will be undoubtedly the most beautiful can on the shelf, regardless of where it was bought. Their taproom comes complete with a pool table, neo-gothic decor and decidedly chill atmosphere. Unfortunately, apart from your typical bar snacks, there’s no food to be ordered. Not from them, anyway, but feel free to order in. Legit.

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