The dry, desert-like summer air in Calgary is best suppressed with a few pints of frosty brew, and nearly every pub in the city is equipped with at least a couple draught taps; but, when you really want to give this unfamiliar, arid heat a good beat-down — you need something specific, something fresh, you want a community-crafted brew.
The best way to start a brewer de force in Calgary is to go straight to the manufacturers. Two world-renowned breweries call our city home: Big Rock and Wild Rose, and both offer tours of their facilities, allowing visitors to see how the beer is made, but more importantly, to taste the merchandise. Big Rock also hosts many charitable events and private functions throughout the year, and Wild Rose has The Taproom connected to their brewery — a first-rate barroom with all the brewers’ classics on tap (Velvet Fog, WRaspberry Ale, and S.O.B. – Special Old Bitter) as well as seasonal brews, only available on site, like the current Alberta Crude Oatmeal Stout. And they sell the Party Pig … enough said. Big Rock Brewery, 5555 76 Ave. S.E.; Wild Rose Brewery, #2, 4580 Quesnay Wood Drive S.W.
Micro to Macro
Brewsters Brewing Company and Restaurant continues to expand with 14 locations in Calgary, Airdrie, Edmonton and Regina. The restaurant chain owes some of its success to the fancy pub fare menu its staff has created and the entertaining atmosphere each location is equipped to offer, but mostly, Brewsters thrives because of the exceptional beer it makes.
Two of Brewsters’ locations double as microbreweries (found in Calgary and Edmonton) and are responsible for supplying the entire franchise with fresh kegs of their award-winning ales. Each restaurant usually has more than a dozen exclusive and colourfully named brews, such as Rig Pig Ale, Blue Monk Barley Ale, Farmer’s Tan White Ale and Flying Frog Lager. If you’re not sure what to order, ask for a sampler, which gives you a couple ounces of each. You can also feel assured that you are getting clean, fresh beer as Brewsters is dedicated to their TruePour system, an neat innovation I hope more small breweries will adopt.
Next up is the Amsterdam Rhino, a happening bar on 11th Ave., which also has a pretty big brewing facility in the basement (I used to mop the floors there during university, when the place was still owned by Brew Brothers). Much like Brewsters, the Rhino has a few hiply named microbrews, like Gonzo (stong ale), Horn Dog (blonde wheat ale) and Hairy Eyeball (unfiltered wheat ale). Order one and you might just get a little cred with the Rhino’s firmly entrenched drum and bass crowd.
Just down the street from the Rhino is Bottlescrew Bill’s, offering Buzzard Breath Ale — a terrific stout brewed exclusively by (the aforementioned) Wild Rose Brewery for Bottlescrew’s and Buzzards Restaurant & Bar, next door.
And I can’t mention Bottlescrew’s without talking about their legendary Around the World in 80 Beers Passport. Your mission is try 80 different kinds of beer — bottles and draught, all available at Bottlescrew Bill’s — in one year. Bottlescrew’s staff will keep your beer passport behind the bar and track your progress. Upon completion, you become an honourary member of the 80 Beers Club, get an engraved mug and logoed garment, and best of all, will have your name permanently displayed via brass plaque at the pub, forever. Brewsters, five locations in Calgary; Amsterdam Rhino, 607 11 Ave. S.W.; Bottlescrew Bill’s, 140 10 Ave. S.W.
Image courtesy of LexnGer.