The Tomato

The Beer Guy: The Next Wave

in 2016 July August, Beer Guy

We’ve always had the ingredients for a vibrant craft beer scene in Alberta: world-class barley and malt; clean, pure water; smart, entrepreneurial people who build things and a young, thirsty populace.

by Peter Bailey

The first wave of pioneering micro- breweries like Big Rock and Alley Kat showed the way, educating a skeptical province of lager drinkers about dark beer and the pleasures of bitterness. But as other regional beer scenes such as British Columbia’s gained momentum, Alberta’s fell behind. With access to hundreds of different beers from around the world, we’ve been drinking other peoples’ local beers instead of our own.

Now, finally, the pieces are falling into place. Alberta craft beer is having a moment. And if things continue to grow, this moment could become a wave.

A couple of new ingredients have proven crucial to making the Alberta craft beer recipe work. First, the start of Olds College’s brewing education program in 2013 has fed trained brewmasters into the industry. You can find Olds’ grads throughout Alberta craft beer. Second, the lowering of the minimum brewing capacity regulation by the province in 2013 has been crucial in encouraging enthusiastic amateurs to make the leap to become professional brewers.

This new wave is made of people like brothers Charlie and Graeme Bredo, who founded Troubled Monk Brewing in Red Deer in 2015. “We had always been beer lovers and craft brewers,” Charlie says. “But when they changed the laws it made it practical for us to start.” Their head brewer Garret Haynes is from the first graduating class of the Olds College brewing program. Haynes and the Bredos are brewing world-class beer. When I tried their Pesky Pig Pale Ale I thought, ‘these guys are the real deal.’ I’m not alone in my opinion. This May, at the World Beer Cup in Philadelphia, Troubled Monk’s Open Road American Brown Ale won a silver medal, finishing ahead of 79 brown ales from around the world.

Troubled Monk’s ace in the hole is the world-beating barley of Central Alberta. Most of this barley goes to two big Alberta malting plants, Rahr Malting in Alix and Canada Malting in Calgary, where it becomes malt for beer around the world. But an exciting local development occurred this year with the launch of Red Shed Malting by the Hamill family. The family has been growing barley near Red Deer since 1929, sending their crop (like everyone else) to the two big plants. A couple of years ago, inspired by his own homebrewing experience, Joe Hamill coaxed the family into becoming maltsters themselves, with the goal of supplying the craft beer industry with unique quality malts. A craft maltster, as it were.

Troubled Monk used Red Shed’s first production malt in their Insomniac IPA this May and they tell me that they will “absolutely” be using more in the future. Red Shed’s Hamill talks of making malt traceable, “to make a truly local pint possible, where the person enjoying the beer can trace its history from field to glass.” We’re talking beer terroir here, knowing the farm and the field where your beer began. With Red Shed, Troubled Monk, Something Brewing (Red Deer) and Blindman Brewing (Lacombe), we have the beginnings of a Central Alberta beer destination. Look out Okanagan Valley!

Next Wave six-pack

Relaxed brewing regulations in 2013 allowed brewery tasting rooms and taprooms to grow. Check out the Sippin’ Alberta Craft Beverage Trail Guide available on the Alberta Culinary Tourism Alliance web site (albertaculinary.com) and take a summer road trip to try these beers at the breweries. Most are also available at better beer shops.

GP Brewing Blowout Stout

GP Brewing Blowout Stout

GP Brewing Blowout Stout, Grande Prairie
They’re an independent, self-reliant bunch up in the Peace Country and GP Brewing reflects that ethos. By 2017, they aim to use 100 per cent Peace Country barley in their beer, what they call farm2can. Brewmaster Jim Lague, an Olds College grad, has created a chewy English-style stout with a touch of sweet chocolate and coffee flavour.

Bench Creek Naked Woodsman Pale Ale

Bench Creek Naked Woodsman Pale Ale

Bench Creek Naked Woodsman Pale Ale, Edson
Andrew Kulynych wants Edson to be more than a place to stop for coffee on the way to Jasper. Located in the deep woods north of Edson, he hopes Bench Creek can be a rural destination brewery. Naked Woodsman is a nicely bitter and easily quaffable American pale ale. Be sure to ask them the story behind the name when you stop off at the taproom.

Blindman River Session Ale

Blindman River Session Ale

Blindman River Session Ale, Lacombe
Blindman Brewing co-founder Hans Doef is a member of the Doef ’s Greenhouse family, so knows a thing or two about local food. Now he has gathered a gang of beer geeks around him with a goal to brew the best beer in Alberta. River Session Ale is Blindman’s flagship beer, what Doef calls “an accommodating beer for both crafties and non-crafties alike.”

Troubled Monk Open Road American Brown Ale

Troubled Monk Open Road American Brown Ale

Troubled Monk Open Road American Brown Ale, Red Deer
Brewmaster Garret Haynes shows a deft hand in brewing a subtle, nuanced beer that reveals its complexity in the glass. The beer that won Troubled Monk a silver medal at the World Beer Cup is a brown ale— balanced, nutty and malty with a light touch of fruit and citrus from the Cascade and Mt. Hood hops.

Two Sergeants Bangalore Torpedo IPA

Two Sergeants Bangalore Torpedo IPA

Two Sergeants Bangalore Torpedo IPA, Fort Sask.
Two Sergeants is Fort Saskatchewan’s very first brewery, founded in 2015 by Kevin Moore and Keith Edwards, two retired veterans with 46 years experience in the armed forces between them. Their flagship beer is a big, aggressive, yet drinkable IPA with an eye-watering bitterness of 100 IBU and 7.4 per cent alcohol.

Situation Brewing Afternooner Tea Saison

Situation Brewing Afternooner Tea Saison

Situation Brewing Afternooner Tea Saison, Edmonton
Situation Brewing founder Wayne Sheridan has launched something that was sorely needed on the Edmonton beer scene—a brewpub/brewery committed to not only brewing great beer but to upping the craft beer game in Edmonton. Case in point, this delightful saison infused with mango Oolong tea, a fruity yet tannic-dry beer perfect for summer quaffing

Peter Bailey will see you down the road this summer. He’s on Twitter and Instagram as @Libarbarian.

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