Beer Guy: January February 2019

Happy New Beer

by Peter Bailey

“Always in Alberta there is a fresh wind blowing.” – Nellie McClung

I moved back to Alberta in 2001 after years of exile in Ontario. I love Ontario. I love all the parts of this big, beautiful country, but I missed Alberta. I missed the openness, the vigour, the willingness to try new things, that can-do, entrepreneurial spirit of Alberta. What I didn’t miss was the boom and bust cycle. But in tough times, enterprising Albertans get out and get it done. Today, that spirit is fueling Alberta’s thriving craft beer industry, now numbering more than 100 breweries.

craft beer

Calgary and small town Alberta led the way early, but Edmonton got moving in 2018 with a bevy of new breweries. Analog, Omen and Sea Change opened in southeast Edmonton not far from Alley Kat, Blind Enthusiasm and Situation. Polar Park is promised for January 2019 nearby on 80 Avenue. Endeavour opened in St. Albert while Two Sergeants moved from Fort Saskatchewan into Edmonton. Ale Architect took a different path, with no physical location, instead brewing their uncommon ales at existing facilities.

These new kids on the block have a lot in common. An enthusiasm for great craft beer—of course. But talking to many of the founders, owners and brewers, the word that kept coming up was community. Omen Brewing is a family affair, co-owned by dad Tony and his sons Rhys, Spencer and Andrew Oswald. Andrew told me what surprised him most after opening was the sense of community in the craft beer scene; “We knew the craft community was tight knit but we didn’t expect it to be as family-like as it is. When we needed to borrow a piece of equipment we only had to make one phone call.”

Husband and wife team Matthew and Georgia Atkins founded Endeavour Brewing as a family and community-oriented place. Matthew told me he fell in love with the culture of craft beer a decade ago at a Houston brewpub—people sharing pizza and beer at picnic tables in the sun, playing board games and actually talking to each other. Ian McIntosh and Taylor Falk of Sea Change Brewing told the late, lamented Vue Magazine about wanting to build a sense of community with their brewery; “We come from a place in the Edmonton music scene where everyone was always so inclusive and welcoming. We want the same vibe that existed when we played shows.” Analog Brewing co-owner Bryan Launier told me his Ready Paler One beer goes back to him enjoying a Brewdog Dead Pony Pale Ale while on a trip to Prague.

Back in Canada he reached out to Scotland’s Brewdog about the recipe. Brewdog responded by sharing their entire beer recipe book, rejigged for home brewers. As Launier notes, “Super punk and so damn cool.”

The other word that comes up is creativity. Matthew Atkins of Endeavour and Mason Pimm of Ale Architect are both mechanical engineers. Pimm told me about “struggling to fill a creative void in my career as an engineer” and falling in love with craft beer. He says Ale Architect is all about imaginative, quality beers—“always interesting, never boring.” Engineers like to make things, Atkins says, but they have to stay within the lines; he needed more room for originality. Home brewing became his creative outlet away from his job, until he was able to make the leap to brewery owner in 2018. He knows, like many Albertans do, that craft beer is Alberta’s other liquid gold. A renewable resource!

New Brew Six Pack

Start the new year off right with new brew from brand new Edmonton (and St. Albert) craft breweries. The best and sometimes only way to get these beers is at the brewery. Bring your growler!

Click images to zoom

Ale Architect Megamojo Brut Imperial Stout, Edmonton

Megamojo Brut Imperial Stout
Megamojo Brut Imperial Stout

With the world’s first Brut Imperial Stout, Ale Architect meets their goal to brew interesting, never boring beer. Brut means dry, something achieved with the addition of an enzyme, and Imperial means big, at 11.8% ABV from huge amounts of eight different malts. Black, complex, intensely flavoured with a very, very dry finish.

Analog Ready Paler One Super Session Ale, Edmonton

Analog co-owner Bryan Launier developed this recipe after drinking a Scottish beer in the Czech Republic and discussions with brewers in Utah. A supremely quaffable pale ale with citrus notes, a clean, dry finish and an aroma of lemongrass and cherries. Added oats give this beer a big body and a silky mouthfeel.

Endeavour Express ESB, St. Albert

Extra Special Bitter
Extra Special Bitter

Endeavour’s Matthew Atkins began home brewing 20 years ago in university, and this ESB (Extra Special Bitter) was one of his early favourites. Over the years he refined the recipe, combining his love of British beer styles with his commitment to local suppliers, replacing British malt with Chinook pale malt from Alberta’s Origin Malting.

Omen Medieval Wheat Dunkelweizen, Edmonton

The family that brews together, stays together. Edmonton’s Oswald family spent time separately in Europe, where they developed a love of traditional European-style dark beer, like this German-style dunkel (dark) weizen (wheat) beer. Dark brown, creamy and full-bodied, with crisp, citrus flavours.

Irish Red Ale
Irish Red Ale

Sea Change Irish Red Ale, Edmonton

Talk about local – the tables in the Sea Change tap room are made from refinished boards recovered from the Cloverdale footbridge, demolished in 2016. Look at those boards, remember the Folk Fests you got to by walking over that bridge, and drink this delightful red ale, nicely malty and nutty, finishing dry, with enough bitterness to keep you interested.

Blatchford English Mild
Blatchford English Mild

Two Sergeants Blatchford English Mild, Edmonton

After three years in Fort Saskatchewan, Two Sergeants made the jump to the big city in the fall of 2018, moving into the old Iconoclast Coffee space, right next to the Brewery District in Oliver. This English Mild is brewed with all-Alberta malts from Red Shed Malting and Origin Malting and is the first beer brewed at the new location.

As a librarian, Peter Bailey knows that libraries, like craft beer, are all about community and creativity too. He’s @libarbarian on Twitter and Instagram.