Microbreweries in Alberta have been popping up in swarms across Calgary and Edmonton, tucked away in refurbished warehouses and former factories. Until 2019, alcohol could only be consumed within the confines of private residences, bars or restaurants, making it difficult for recreational breweries to exist at all before easing liquor laws. Though certain city parks, streets and other public places are still partially restricted, these new regulations have facilitated a sudden influx of microbreweries to roll out in numbers, spurring a vibrant and creative community of craft-enthusiasts in two of Alberta’s major cities.
For a thorough exploration of the budding brewery scene in Inglewood, one of Calgary’s many trendy neighbourhoods, try to coincide a trip to High Line Brewing as part of the newly established Pedal Pub tour. During the summer months, crowds spill out onto the sun-soaked terrace whilst sipping from snazzy glassware. The location feels relatively off-grid but is in close enough proximity to the various breweries dotted around the local area. High Line is an apt example of a typical “micro” brewery in terms of its size and scale, making it all the more charming and adorable.
Another Inglewood classic, it’s difficult to stumble upon Cold Garden by accident due to its nondescript location. From the exterior, the building resembles an abandoned factory of some kind in contrast with the quirky interiors. Inside, fairy lights line the ceiling and eccentric artwork bedeck the walls. The beers are also bizarre to fit the theme, sometimes containing pumpkin spice or vanilla beans that result in a flavour reminiscent of a birthday cake.
Revival Brewcade has a dimly-lit dive bar atmosphere characteristic of a Bukowski bar setting, minus the brawls. In other words, it’s a neighbourhood favourite filled with locals leaking in after a nine to five. Old-school arcade games like Pacman are dotted around the main bar backed by a series of dusty chalk boards containing a vast selection of obscure-sounding craft beers, grilled cheese and tequila.
Located in the southeast quadrant of Calgary, it’s the strong sour ales and fancy furniture that makes Dandy stand out from the rest. The modern facilities offer a stylish twist to your average tasting experience in the city, so be sure to dedicate a few hours here. Those who love the finer things in life will enjoy dining in the new tasting room restaurant serving up an interesting mix of smoked oysters and sweet potato ceviche in a menu crafted by Chef Merritt Gordon.
True beer fans will be pleased to hop on a Blind Enthusiasm brewery tour for a detailed look at the process behind making a perfectly crisp ale. The founder, Greg Zeschuk, demonstrates a particular passion for his newfound craft after pursuing a career as a physician turned videogame developer, delving into detail about the various flavours and mechanics behind each individual drink on the menu. Taste the “Extra Special Monk” for a freshly dry-hopped ale or the “ZestyZee” for a hint of banana.
Located five minutes down the road from Blind Enthusiasm brewery next to a pet grooming shop, Sea Change offers a complete contrast to the surrounding local breweries. Instead, there’s a punkish ambience that permeates the pen-scrawled walls quoting lyrics and declarations of love in pink marker pen. Opt for a beer flight for the full tasting experience coupled with a crunchy Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich to line the stomach.
Take a tour of Edmonton’s oldest distillery and award-winning gem located just off Whyte Avenue in the Entertainment district. Strathcona is the smallest distillery in North America, nestled in a tiny room that used to be used as jam space for bands and intimate gigs. Local ingredients and traditional methods are used to make the award-winning spirits that can be found across various restaurants and bars in Alberta.
This 7000+ sq. foot facility is fast becoming one of Edmonton’s most popular breweries. The focus is on easy breezy beers that are light on the tongue, conjuring all sorts of tropical summer flavours. Arcade games are also available for a light-hearted tasting session in a laid-back environment.
This one’s not exactly a brewery but rather a perfect way to conclude a day of brewery hopping. Edmonton’s folk music festival could be defined as Alberta’s version of Glastonbury. Scheduled annually, fans of classic folk acts look forward to a weekend of music, sunshine and dancing. Food trucks are dotted around the main site, serving up vegan hot dogs and classic festival delights submerged in cheese and ketchup. Sip beer, make friends with the locals, who will likely let you perch on their “tarps” in case of rain, and dance the night away if the party continues elsewhere.
Frontier Canada (020 8776 8709 / https://frontier-canada.co.uk) has seven nights in Alberta, Canada from £1,145 per person. Valid for travel in summer 2020, the price includes return Air Canada flights from London Heathrow to Calgary, 6 nights’ accommodation including 3 nights at the Hotel Arts in Calgary and 3 nights B&B at the Metterra Hotel on Whyte in Edmonton, and car hire with extra driver, GPS and petrol. The price is based on two adults travelling and sharing accommodation.