Strap on your lederhosen – it’s Oktoberfest season

- September 24th, 2014

Visitors celebrate with first beer mugs the opening of the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest festival at the Theresienwiese in Munich, southern Germany, on September 20, 2014. Germany’s world-famous Oktoberfest kicks off with millions of revellers set to soak up the frothy atmosphere in a 16-day extravaganza of lederhosen, oompah music and, of course, beer. AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE

It’s that time of year: The leaves are changing colour, the weather is cooling, and people are ready to break out their dirndl and party it up at Oktoberfest celebrations.

The concept of a German-themed, beer-fuelled oompah fest is nothing new, but the folks behind Alberta Beer Festivals (Calgary International Beerfest and the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival) are bringing a craft beer focus to Oktoberfest efforts, which kick off this weekend in Cowtown before debuting Oct. 3 in the Chuck.

While people may normally associate massive steins and Bavarian barmaids with Oktoberfest, the two events are sampling events, with a bit of a German twist, giving patrons a chance to try a variety of local and German beers from nearly 30 breweries.

“That’s the benefit of a sampling event,” Alberta Beer Festival’s Trevor Bacon says.

“We want to expand our presence in Edmonton,” Bacon added.

“We feel we need to introduce more beers to Edmonton audiences.”

Both Calgary’s and Edmonton’s festival will feature European brews from the likes of Peroni, Pilsner Urqell, Fruh, and Maisel, but there’s also a heavy focus on Canadian craft beer.

Alley Kat, Big Rock, Wild Rose, Olds College, Grizzly Paw, Tool Shed, the list goes on.

Adding to the craft beer goodies is a cask stage, with special beers unique to each festival.

Calgary’s features Olds College, Wild Rose and Brewsters on Friday, while Saturday features a collaboration brew, Village Brewery and Something Brewing.

Edmonton’s cask stage features Olds College, Hog’s Head and Brewsters on Oct. 3, followed by Wood Buffalo, Alley Kat and Ribstone Creek on Saturday.

Both events will feature local food as well as oompah music and other live entertainment.

Tickets to get into the event are $19 in advance or $25 at the door, with tokens available on site for beer and food samples.

For more info on both festivals, visit the Alberta Beer Festivals website.


You want beer, Edmonton? Shabam! You have a beer fundraiser

- September 10th, 2014

Sample beers from across Western Canada at Shabam Beer Tasting Festival, in support of the Kidney Foundation.

With the cool weather settling in around Edmonton sooner than anyone would really have liked, warming up with a few beers seems like a worthy enough cause.

But when that worthy cause is actually for a worthy cause, it makes it even better, right?

The Kidney Foundation is hosting its annual Shabam Beer Tasting Festival this Friday, Sept. 12, at the Alberta Aviation Museum Hangar on Kingsway Ave.

“It’s the fifth year we’ve been putting together the event,” said Flavia Robles, executive director of the Kidney Foundation Northern Alberta and The Territories Branch.

“It’s really a time for people to be intimate and interactive with the brewers.”

The event features brewers from across Western Canada: Alley Kat, Big Rock, Brewsters, Central City, Great West, Grizzly Paw, Hogs Head, Okanagan Spring, Wild Rose, Yellowhead and Yukon, as well as Sherbrooke Liquor Store, who will have a sampling table, plus they’ll be running the on-site store, for those who want to take some home afterward.

Admission to the event is $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and with it you get a glass and two drink tickets, and every ticket after that is $2 for a 4-0z. pour.

In addition to the beer tastings, there will be music and food on site, as well as a silent auction.

The event goes from 7-11 p.m., but pouring stops at 10.

For tickets and more info, click here.

Big Rock and Wild Rose hop to it with pair of September packs

- September 5th, 2014

Things are getting decidedly hoppy at two of Alberta’s big breweries this September.

Both Big Rock and Wild Rose are putting a bit of kick onto liquor store shelves with flavourful new variety packs.

In Wild Rose’s case, they’re offering an IPA trio that fans may be familar with, while Big Rock is offering a pair of twists on an old favourite.

In the case of the Wild Rose, they’re giving fans The Bitter Truth, in the IPA Family Pack, which features the brewery’s signature IPA, the White Shadow White IPA and the seasonal 42, a lighter Session IPA.

All three are tasty brews, and nice expressions of the style.

Plus, there’s this.

Big Rock, meanwhile, is unleashing hopped up versions of it’s old standby, Traditional Ale.

Dubbed Rad Trad, the six pack features three bottles each of The Cascadian and the Anarchist.

Both clock in at 6.1% abv (compared to the flagship Trad’s 5%), and feature two very different styles of hops.

As its name would suggest, The Cascadian features Pacific North-West hops varieties Cascade, Chinook and Citra, adding citrus characteristics to the mild malt flavours.

The Anarchist, on the other hand, is like the punk rock cousin in the family.

It spices things up with a quartet of British hops: Challenger, Progess, Fuggle and Goldings.

Watch for both of these in your local liquor stores this month.

Alberta loses craft beer pioneer with death of Big Rock founder Ed McNally

- August 20th, 2014

Big Rock founder Ed McNally gives a thumbs up aas he stands with a statue of himself at the Big Rock Brewery Inc. 18th Annual Big Rock Eddies on Monday, June 6, 2011 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in downtown Calgary, Alberta.

Sad news in the brewing world Wednesday, with word of the death of Big Rock’s founder, Ed McNally.

Big Rock President and Chief Executive Officer, Bob Sartor, expressed his sentiments on behalf of the entire Big Rock team: “Ed leaves behind a legacy larger than life and we will forever be grateful, not only for this great company he created, but also for the lasting impression he has left on the lives of everyone who had the privilege to know him.”

For some Alberta beer drinkers, Ed McNally may not be a household name. But they’d be more than a little familiar with his legacy.

Back in the early ’80s, beer choice in Alberta wasn’t much of a choice. The notion of craft beer? Relatively unheard of around these parts.

Ed McNally helped change that, founding Big Rock in 1985, at the young age of 60, already having an accomplished career as a lawyer.

He originally set out to ”make the beers that I want to drink, not what will be popular.” But Albertans were thirsting for choice as well, and of the Bitter, Porter and Traditional that were first brewed, Trad is a mainstay in the lineup.

The brewery has a signature lineup that stands up well against any other brewery in the country, with Trad and Grasshopper among the most popular, but also an assortment of flavourful brews, including light caramel notes in the Warthog, the bold Scottish Style Heavy Ale, a quality IPA, and a tasty Irish ale that bears his name, McNally’s Extra.

Though he retired from the brewery in 2012, his name looms large over the company.

It’s a testament to McNally that some may see his brewery as one of the big guys. McNally and his team of brewmasters worked hard to build the craft segment in western Canada, and the brewery’s success, as well as its continued push to be creative, is something to be proud of.

If it’s been awhile since you picked up a Big Rock, it would be a fitting tribute to raise a glass to the man who helped move the beer industry in this province along.

Glenfiddich partners with Calgary charity to support veterans and their families

- May 21st, 2014

Steve Critchley, Co-Founder of Can Praxis (left), Elizabeth Havers, Brand Ambassador, PMA Canada(centre), and Phil Ralph, Program Director, Wounded Warriors Canada (right), at the BMO Centre in Calgary
to nationally announce Glenfiddich’s newest partnership with Can Praxis. Handout photo

The next time you pour a dram of Glenfiddich, you’ll be toasting a Calgary charity in their work with veterans and their families.

The iconic distillery has partnered with Wounded Warriors Canada and Calgary-based Can Praxis to support its equine therapy work with veterans to help soldiers recover from the effects of war and rebuild family connections.

“Glenfiddich’s direct support of Wounded Warriors Canada and Can Praxis allows us to provide programs for veterans and their families at no cost to participants,” Can Praxis co-founder Steve Critchley said.

“This support is significant and ensures we (Can Praxis) are able to conduct innovative programs and provide proven help for those in need.”

The announcement was made Wednesday at Stampede park in Calgary.

For its 2014 campaign, Glenfiddich is donating $2 from the sale of every bottle of Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera sold in Canada to the program.

Glenfiddich has partnered with Wounded Warriors Canada since 2012, starting with the donation of proceeds from a record-breaking scotch auction in Toronto. To date, more than $180,000 has been raised to support Wounded Warriors.

“When it comes to our ongoing partnership with Wounded Warriors Canada, we have and always will be guided by the philosophy of families helping families,” says Beth-Anne Thomas, National Brand Manager for Glenfiddich.

“As a family-run distillery, we are thankful that our fundraising efforts in 2014 will directly support veterans and their families using pioneering equine-assisted learning methods.

“We couldn’t be more proud to welcome them into our family at Glenfiddich.”

The proceeds will be presented to Wounded Warriors and Can Praxis at a ceremony leading up to Remembrance Day this fall.

The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera, according to the distillery’s website,  is an award-winning whisky, aged in three different kinds of oak before being mellowed in a Solera vat and married in Portugese oak tuns. It features aromas of honey, fudge and dark fruits, with notes of oak, cinnamon and ginger on the palate with a sweet, lingering finish.

It’s a good buy at less than $70 most places.