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

- August 20th, 2014
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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.
STUART DRYDEN/QMI AGENCY

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.

Calgary’s Village Brewery launches Maiden voyage

- May 7th, 2014
Village Square case photo Mandy Stobo

The Village Square, designed by Mandy Stobo, and featuring the new Village Maiden.

Fresh off its unveiling at the Calgary International Beerfest, where it was awarded second place in the Best Cask Category on Saturday, Village Brewery is letting the public take a date with the Village Maiden.

Bright and approachable, the Maiden is perfect for a lingering summer patio date, the brewery says.

“She’s as alluring as she is fleeting. She teases us with crisp citrus scents, whispering secrets of fragrant hops from faraway lands.”

The Maiden is an India Session Ale (a trend I’m enjoying seeing more of), and Village is touting that it’s packed with flavour, thanks to Centennial, Cascade and Zythos hops, but clocking in at a quaffable 4.6% ABV.

It is featured in the Village Square variety pack, along with core beers Blonde, Wit and Blacksmith.

The Village Square has also been given a facelift in time for spring, with artwork done by local artist Mandy Stobo, who is behind the Bad Portraits project.

Watch for it in stores starting May 7.

Big Rock continues busy year with spicy entries.

- May 7th, 2014
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The latest Big Rock Swinger Pack, featuring two new beers.

It’s hard to keep up with everything going on in Calgary’s growing craft beer scene, and Big Rock is a big part of that.

They have set an ambitious brewing schedule, and have already released an ESB, a druid gruit (an old-world blend of beer and flavouring herbs instead of hops), and they’ve collabeerated with the folks at Phil & Sebastian and Tool Shed Brewery on a very unique coffee stout.

And they just don’t stop.

Their latest in the Alchemist Edition is another old-world throwback, this time to Norse mythology.

Freyja’s Field is a Mead Braggot named for a Norse Goddess, and is a delectably light concoction made from Alberta clover honey, two-row malt, hallertau hops and special yeast.

It is a great combination of mead and beer that combines into its own unique concoction.

It’s available in 650 ml bombers, and is in stores, but just 3,000 were produced, so you may have to hunt for some.

For those who are looking to mix it up a little, Big Rock is out with its new Swinger Pack.

Old favourites Grasshopper and Saaz Republic Pilz are back, but replacing the Purple Gas and the Paradox Dark Ale are the Juniper Berry Mild Summer Lager and the Cracked Pepper Wheat Ale.

They both live up to their names.

The Juniper lager allows the slight bitterness of the berries to play with the citrus and pine flavours of the Chinook and Cascade hops. Last year’s Hibernation Ale featured juniper in a mix of berries and herbs, but this lets it stand alone, and it’s pleasantly crisp.

For my taste, the Cracked Pepper could have used a bit more spice and it still would have been a light, easy-drinking ale, but it is definitely the kind of beer you could pair well with chicken hot off your grill.

Not too fizzy, it has a nice pepper aroma with a light pepper finish.

The 12-can Swinger Pack is in stores now.

Next up for Big Rock, I believe, is the Rhine Stone Cowboy Kolsch.

Calgary’s Village, Montana’s Tamarack with three awards at Beerfest

- May 7th, 2014

The Calgary International Beerfest has announced its 2014 award winners.

There were many multiple winners among breweries, including Alley Kat and the group behind Brewsters and Beer Revolution.

Montana’s Tamarack Brewery took home first prize in the IPA category for the tasty Hat Trick, as well as second place in the wheat category for the Wakeboard Wit and a third-place finish for their Yardsale Amber.

Calgary’s Village Brewery also took home a trio of prizes, including second place for the special Village Father cask on Friday, second place for the Village Maiden cask Saturday and third place in the Light Hybrid category for the Village Blonde.

The brewery is launching its Maiden, an India Session Ale, Wednesday. More on that soon.

Click here for a complete list of Beerfest winners.