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About "Dave Breakenridge"

Dave Breakenridge is the Online Content Editor of the Calgary Sun - responsible for local news on calgarysun.com, original online content, as well as writing a weekly column with a strong focus on Calgary issues. He also maintains the blogs Breaken' it Down and Thirsty Writin' Scoundrels. A nine-year resident of Calgary, he has covered myriad issues at the Calgary Sun as a reporter, including crime, education, health, politics and pop culture. An Edmonton native, he is also a former radio broadcaster and a graduate of Grant MacEwan University's journalism program.

Warm up your winter with the MS Whisky Fest

- January 8th, 2015

Fill your glass with some fine whisky.

It’s been a chilly start to the new year in Alberta.

Cold. Snow. Wind. Even freezing rain.

You think you’ve had enough of winter, and then you realize it’s just January. Time for a drink, right?

Nothing like a wee dram for a winter warm-up, right?

How about a room full of whisky? Even better.

You’re in luck then, because there are still tickets available for the MS Whisky Festivals in Edmonton and Calgary, Jan 14 and 15, respectively.

This is your chance to sample more than 100 whiskies from around the world, and not just single-malt scotch, either.

From single-malt to rye to bourbon, the best of the brown spirits will be available for sampling at the Delta Edmonton South next Wednesday and at the Jack Singer Concert Hall Thursday.

Stephen Richmond with Vines Wine Merchants in Edmonton, one of the partners in the Jan. 14 event, said tickets are selling well for this year’s event.

“Ticket sales are awesome — for the last two years, we’ve kind of sold out,” he said, adding he expects a turnout of about 550 people.

The events will highlight all variety of whisky, including single malt whiskies from Japan and Taiwan.

The events are unique in Alberta as they are one of the few occasions when you will see so many principals from distilleries around the world.

“Because of the timing of the big whisky fest in Victorial, a lot of principals will cover over for the Victoria festival and they’ll stop over here,” Richmond said, meaning attendees will get a chance to meet and chat up the people who know the most about their favourite whiskies.

On top of that, there are special master classes at both festivals, special tasting sessions with brand ambassadors.

In Edmonton, tickets are still available for the master classes with Compass Box, Kavalan and a special Canadian whisky class with Dan Tullio.

In Calgary, there are still spots listed for the Laphroaig class, as well as one with Michael Urquhart, who is a whisky industry veteran.

Whisky is a growing segment in Alberta, and there are always new whiskies to try, which makes a festival like this a great chance to learn, Richmond said.

“It’s becoming an educational thing. For $85 (for the Edmonton festival), you can try as many as you like,” he said.

Key with events like this, because there are more than 100 whiskies on hand, is to plan your evening, as there’s no way you could even approach trying them all.

You could plan by region, or plan to try only whiskies you never have. Either way, it’s a chance to expand your whisky knowledge.

Better yet, the proceeds from the event go to the MS Society.

“Over the five years, we’ve raised in excess of $140,000 and it’s grown every year,” Richmond said.

Tickets for the Edmonton event are $85 and can be found here; Tickets for Calgary’s fest are $99 and are available here.

Your extremely last-minute boozy gift guide

- December 24th, 2014

So you’re that guy. Or gal.

The one who leaves it to the very last possible minute to buy some gifts.

Then you get to the day before the big day and think to yourself, ‘Now what am I going to do?’

Seeing as you may be stopping by a liquor store anyway (who doesn’t need a little liquid courage for a Christmas with the family?), there are a handful of items you could grab in a snap to please the tippler on your last minute list.

Big Rock’s Barrel Aged collection or Cuvee Bru: These are both limited releases from Big Rock just in time for the holidays. The Barrel Aged series includes three bottles aged in different barrels: Bourbon, Congac and Sherry. They’re rich, flavourful beers just in time for the season. The Cuvee Bru, on the other hand, is a beer-wine hybrid, made with Pinot Gris grapes, as well as pure honey sourced from the brewery’s own bees. If you spot either of them, pick them up.

Wild Rose Cherry Porter: This is a holiday staple for me, and makes a great stocking stuffer. Rich chocolate notes, as well as sweet and sour cherries makes this a nice sipper on a cold Christmas day.

Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Pinot Noir:  This is one of the best Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had. I had the pleasure of trying it at a dinner I was invited to in November hosted by the Edmonton Gentlemen’s Dinner Club. It was fruity but earthy, with balanced tannins, and absolutely silky on the palate. The nose alone is worth the price of a bottle.

Glenlivet Guardians Chapter: The Glenlivet isn’t usually my whisky of choice, but I have to say, I was quite impressed with this single malt, chosen by fans of the distillery, is full of rich chocolate and orange notes, with light spice on the finish. It’s a nice limited edition that makes a great gift.

Now, if you don’t want to buy someone a bottle as a gift, there are some great books out there to enjoy while having a drink.

On the beer side, there is Joe Wiebe’s Craft Beer Revolution: An Insider’s Guide to B.C.’s Breweries, or The Audacity of Hops, which traces the rise of the craft beer scene south of the border.

For whisky fans, the Davin de Kergommeaux book Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert is a fascinating and informative read about one of our chief spirited exports.

“But Dave, it’s Christmas Eve and I have no intention of leaving the hosue,” you snark.

Fine. Keep your sanity.

You can easily shop online for some key events in the new year. In January, both Calgary and Edmonton play host to MS Whisky Festivals, with scores of whiskies available for sampling from distilleries from around the world. The Edmonton festival goes Jan. 14 at the Delta Edmonton South and the Calgary fest is the next night at the Jack Singer. Click here for tickets to Calgary’s event, and here for Edmonton’s. Proceeds go to benefit MS research.

Meanwhile, Winefest makes a return appearance in Calgary and Edmonton in February. Like the whisky festivals, this is an all-inclusive tasting event, allowing you the chance to sample wines of all varieties from around the world. For the oenophile in your life, this is a no-brainer.

So that’s it. Check off some of the last people on your list, triumphantly dust off your hands, and pour yourself a drink. The relatives are on their way.

Unique Pinot pairings at select restaurants highlight Sokol Blosser

- December 11th, 2014

Pinot Noir can be  a very versatile wine. I’ve had it paired with everything from pork to duck to beef, and it’s also very good with simple dishes like bruschetta or pasta or game hens.

One ingredient I also think it does quite well with is salmon, especially vintages with more fruit on the palate — they can cut through the fattiness of the fish.

That pairing is on display for a few days at select Edmonton and Calgary restaurants, which are featuring signature salmon dishes with the Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, in support of the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society.

Sokol Blosser is one of the oldest Oregon wineries, and has been producing great quality Pinot Noir for some time.

The Dundee Hills offers notes of black cherry and raspberry, but with earthy undertones, which makes for great pairings with salmon.

The signature dishes have been created by the chefs at Bothy Wine & Whisky Bar in Edmonton (both locations), as well as Q Haute Cuisine and La Chaumiere in Calgary. Proceeds from the sale of Dundee Hills Pinot Noir will go to CPAWS.

“We are thrilled to be introducing this exciting new campaign to consumers across Western Canada,” said Adam Evans, National Sr. Brand Manager, Wine Division, PMA Canada Ltd.

“We are always in search of ways to enhance the wine drinking experience for our consumers across the country. The Dundee Hills Pinot Noir is truly best–in-class. Enjoying it on its own is definitely a treat for any wine connoisseur, and we look forward to having consumers experience its flavours as they are enhanced alongside the various wild salmon appetizers, each prepared by some of the best chefs in the country.”

Alison Sokol Blosser, Co-President, CEO and Second Generation Winegrower, Sokol Blosser Winery adds:. “It’s exciting to work with these chefs to bring the flavours of Pinot Noir and salmon to life to consumers across the country.”

The best of the pairings from the restaurants — which also includes notable Vancouver eatery Vij’s, plus three others in B.C. — will be announced in January.

Alberta craft beer makers come together for 2014 Unity Brew

- December 9th, 2014

Unity-Brew-InviteAlberta’s craft beer scene is truly a community. 

As the number of breweries grow, so does competition, but having more people interested in the products they put out benefits them all.

This sense of community led to the formation of the Alberta Small Brewers Association, and also to the collaboration beer known as the Unity Brew.

Beer makers from the association have gotten together in past years to brew up something special as a team.

And while in the past, this beer was only available on tap at select bars and at member breweries, the 2014 Unity Brew, being launched in Edmonton Dec. 9, will be available across the province.

The team met at Wild Rose Brewery in Calgary in October to make the brew, and “after an ample aging period” it’s being released this week.

The beer they opted for this year is an India Pale Lager, “specifically designed to be crisp and hoppy for the winter season.”

The beer launched in Calgary at Craft Beer Market on Monday, and launches Tuesday at Craft in Edmonton.

It will hit store shelves soon.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society launches in Edmonton

- November 26th, 2014

Having recently located to Edmonton, there were a few things about Calgary I knew I was going to miss:

1. Peters Drive In

2. Village Brewery beer

3. The ability to attend Scotch Malt Whisky Society tastings

While I still need to take a road trip for a growler from Village or shakes and onion rings from Peters, I am very happy to let you know that the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, based in Calgary, has partnered with an Edmonton retailer to bring the great single-cask whiskies to the City of Champions.

With dozens of members here in Edmonton, and retail partnerships in Vancouver and Victoria, it was really only a matter of time before members got a chance to buy the scotch straight from a store.

The partnership launched this fall, and featured the first Edmonton Outturn tasting Nov. 7 at Keg n Cork on 99 St. just south of the Whitemud.

The store alone was a pleasant discovery for me, as I looked for a great independent liquor store near where I lived, and the SMWS partnership sealed the deal for me.

While the owners at Keg n Cork are working on slowly increasing the amount of Society whisky in stock, due to smaller member numbers here compared to Calgary, there will be quarterly Outturn events and occasional drop-in tastings for members when new stock comes in.

For the uninitiated, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is a world-wide group devoted to blind-labelled (though the bottling codes are easy to figure out) single-cask whisky selected by a tasting panel at HQ in Scotland.

Membership gets you exclusive access to purchase the Society bottlings, as well as tickets to the special Outturn tastings, giving you a chance to sample before you buy. New members also receive a kit that includes three small bottles of the special whisky.

For more information, check out smws.ca, or pop into Keg n Cork.