Posts Tagged ‘big rock

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.

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.

Give a hoot about Calgary craft beer with Night Owl from Tool Shed, Big Rock and Phil & Sebastian

- April 24th, 2014
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The Night Owl coffee stout from Tool Shed and Phil & Sebastian.

Tuesday was a big day for the guys behind Calgary’s Tool Shed Brewing Company.

Not only did they get the keys to what will become their new headquarters — they’re moving out of the shed and into their own warehouse space in the northeast — but they launched a pretty special beer.

The Night Owl Kenyan French-pressed Coffee Stout blended the talents of Tool Shed’s Graham Sherman and Jeff Orr with the coffee know-how of the folks at Phil & Sebastian. The team collaborated with Big Rock brewmaster Paul Gautreau to launch night owl to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Calgary International Beerfest.

If that’s not enough cross-pollination, all the proceeds from the beer will be donated to support a scholarship for the Brewmaster Program at Olds College.

For those wondering whether Calgary’s craft beer scene had grown into a community, there’s your answer.

Sherman told me that he had wanted to do a coffee stout for a long time that really highlighted the coffee (for those wondering, he also roasts his own beans at home).

The key was in how they were able to infuse the coffee — specially selected Kenyan Kabingara AA beans — into the beer.

Sherman said the process was like running the beer through a giant French press.

The Phil & Sebastian blog breaks down the process quite nicely.

Historically, coffee beers have been made in a number of ways: by adding ground coffee to the boil, the mash tun, or the fermentor, or even by brewing coffee with water and then adding that solution to the fermentor. From our point of view, these methods fall short — both in theory and in results — of an ideal extraction. The boil kettle is too hot, the mash tun is not hot enough, and the fermentor is way too cold. By brewing coffee with water, you end up either watering down the beer or not adding sufficient coffee flavour.

To ensure we achieved a proper extraction and brew strength, we approached the problem as if we were making a massive cup of coffee — only using beer instead of water. We used a brew ratio of 17:1 by weight, which ended up being 180 lbs of coffee! We infused the sweet, unfermented beer (called wort at this stage) with the coffee after the boil, but before it was chilled down to room temperature to ferment, allowing us to extract at an optimal temperature. Before diving right into the full-sized batch, we brewed several small-scale test batches on Tool Shed’s home-brew rig (which actually is in a tool shed) and were able to dial in the grind setting and contact time to give us the flavour profile were looking for. In particular, we found that by adjusting our grind setting we were able to really maximize acid quality, much in the same way we would when dialing in coffees on our brew bar.

The beer was launched Tuesday at Phil & Sebastian’s Mission location, where it will be exclusively available until May 2. From there, it will be on tap at the Calgary International Beerfest May 2 and 3 at the BMO Centre, and the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival June 6 and 7 at the Northlands EXPO Centre.

It’s definitely a beer worth trying, and not just because it’s helping a worthy cause (training future brewers). It’s a rich beer that truly highlights the coffee without taking away from the beer.

“It walks that line really well,” Sherman said.

It has a nice malty nose, but hits you with deep, rich coffee flavour on the palate, and has a creamy, lingering finish. It clocks in at 7% abv, and, for those who are keeping track, 42 IBU.

Best picks for 5 a.m. Olympic hockey action

- February 21st, 2014

So, you’re overjoyed at the notion of heading to your local bar before dawn to watch Canada’s Olympic men’s hockey team take on Sweden in the gold medal game.

The province made the wise choice, IMHO, to allow bars to open and serve alcohol in time for the game Sunday morning.

Previously, the earliest bars would be allowed to serve, had they applied for special permission, was 8 a.m.

But now, what to drink at that hour? Even if you’re staying at home and watching the game, other than a nice coffee and Bailey’s or a vodka and OJ (not my first choice), what makes a good early morning quaff that won’t get you too loopy?

Here are some helpful suggestions to get you through your morning. (They’re all Canadian too, eh.)

Sessionable: The notion of a sessionable ale is simple, whether it’s when you’re settling in for the long haul, or, in this case, starting really early, something with a lower alcohol content, but still really flavourful, may be the way to go. Both the Village Troubadour and the Big Rock Warthog would fit the bill here.

Maple: What is more Canadian (and breakfast friendly) than a nice maple beer? And there are a number of good Canadian maple beers. Cannery Brewing makes a good maple stout, Fernie does their Sap Sucker maple porter, and Granville Island does a maple cream ale. The latter may be easier to find at your local bar, but all three are good. Even the Rickard’s Dark is quite tasty, and has a distinct maple flavour. Though not maple flavoured, the Mill St. Vanilla Porter is also a good pairing with pancakes.

Fruit beers: Beer made with fruit tend to go really well with breakfast. While I know a lot of people like raspberry ales, and there are a few in Canada, they aren’t so much my taste. Not at breakfast, anyway. My preference would be something with grapefruit like the Alley Kat Main Squeeze, or a blueberry ale, like the one from Pumphouse in New Brunswick.

Coffee: If you’re not going to have a cuppa joe, why not go for the next best thing — coffee beer? Mill St. out of Toronto makes a tasty Coffee Porter, and Yukon Brewing features the Midnight Sun Espresso Stout. Either of these would give you a jolt to your day.

I get that not all of these are going to be carried by your local bars. Some bars may have them. But you can always buy them and enjoy them with the game in the comfort of your own home.

Go Canada Go!

Big Rock freshens up their look with spiffy new labels

- February 3rd, 2014

You may have noticed something different the last time you picked up some Big Rock at your local liquor store.

The beer inside the bottle is still delicious, and the rooster still adorns the neck, but the Calgary brewing mainstay has updated its labelling for all of its beers.

“Our new packaging is as artfully crafted as the wonderful beer that goes in it. The new packaging was inspired by original artwork done by a local artist commissioned by our brewery”, said Bob Sartor President and CEO.

And, I must say, the results are quite fresh looking.

The packaging was designed by Calgary artist Dean McKenzie, and I think he has done well to give Big Rock a fresh look while keeping with the spirit of the beers we all know and love.

Of the redesign, my favourite is the Scottish Heavy. I love the beer, but never cared for the plain plaid label. I think the castle looks really good.

On the whole, Big Rock was due for this kind of new look. With new breweries in the Calgary scene employing fresh design on their packaging, the more established breweries need an update.

It looks like Wild Rose is also launching new packaging as well, if this tweet is to be believed. I look forward to seeing what they have in store.