Posts Tagged ‘Calgary

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

- April 24th, 2014

The Night Owl coffee stout from Tool Shed and Phil & Sebastien.

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 & Sebastien. 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 & Sebastien 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 & Sebastien’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.

Alberta Distillers event highlights the top whisky events this spring

- April 22nd, 2014

Fill your glass with some fine whisky.

The Dram Initiative is a relatively new whisky club in Calgary.

Curt Robinson and friends have been hosting events under the Dram initiative banner, complete with cool Lost-inspired logo, for about the past year.

And while there has been a heavy focus on scotch and other single malt whisky from around the world, they’re going local for their next event. And it’s going to be a highlight of the spring.

For those not familiar with Alberta Distillers Ltd., they have been cooking up some fantastic 100% rye whisky for more than 65 years.

The Canadian whisky segment has gone through its own bit of renaissance in recent years, and the makers of Alberta Premium have made a name for themselves with people who are looking for something that stands out.

The Dram Initiative event, happening April 29 at Marda Loop community hall will showcase the best Alberta Distillers has to offer, including Alberta Premium 25 and 30 year expressions, in a tasting led by ADL’s Norm Little.

The event is for club members, but they’re always open to new people joining up. For more information on the club, contact

Rounding out the Top 5:

2. The Last Samurai, June 26, Kensington Wine MarketKensington Wine Market plays host to plenty of great whisky events this spring, including Ancient Malts, and a Glendronach Batch 9 dinner. But an evening promising ‘some real curiosities from the world of Japanese whisky’ is one we’d find hard to pass up. Tickets are $100.

3. Co-Op Wine Spirits Beer World of Whisky and Cognac: This June event (June 7 in Calgary at the BMO Centre and June 14 in Edmonton at the Northlands Expo Centre) features a wide array of ‘whiskies from around the world, cognacs, and a gourmet dinner. VIP tickets get a guided tasting with experts, exclusive samples and early entry. General admission tickets are $125, VIP entry is $175.

4. The Spirit of Bourbon, June 13, Willow Park Wines & Spirits: Beyond single malt scotch, I love some bourbon, and Willow Park does put on great bourbon events. This June 13 tasting highlights the best in the segment. Tickets are $60.

5. Summer Whiskies, May 14, Willow Park Wines & Spirits: When it’s hot out, we tend to lean toward lighter beers and wines, so why not whiskies? Willow Park’s scotch expert David Michiels will run through a tasting of his favourite warm weather whiskies. Tickets are $25.

Calgary’s Village Brewery wins start-up of the year award

- February 28th, 2014

A growler from Calgary’s small business of the year.

Since it got up and running, Village Brewery has continued to impress.

From the group that helped found the company — a band of community-minded investors — to the focus on the local market and donating 10% of their bottom line to local arts and community groups, the Village has been welcomed with open arms by Calgary’s craft beer scene.

And now they’re getting national notice.

Village was recently named Start-up of the Year at the Air Miles Reward Program’s first Small Business Achievement Awards.

Co-founder Jim Button had this to say of the win:

“My advice to other start-ups is do what you enjoy and the money will come later. Recognize that money is one objective – but always put the quality of the service first,” Button said.

“And being part of today’s event was an honour and opportunity,” he added. “It’s not every day you get to learn and network with some of North America’s most well-regarded business leaders.”

The write-up announcing the award winners had this to say:

“Village Brewery was founded in 2011 with the simple goal in mind of gathering people around community.  The company operates exclusively in the Calgary area, using locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible, maintaining a high-quality product and a strong relationship with partners, all while investing 10 per cent of the bottom line into the community. The six founding partners bring a combined 150-plus years of industry experience, including Co-FounderJim Button, who is backed by 15 years of experience and passion for the industry.”

Congratulations to all the people who make Village a great local success story.

Dave’s Top 5 winter wine events

- February 6th, 2014

There’s something about a full glass of red wine on a winter’s night that just spells comfort.

Not even whisky warms me up like a glass of wine.

While the whisky and craft beer scenes are still growing in Calgary, the wine appreciation culture still reigns supreme and there are a ton of events devoted to vintages, varietals and vines.

This makes it tough for the likes of me to whittle it down to just five, but here we go:

1. Winefest: This February event features dozens of wineries from nearly 20 countries. There are wines from well-known regions like France, Italy and Chile, and lesser-known wine producers Moldova and Hungary. Mission Hill highlights the Canadian selections. The Friday and Saturday evening sessions are sold out, but there are still tickets available for the Saturday afternoon, 2-5 p.m. at the BMO Centre.

2. Pig and Pinot: Pinot noir is one of my favourite varietals, and, well, who doesn’t love pork? The two make for a great combination. Co-Op Wines Spirits Beer will have the best of both on display at this event, with food courtesy Boreal Cuisine. It goes on Feb. 14 at the Oakridge Tasting Centre, and Feb. 21 at Crowfoot. Tickets are $65.

3. Storm watch: Washington and Oregon have a great selection of wines available. Kensington Wine Market offers a chance to taste the best of both states at this event, inspired by the period in winter when “the rugged shores of Washington and Oregon are … dubbed “storm watch” as winter storms pound their coast lines.” This event will cost you $35, and it goes Feb. 21.

4. Bordeaux Vertical: Willow Park Wines & Spirits celebrates 20 years in business this March, and their birthday week features a host of tremendous events, including a Birthday Brunch, a Beer and Bubbles bash and a festival featuring wines ranked 90+ points by the top critics. But how could you pass up an evening exploring the wines of this iconic region? The night will feature vintages from Willow Park’s own wine library. Tickets for the March 6 event will set you back $120.

5. Phenomenal Poutine Pairings: Of all the events going on, why did I pick poutine? Because it’s poutine. Sure, I could have picked the unpronouncable vintages at Kensington, the Spanish evening at Crowfoot, or any of the other birthday events at Willow Park. But I love poutine, and I love the notion of fancy poutine pairings with fine wines. “The poutine pairings will be mostly wines,” Willow Park’s Peggy Perry told me. “Poutine with lobster, poutine with duck confit — it’s going to be really fun.” Sounds delicious. This event goes March 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45.

Village Brewery launching first seasonal of 2014 — The Village Troubadour

- February 5th, 2014
Village Troubadour

The Village Troubadour — coming soon to a store near you.

As Village Brewery says, this news is likely music to your ears. Or beers.

The Calgary brewery is launching its first seasonal of 2014, inspired by the songwriters of yore, the Troubadour is coming to town.

As with previous seasonals Ginger, Farmer and Monk, this mild brown ale is available in limited quantities in collectors edition growlers, and on tap in Calgary bars.

I could re-write the tasting notes for this beer, but the fine folks at Village had Trevor McConnell write up some poetry. And who doesn’t love beer poetry.

The Troubadour hails from the North, so they say.

‘Tis the sweet note of caramel gives it away,

And the lyrical lilt of the hops when they play,

As the Troubadour sings of that glorious day

When good barley and yeast had a roll in the hay

And the magic was born in the North.

So they say.

I have a feeling this will be popular. There’s nothing like a brown ale in the winter months. And the style is well-known around these parts, with Big Rock and Wild Rose doing their own takes. I’m looking forward to giving it a sip.