Posts Tagged ‘Co-Op

Co-op encourages you to take a trip through the world of beer

- March 13th, 2013


You’re a worldly beer drinker, right?

Always trying something new when you venture into the walk-in cooler?

Co-Op Wine Spirits Beer has re-launched its Beers of the World Traveler program, encouraging customers to sample brews from North America, Europe and beyond.

The program is a way to promote a little global beer exploration, get some deals, and get an entry for a chance at at $5,000 trip to a “well-known beer destination.”

“We havbe one of the best beer programs in the city,” said Co-op sommelier Erin Rosar.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for our customers to try new products, expand their repertoire of beers and maybe even win the trip of a lifetime.”

Looking like a cross between a coaster, a beer cap and a Trivial Pursuit pie, the Beer Traveler passport lets customers earn stamps for corresponding beer purchases, get a $5 discount for every page completed, and the finished passport earns entry for the grand prize.

Not that any of you need an excuse to try new beers, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to have another reason.

Check it out at your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

This Scoundrel’s last-minute Christmas gift guide

- December 11th, 2012


I know there are merely a little less than two weeks until Christmas, but in the grand scheme of things, this is plenty of time to cross the booze aficionado off your list.

For the beer, wine or whisky lover in your life, it may prove far too tempting to want to go out and get them a bottle of their favourite brand and plonk it under the Christmas tree.

As a fan of this kind of gift, I can assure you it will be well received. There is nothing wrong than the gift of booze.

That said, if you want to get creative and aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas for you:

The Glencairn glass

Whether it’s beer, wine, whisky or cocktails, the proper glass can make or break the drink. Some people have a well-equipped collection, and some don’t.

But if you’ve been to your friend’s place and he’s a big beer drinker, but all he has is pilsner glasses, help a brother out.

A new set of glasses, plus a sampling of beer best suited for it, would make a great gift. Beer Advocate has a great breakdown of appropriate beer-to-glass pairings.

As for whisky, the one thing I’ve noticed at all the tastings I’ve been to is the glass. Single malt Scotch is always served in one of two glasses: One that looks like a mini wine glass, or a Glencairn-style glass (pictured above).

The glass was designed after the nosing glasses used at distilleries in Scotland, and allows whisky drinkers to take in the aromas, as well as the flavours of their favourite single malt. Both Kensington Wine Market and Willow Park Wines and Spirits carry glasses of this type, and they’ll run you in the neighbourhood of $17 a glass. But well worth it.

Other than glassware, you couldn’t go wrong with a fun bottle opener (I was given a hammer opener last year), decanters, corkscrews, or, if you have a friend who loves making cocktails, a proper ice cube tray that will allow drinks to stay cold, while preventing dilution. These are also good for people who like whisky on the rocks.

Reading material:
You may think that books about booze are the last thing your drinking buddy is going to want. But if you know someone serious about anything, there’s a book, or magazine for them.

For whisky lovers, there’s Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, Whisky Advocate Magazine, or the Whisky Yearbook. Or 101 Whiskies to try before you Die. Those are just a few, but the list does go on. And on.

For the wine drinker on your list, a subscription to Vines Magazine, or Wine Access would be a start. As with whisky, there are hundreds upon hundreds of wine books on the market, and you could start with a book about a favourite wine region, or a beginners guide.

As a stocking stuffer, I note Springbank Cheese Company just released a great little pairing guide that lays out pretty plainly what cheeses go with which beers, wines and whiskies. If your friend or family member loves to entertain, this is a cheap and easy little guide, at about $6.

First-hand experiences:
If the drinker in your life has all the hardware and isn’t much for reading, there’s nothing better than getting into the thick of it: Learning, exploring and, most importantly, tasting.

A good start would be right at the source, and with four local breweries open for tours — Village, Big Rock, Wild Rose and Minhas Micro Brewery — it’s easy to go see how the pros do it.

Big Rock also invites speakers into their shop for the popular Big Rock Lecture Series, and offers up Craft Brewing Courses at Heritage Park.

For a good mix of booze and food, several restaurants in Calgary offer winery dinners or, better yet, brewmaster dinners on a regular basis. Craft Beer Market is ringing in the New Year with a dinner hosted by Horizon Beers, for example.

Outside of the breweries, there is a lecture or special event for everyone on your list. Willow Park, Co-Op Wines & Spirits, Kensington and Crowfoot Wines and Spirits all offer myriad events, tastings and talks on everything from Oregon wines to the world of Congac. These are fun outings for friends, and offer a great educational experience.

For that person on your list looking for a deeper educational experience, there a few WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) courses in Calgary, including through Willow Park and Fine Vintage Ltd.

For the whisky drinker, a membership in the Scotch Malt Whisky Society would make a great gift, with a gift-ready membership kit, and access to great events.

So there’s a handful of great ideas that don’t involve buying booze, sort of.

Buuuuuuuuut, if you really want to buy someone in your life a little holiday cheer, I have some suggestions.

Almost everyone and their dog puts out a holiday variety pack, or winter sampler, including Big Rock, Granville Island, Rickard’s and Fernie Brewing. And it’s not hard to find a gift pack of some sort that includes a fancy glass. But, as a beer drinker, I offer these suggestions of something to give:

* Innis & Gunn Winter Treacle Porter – Sweet treacle porter matured in a whisky barrel. Nuff said. And they do make a nice Christmas gift set, with three bottles — the porter, Original and Highland Cask, and an Innis & Gunn glass.
* Wild Rose Cherry Porter – It’s not Christmas in Calgary without it.
* Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager – This is new to the Alberta market, and was a pleasant surprise when I first tried it in Kingston, Ont. A nice amber-coloured lager that isn’t all that familiar around here.
* Anything from Unibroue, but particularly Maudite, Raftman or Trois Pistoles.

It’s tough for me to give wine advice. I know what I like, but there’s so much I don’t know about. And I’m willing to admit it.

If you’re buying for an office gift exchange, or on a budget, Prospect Winery out of B.C. is a good purchase, especially the Red Willow Shiraz.

For a red wine that tasted like you paid more than you did, I really liked the Angel’s Gate Pinot Noir when I tried it earlier this year.

Mission Hill offers a great selection of wines out of the Okanagan, as does Quail’s Gate, and both have mid-range selections, red and white, that would make anyone happy to receive as a gift.

If you really want to go all out for a gift, it would be hard to go wrong with anything from Terralsole in Italy. These earthy yet fruity red wines don’t go cheap (Kensington lists the ’06 reserva for $92, and the ’04 for $399.99), but these are wines any collector on your list would appreciate, and be happy to cellar. And if you’re really nice, you may be around when they crack one open for you.

Mark Davis/Getty Images For (Belvedere) RED/AFP
If you’re buying spirits for someone for Christmas, I have one recommendation for you: Don’t be cheap.

If your friend loves making V&T or G&T, don’t skimp on the V or the G. For gin, try Hendrick’s, and for Vodka, perhaps a Belvedere Pink Grapefruit. And maybe consider pairing with some premium tonic, like Fever Tree. It actually does make a difference.

When you get into whiskies, there are some great Irish or Canadian whisky that has had plenty of maturation time that won’t break the bank, like the Jameson 12-year, or Highwood Distillers Century Reserve 21-year.

As for single malt Scotch, there Glenmorangie is a great example of really tasty whiskies that don’t cost a lot of cash, like the Quinta Ruban and the Lasanta. Glenfarclas.

The Glenfarclas Family Cask 1997, which Kensington Wine Market has exclusively, is an amazingly robust cask-strength Scotch that seems a steal at $109.99.

So there are a few suggestions, easy enough to suss out.

Now have a happy holiday and remember to enjoy responsibly.

Some events to add some spirit (or beer, or wine) to your September

- September 7th, 2012

Summer’s over. The kids are back at school. Post-work rounds of golf are soon to be a memory and the patio isn’t looking that inviting any more.

So what is a proper drinker supposed to do now that fall is pretty well here? Take himself (or herself, equal opportunity boozing here) back to class. Learn about a some new wines, what to pair whisky with (other than more whisky), or just tuck in for some good food and booze pairings.

Stores across the city offer a wide array of classes, seminars, tastings and fun evenings throughout fall.

Some highlights on the September calendar (all listings as posted on the retailers’ websites)

Kensington Wine Market:
Aside from being the home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of Canada, Kensington Wine Market offers some great beer and wine events.
Tight Wad Oenophile I: Penny pinching for wine lovers gets harder and harder, especially in today’s market. We still look for the best so you can pay the least. Join us and we’ll share our secrets. Sept. 17. $25

What’s Next? Beer & Cheese I: Think wine and cheese make the perfect match? Think again! Beer is the true soul mate of cheese. Sept. 27. $30

Willow Park Wines & Spirits:
I live down south, so I do happen to find myself at Willow Park for plenty of events. Of interest this fall is their partnering with some local food trucks to offer some tasty new treats with a selection of beer.

Nathan’s Famous and Labatt’s: Nathan’s Famous Frankfurters & Fries is teaming up with some fine gems out of Labatt’s portfolio for Willow Park Wines & Spirits first of many Food Trucks in the Kitchen. Sept. 11. $45

California Wines and Complementary Cuisine with Christopher Walker, chef and wine consultant: This evening he will focus on the cuisine of California where more research has been done on food and wine pairing than anywhere else in the world. The discussion will center on the wines of the Hope Family and Coppola Estate. Sept. 25. $45

Mixing & Marinating with Jack Daniels: Experience the versatility of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Sipping Whiskey from making interesting and tasty cocktails to making marinades, and taste how they are enhanced by the Old Number 7. Sept. 26. $25

Co-op Wines and Spirits:
Co-Op also gets in on the food truck frenzy this fall, but also has a ton of other events lined up.

Micro-Brew Breweries – Big Flavours from Small Producers: Spend some time with us as we explore one of the fastest growing markets in the beer world. During this class we will be tasting beers from around the world and discovering the history and culture behind these delectable crafted beers and their many different styles. Oakridge: Sept 15. $25

Wines Through History: Wines have been made for over 6,000 years. This class will take you back in time as we learn how the
Egyptians, Romans, two World Wars, prohibition and even the development of refrigeration have played a part in creating the wines we enjoy today. Oakridge: Sept. 22. $25

An Evening with Alley Burger: We’re excited to team up with Calgary’s favourite burger food truck, Alley Burger, for an evening
combining their delicious menu with our favourite beverage picks. This is an evening sure to delight
anyone who loves a great burger, bevvies and fun. Book early to avoid disappointment. Beddington: Sept. 22. $50

Crowfoot Wine & Spirits:
I don’t happen to find myself in the far northwest very often, but the Crowfoot flagship store is a great spot for events, to be sure.

Syrah vs. Shiraz: Is it two different grapes? Is there even a difference? If you have wondered these same questions then join us to find the answer. Tonight’s tasting will not only compare the two but we will taste both of them from regions around the world! Sept. 12 $25

Ladies Only Sips ‘n Bites: Leave the men at home tonight ladies, because this night is all for you! A night out with some great wines paired with great food! Bring ou your friends and relax because our chef and Sommelier Sheila Person will spoil you rotten tonight! Make it a great night and buy 3 tickets to get a 4th FREE! Sept. 22. $40

A much-needed escape

- November 18th, 2011

With the mercury plummeting to frigid lows over the next couple of days, smart Calgarians will be sipping the finest Co-Op Wines & Spirits have to offer in the cozy confines of the BMO Centre.

The sold-out Grape Escape goes this weekend, showcasing hundreds of beer, wine and spirits from 60 of Co-Op’s vendors, as well as a number of food selections from Co-Op grocery stores, including turducken, spolumbo sausage and gelato.

Co-Op spokeswoman Cindy Drummond says the fact the event sells out most years indicates “it’s a great value for members and other customers.”

“It’s a chance for them to sample beer, wine and spirits they’ve never had before,” she said.

“It’s just a really fun night.”

New this year, Co-Op is encouraging attendees to take advantage of the popularity of social media.

“We’re encouraging people to tweeet this year,” she said.

While there was no official hashtag, #grapeescape would work, but be sure to also include @coopwinesspirits in your tweets so you could be retweeted.

And for those not among the 5,000 in attendance this weekend, fear not.

“If you missed out on this Grape Escape, the next one is in the spring,” Drummond said.

“Tickets are $50 … And there is no extra charge once you’re in the event.”

Now that’s what this scoundrel calls an escape.

Fall events

- October 10th, 2011

The leaves are changing colour, and the air is getting crisp.

We’re all looking for something to warm us up, and I don’t mean a sweater.

Fall is the time of beer bashes, whisky festivals and wine weekends. The calendar is full of all manner of events for any number of tastes.

The Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival: Oct. 14-15, BMO Centre
There’s no better way to shake you out of your tryptophan coma than with 200 food and booze booths, offering gourmet treats, wine, beer, premium spirits and single malt whiskies. Tickets are still available to get into the tasting hall, and food tickets will run you 50 cents apiece.

Co-Op Wines & Spirits Grape Escape: Nov. 18-19, BMO Centre
As the weather gets colder and Christmas approaches, the social calendar heats up, and Co-Op’s Grape Escape could be your unofficial start to the season. Tickets are $50.

Willow Park Wines & Spirits: Events through the fall
The calendar is pretty full at Willow Park Wines & Spirits through the fall. Highlights include Whisky in the Warehouse, the Beer Bash and the Wine Auction. But check things out for yourself.

Kensington Wine Market: Events through the fall
From the Single Malt Festival, to wine and cheese evenings and a special whisky launch dinner, Kensington Wine Market’s fall calendar has two great loves covered.

That surely doesn’t cover all the events in Calgary through the fall, so if you know of one, feel free to contact one of the scoundrels, or comment below.

Now that you’ve made it to the end and your mouth is watering, I’ve got good news.

The organizers of the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival have given me a pair of tickets to give to one of you readers.

From the festival’s website:

The 14th annual Calgary Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival returns for two days of indulgence! The Festival features a wide array of world-class wine, premium spirits, import and micro-brewed beer, and an assortment of local culinary creations. Attendees can indulge in quality beverages and cuisine in a fun, social and relaxed atmosphere. Held in newly renovated halls and hosting a diverse selection of exhibitors – you don’t want to miss the most delicious event of the year.

The tickets are for Friday night only (4 p.m.-10 p.m.), and grant access to the Grand Tasting Hall. Once inside, attendees would still need to purchase sampling coupons at 50 cents apiece to use in exchange for food, wine and other beverages.

Obviously, with a hall full of alcohol being served, this is a no-minors event, so leave the kids at home.

All you need to do to win is be the first to tell me the explosive name of the Syrah made by Charles Smith Wines, whose namesake is appearing at this year’s event.

Send answers to