The Rocky Mountain Fest: As Seen By a Craft Beer Geek

I find it amazing how the BMO Centre changes its appearance so often. It looks different every time I’m there. Last weekend the hall was decked out for the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. I could see an abundance of wine, spirits & craft beer stalls scattered cross the area along with some great food to pair with your beverage of choice. Basically, the stage was set for some intense flavour exploration!

Alberta Microbreweries, Hog's Head Craft Beer, Grizzly Paw Craft Beer

Two amazing Alberta Craft Breweries: Hog’s Head & Grizzly Paw pouring next to each other.

Filling my stomach with culinary delights

When I arrived at the event I hadn’t had any lunch, so the first order of business was to satisfy my hunger cravings before I started touring all of the Alberta craft beer stalls.

Right beside the entrance was the Sunshine Village exhibit with a Short Rib Sandwich. I’m a meat lover and Alberta beef comes second to none, so I pounced on this tender slab of slow-roasted awesome. The crispy onions, fresh slaw and bacon bit toppings complimented the beef wonderfully.

I followed this up with a spicy stuffed pepper from Tu Tierra. I am a big fan of spicy food and really get off on authentic Mexican cuisine (read ‘not Taco Bell’). This is definitely a restaurant that I’ll be scouting out in the future.

I finished off with some excellent Gruyere cheese from Switzerland Cheese Marketing . I am thankful that I am not lactose intolerant because if I had to drop cheese from my diet I would be sans happy!

On to the Alberta Craft Beer tasting

Once I had some food in my stomach I moved on to my main reason for attending – the craft beer! There were lots of representatives from the industry on hand. I spotted a friend and thought that I would start off there.

Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale

Grizzly Paw Brewery, Alberta Microbrewery, Alberta Craft Beer

I really like the Grizzly Paw logo!

Darren from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company was my first stop. I had met Darren at the The Kananaskis Craft Beer Fest a few weeks back and was hoping that he would be representing Grizzly Paw at this event so that we could talk again while I enjoyed some of their beers.

Now, I have had raspberry ales from other microbreweries before and enjoy how the raspberry’s sweet and tart flavour compliments the wheat malts used in the ale. However, I honestly believe that Grizzly Paw’s version takes the cake (and would pair well with a nice slice).  They really hit the proportions right on the button.

I recommend this refreshing ale the next time you are enjoying yourself on your deck or as an accompaniment to dessert.

Blood Oranges, Hops & Wicked Labels with Hog’s Head

Alberta Micorbrewery, Hog's Head craft beer, Alberta Craft Beer

Another really striking Alberta craft beer logo, Hog’s Head has some really creative images on their labels as well.

My next stop was Hog’s Head Brewing Company which was one stall over. Hog’s Head, like Grizzly Paw, has one of the coolest logos in my opinion. In fact, someone recently got it tattooed on their arm! Judging from the artwork on their labels, they put a lot of thought into their designs.

My first sample was their “A Clockwort Orange Wheat Ale” (nice play off of the Kubrick classic). This wheat ale pours out in a hazy/orange colouring with a strong citrus nose. The citrus notes mingle with the blood orange and malty sweetness to deliver a unique tasting wheat ale. I think that I may have heard a little of the Ludwig Van playing in the background.

Since Hog’s Head is located in St. Albert’s I was pretty excited to check them out and had to try out their “Baby Back Hops IPA” (I always have to try a microbrewery’s IPA). The mix of Cascadian & Centennial hops brought this red baby in at 75 IBUs.  In short, i was not disappointed.

I talked to some of the Hog’s Head team and will be paying them a visit when I journey up to the Edmonton area to tour some of their craft breweries.

A True Lager from Ribstone Creek Brewery

Another pleasant surprise was seeing Edgerton-based Ribstone Creek Brewery pouring two of their craft beer offerings. I’ve been wanting to try them out since I heard the story behind the founding of their microbrewery to help boost the town’s local economy-


Their signature “Ribstone Creek Lager” made me remember how nice a true lager can be when it is brewed by people who care about taste. It had a nice creamy texture and the invigorating flavour was complimented by slight hints of citrus which made the lager taste even fresher.

Talking to Matt Gordon I learnt that The National had them available on tap. Now, if only I could get a craft beer like this at McMahon Stadium when I am watching a Stampeders game!

Bear Hill Brought its A-Game!

Alberta Brewpub, Bear Hill Brewing Company Craft Beer, Alberta Craft Beer

The Bear Hill Brewing Company was there in full force showcasing Jasper, Banff Avenue & Wood Buffalo brews!

Sampling at the Bear Hill Brewing Company stand was another highlight; those guys are just fun to hang around with. Kent Paterson, whom I recently talked to about Alberta Craft Beer, was there with some fellow Bear Hill reps.

I had some of Jasper Brewing Company’s “Vanilla Blueberry Ale” which is dangerously good. Dangerous because I would order this ale after supper over any decedent dessert; and I doubt that I could stop at just one.

There was also a cask ale on tap at the Bear Hill stall. Real Ales are an acquired taste; they are served a little warmer and are mildly carbonated. I got into cask conditioned ales two summers back and have made a point of trying them out whenever I see them on a beer menu. This one was a black IPA called “Dark Sky Cascadian Dark Ale”. Basically the combination of Liberty & Cascade hops with sweet malts and hints of coffee & chocolate made this robust ale come off like euphoria in a glass.

A Spicy Seasonal Offering from Village Brewery

Alberta Microbrewery, Alberta Craft Beer, Village Brewery Craft Beer

The Village Brewery Brought a truck full ‘o beer to the festival.

Village Brewery was on location in style (check out the pic above) and had their new seasonal beer, “Village Monk”, with them.

This seasonal offering is a chai winter porter that blends in spices like cardamom, cinnamon & ginger with caramel & chocolate malts. The sweetness from the malts works well with the added spices in this dark beer.

I could see myself enjoying a pint of Monk by the fire with some fruit cake in the near future.

My Quest for Big Rock’s Anthea Wet Hops Ale

Alberta Microbrewery, Big Rock Brewery, Alberta Craft Beer

Big Rock’s craft beer tasting stall.

I read about Big Rock Brewery’s new Alchemist Edition, “Anthea”, in the Herald. Ever since then I have been eager to try this seasonal beer that uses freshly harvested wet hops.

Unfortunately, “Anthea” was not on tap at the Big Rock set-up because it has been selling out across town. But this was not a big deal because with 16 new brews being released in 2013, I was not hard-up for choice.

I ended up having their “Saaz Republic Pilz”, a traditional Pilsner that is brewed with Check Saaz hops (to give it an authentic edge) and Alberta grown ingredients (to lend it some local pride). While enjoying the distinct flavour of the Saaz Hops I chatted with Nick Kedoin, Big Rock’s Sponsorship & Events Coordinator and got some tips on where I could locate some” Antheas” left in stock.

My task this week will be to pick up a few bomber bottles of this fresh hops ale so that I can give it a whirl.

Until next time, cheers to local craft beer!

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