This will probably be my last post in 2013, so I thought that I’d end the year with a frozen high-note. Winter time in Canada may have its difficulties; the cold and snow can take their toll on us. But it can also have its pro side; skiing, snowshoeing, Christmas and winter craft beers! A few weeks back I took a short jaunt up to Canmore where I experienced both sides of winter. It was a bone-chilling -28 degrees outside but the town was all decked out for Christmas in Canmore and The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company restaurant had a fireplace to help keep warm!
Christmas in Canmore
I happened to be there during one of Canmore’s winter festivals. Downtown Canmore gets into the Holiday spirit early with this local event. For 5 weeks, starting November 28th, the main strip is full of Christmas decorations and lights. I stood out there admiring this scenery in weather that only Mr. Freeze would find comfortable; so you know that it is worth taking in.
This festival is more than just lights and decorations. There are also outdoor events taking place like a Kid’s Christmas Village, outdoor skating on the pond and a Gingerbread house chock full of activities for children.
If you have kids this will make a good excuse to take a trip to Canmore while you pop in to check out The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company’s new microbrewery and hang out at the restaurant!
The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company opened the doors to its new microbrewery in April. The addition was made because demand for their craft beer was growing across the province. More & more Albertans are catching on to craft beer and if you traveled through Canmore chances are that you gave some of their brews a whirl.
One thing that I learned on this tour was that not every brewery has to follow the same model. Grizzly Paw takes it to another level. The design from Russell and Russell Design Studios is a blend of rustic cabin and operational factory. This is perfect for a town that is nestled among the Rockies.
The brewery layout leaves lots of space for growth (20,000 square feet!) The 35 hectolitre setup covers two levels. In fact the upper portion has the benefit of being surrounded by large windows giving the brewmaster the luxury of having a view while working.
Part of the reason for the large layout is so that they can host events at the microbrewery in the near future. Small tasting stations will be set up on both the main and upper levels so that thirsty beer fans can grab some craft beer while taking everything in. The upper level will include an 8,000 square foot event space for future parties. It has an incredible gallery where a BBQ will be placed for those summer excursions.
The entrance/exit is also the main tasting room and gift shop. So you can hang around to try out more craft beer and take your favourites home with you. And if you’re anything like me you’ll probably end up picking up some of their swag. I’ve said it a few times, their logo is awesome!
I should also mention that they make their own soft drinks. These are made with no caffeine and less sugar (cane sugar to be exact) than your standard pops. And in the future (roughly 5 years) they will even begin distilling their own spirits. This bear seems to be a Jack of all trades!
The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company Restaurant
Since I was staying over in Canmore I had to find a good place to eat. This gave me the opportunity to go hang out at the restaurant for some grub and brews!
In 1996 the doors to the The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company brewpub were opened to Alberta craft beer fans. This was a time when craft beer was basically unknown in the province so we’ll have to thank Niall Fraser for his vision & nerve because 17 years later we are still making it a top destination for beer and cheer!
The restaurant has a very warm rustic atmosphere to it. With lots of wood construction and stone masonry the brewpub has a cabin look & feel which is perfect for its setting in the mountains. The indoor fireplace (and second one seen from outside) make it even more inviting during the cold weather.
I should mention that the brewpub is still in operation. They use the older setup in the back to brew the craft beer for the restaurant. And if the microbrewery is working at full capacity they could always use the smaller setup to help pick up the slack.
In preparation for a night of craft beer sampling I took a gander at the menu for some nourishment. The restaurant has award winning hamburgers and in case you didn’t know, I am a burger fan. So I went with the Elk Burger.
I enjoy the flavour of game, it is a nice change from the standard beef patties. And I’d have to say that they dressed this one up to the nines with tomato, arugula, onions and feta cheese. The crumbly cheese was a nice substitute for your regular cheese slice.
Craft Beer Highlights
I was happy to see that the beer list had a handful of seasonal offerings along with their regular lineup. I started off with the Saison to get me in a proper beer drinking mood.
It has a nice character with wild cereal notes coming through but not too intense because you are still able to taste the hints of spice and citrus. This would be a perfect beer to sip on that gallery in the summertime!
I had a small sampling of the two IPAs that they had on tap to compare them before ordering my next pint. Their year-round “Indra Island IPA” is a nice blend of 4 different hops. But I am a fan of the bitter flavour that hops lend to beer so I went with the Red IPA (another seasonal) which delivered more of that bittery-goodness that I crave and had a more pronounced hoppy aroma to it. I also enjoy the stronger presence of the toasted malts in Red ales. This adds a little more depth to the ale in my opinion.
Moose Knuckle Stout
I have already raved about their winter seasonal, Cranberry Winter Ale, so I will talk about their stout.
“Moose Knuckle Winter Stout” is a pleasure to drink for anyone who enjoys a decent cup of Joe. Infused with a blend of Beamers Coffee this stout has a distinct coffee taste coming through that is rounded off by chocolate and dark roasted malts. The body is not as heavy as some other stouts so you would be able to have a few of these in a sitting without feeling too stuffed.
Big Head Nut Brown
This brown ale, along with Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale, are my favourites from The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company’s signature beers.
“Big Head” is brewed with a blend of pale malts and four different roast malts to give it a caramel flavour. The sweetness is cut by the mild hop bitterness. It is nicely accompanied by the slight nutty taste. This is a medium-bodied ale, so if you are not in the mood for a stout but are craving a darker beer, it makes a good alternative.
I hope that everyone out there has a Merry Christmas and until the next time,cheers to local craft beer!