A few weeks back I ventured to downtown Calgary to check out the grand opening of 5 Vines Wine, Craft Beer & Spirits. Normally the opening of a new liquor store would not be something that I would attend; but I started following these guys on social media and there was something about them that intrigued me, plus some guests would be on hand pouring some special brews.
A Little Background Story
Part of the reason that I was curious to attend their opening event was that the story of their origins caught my attention. 5 Vines is a family run operation, as someone who works in the accounting field I have a soft spot for family run small businesses and find their stories fascinating (read I’m a geek).
The story goes that the idea to open up a liquor store in downtown Calgary originated around a campfire one night. Having spent my fair share of time hanging around campfires drinking and talking I can visualize how this may have played out (sadly my drunken banter was never this constructive).
The seed for this idea led to further discussion among the five family members while sitting at the kitchen table in the parent’s ranch in the prairies outside of Calgary. The dream started to change into the beginnings of a legit business plan.
Enter some outside help from experts in the industry. A relationship was formed with Tom Firth, an expert in Dionysus’ harvest, who is no stranger to the Calgary wine scene. Another local expert was found in Patrick Schnarr. Patrick is a bona fide craft beer junkie whom has downed over a thousand craft beers and would like to sample as many different ones as possible. More than this, he is also a brewer who works over at Big Rock Brewery, so he has some serious in-depth knowledge of the industry which can come in handy when giving advice to both craft beer newbies & seasoned beer geeks alike.
The Grand Opening
For the grand opening the store set up a bunch of stations offering snacks and tastings of their various wine and beer products. However, the coolest stuff was to be found at the growler fill station!
Graham and Jeff from Tool Shed Brewing Company were there with their Randall (an awesome invention from the craft beer visionaries over at Dogfish Head). This barware tool is used to infuse an already delicious craft beer with even more flavour. Basically it knocks it up another notch so that you experience the feeling of flavour euphoria!
They were infusing Red Rage (their popular red ale) with coffee beans and cocoa nibs. Now, Red Rage already has some serious flavour coming through with the roasted dark malts. So infusing it with these extra ingredients just accentuates those flavours even more (you can never have too much of a good thing). As a major fan of this craft beer already I was totally blown away by how much the infusion heightened the taste. I had to buy a 5 Vines mini-growler and had it filled up for later!
Another major feature at the event was a special cask from Big Rock Brewery that Patrick had cooked up!
Patrick took their signature wheat beer, Grasshopper, and dry hopped that sucker with citra, amarillo, simcoe, sorachi ace and cascade hops. I found the addition of hops a very nice touch. The crisp, clean and slightly citrusy flavours found in a standard Grasshopper went well with the burst of scent that the dry hopping delivered.
Special pouring events like this will be held at the store every so often. People working in the industry will visit the store to present their craft beer and chat with us customers. They could be pouring a new seasonal release or even a limited cask. This makes me happy because going to events where I can talk to craft brewers and try out new/special releases is pretty much what I do in my spare time!
Craft Beer Selection
I referenced the growler fill station above, so a little more on that. The selection of craft beer in the 6 kegs will be changing constantly. Once one is dry, it will be replaced with another totally different beer. 5 Vines has been open for only a few weeks and I have already seen the lineup change significantly.
There is a nice blend of local microbreweries as well as those from elsewhere in North America and Europe. There will be a seasonal focus on the keg choices with darker beer like stouts and winter ales in the colder months, saisons during the summer and much more.
There will be some rotation in the beer fridge as well. Once a particular craft beer sells out it may be replaced by another completely different beer. This will not be the case for all of the products, only a few. I like this idea because it will keep things interesting for beer geeks. It pretty much insures us that we’ll always be able to get our paws on something new to fill our mugs with.
I should mention that the owners encourage people to let them know if there is a craft beer or wine out there that they would like to see at the store. I have already put in a request for Hog’s Head Brewing Company and was ecstatic to see that it was filled on my last visit. My beer fridge is now stocked with a sixer of Hop Slayer IPA and I am just itching to get my hop on.
And if you’re not quite sure what you want or just like to talk craft beer with someone to get recommendations, Patrick is there with his list of Craft Beer Picks. These picks will change up every few weeks as different stock becomes available. I know that I have walked out with some recent gems after talking shop with Patrick.
Maybe I’ll see ya there at the next event! But until then, cheers to local craft beer!