Well it’s 2014 and I am guessing that most of the people reading a blog about Alberta craft beer rang in the New Year with some tasty pints! I chose to spend my New Year’s Eve pouring with the guys from Tool Shed Brewing Company at the National on 17th (usually I am on the other side of the tap). Hanging out with Jeff & Graham made me realize how well these guys embody the craft beer movement that is sweeping the globe.
On my blog I not only write about the Alberta craft beer itself but about everything that surrounds it. By focusing on craft beer events, the pubs that embrace it, microbreweries, brewers and the people who love craft beer I try to demonstrate the wide-reaching effect that the industry has. Economy, tourism, cuisine and local pride are all complimented alongside your taste buds. To me craft beer is like a sub-culture (SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: enjoy this sub-culture responsibly or you could end up culture drunk).
A Personal Level
My first post on the blog was about meeting Graham & Jeff for the first time at a pouring. I was inspired by their “Thank You” message scrawled across the packaging for their first release & wanted to write about them.
Putting a human face on beer is something that I really enjoy about craft beer. You know that people have worked hard on bringing you that pint of awesome. This is more satisfying than when some big operation churns out a foul substance that was cleverly marketed to reach your local pub.
Hanging out with the guys from Tool Shed and listening to how passionate they are about brewing only strengthened my view of this. There will be no corn syrup in their beer, these guys actually care.
A Sense of Adventure
The Homebrew Connection
Quite a few of us craft beer devotees have dabbled in homebrewing at some point. Personally, I think that it helps you to appreciate beer even more when you know what goes into creating it.
These guys started out just like that. Liking quality beer and wanting to try brewing some of their own. Part of the reason that Tool Shed has been received so well is because the Alberta homebrewing community can identify with their origins.
The desire to try it yourself takes a sense of adventure. Even when you are an experienced homebrewer (after numerous boil-overs and bottle eruptions) there is always that need to try new combinations and recipes to put out a different tasting beer. Even professional brewers like to try out new experimentations on smaller systems first (less waste if it doesn’t quite work out as planned).
Zach, my buddy and sometimes author on this blog, agrees that when it comes to looking for a good microbrewery it is important to be experimental. We are always craving something different. Jeff assured me that they have a whole slew of recipes that will be released as seasonals in the future. Recipes that originated from tinkering around with their homebrewing system in Graham’s tool shed.
Tool Shed has found another way to keep exploring different beer avenues. They picked up a Randall to infuse their beers with various flavour combos. I mentioned their Cask Killa’ in my previous post about 5 Vines: Wine, Craft Beer & Spirits where they infused Red Rage with some cocoa nibs and coffee beans (mmmm so freakin’ good).
They have made good use of this Sam Calagione creation at other events. The NYE bash at the National featured Star Cheek IPA with ruby-red grapefruit. This was another homer of a combo because the generous dosage of hops already lends the ale a citrus and bitter flavour which the grapefruit only accentuates. As my hoser heroes Bob & Doug McKenzie would have said “it was a beauty eh”.
A “Never Say Die” Attitude
If you are extremely passionate about something you have to be willing to go all of the way, no matter what. When the minimum production requirement laws were acting as a barrier to Tool Shed they did not simply give up, they plowed through that road block and went all of the way to BC. If they could not brew their beer at home they would take their operation with them and contract brew out of Dead Frog Brewery until they had the resources to operate in Alberta.
This level of determination is needed when brewing craft beer. When you have a great recipe that you know has what it takes you should not be dissuaded by naysayers. And the last thing that you want is for some business exec to influence your creation with cost cutting measures. Crap ingredients are for the big breweries that our flavour receptacles loathe.
The New Calgary Microbrewery
The next adventure for Graham & Jeff will be opening up their new microbrewery in their hometown.
Since the AGLC has scrapped the minimum production requirements Tool Shed will now be able to set up shop in Alberta. They have been scouting out locations in the South Eastern section of Calgary, close to fellow craft breweries Big Rock, Village & Wild Rose’s new location.
Jeff tells me that their brewing system will be unlike any other in the province. They will have a system tailored to brew the kind of beer that they want to make. This will allow them to pump out some of those seasonal beers that they have rearing to go.
They recently made an announcement that one of their specialty lines will be a craft beer that is constantly changing. This will be their tribute to the Alberta homebrewing community. Each variation will be created in collaboration with a lucky homebrewer who will take part in the whole process, from brewing to label design to canning (the real brewing experience). This is an exciting way to get the local homebrewing community involved in the Alberta craft beer scene and for them to get some public exposure!
I know that I am pretty stoked about the changes taking place with Tool Shed and in the Alberta brewing community. So raise your glass and cheers to local craft beer!