The Alberta craft beer scene is growing and I couldn’t be happier! The province will be adding another microbrewery in about a year when Half Hitch Brewing Company opens in Cochrane. The brewery was founded by Chris Heier, an entrepreneur & homebrewer extraordinaire, along with the rest of the Heier family. I was able to speak to Chris about their new venture and his passion for brewing craft beer only made me more excited about what the future has in store for us thirsty Albertans.
An Entrepreneurial Family
Chris and his family have lived in Cochrane for a number of years. The family-oriented town has a great community; plus its location right by Calgary and a short drive away from the awe-inspiring Rocky Mountains make it a great place to plant roots. And plant they did.
The Heiers are an entrepreneurial family, they knew that they wanted to start a family business and that it was going to be in Cochrane. It was just a matter of agreeing on what that business should be. Much like the origin story of 5 vines the Heier family bounced ideas off of one another before settling on one. In their case it was brewing.
The family will not only be financing and running the operation; they are heavily involved in all aspects of building this dream from the bottom up. Chris told me about how they are involved in the architectural design and even building the furniture by hand (think DaVinci style Renaissance man who brews awesome craft beer)!
Time for some Home Brewing
Once their decision to focus on craft beer was made Chris set out on a mission to learn as much as he could about beer and brewing.
Joining a beer club like the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers is a great way to network with like-minded people and learn more about the art of home brewing. So this was a logical first step.
I have said it a few times on this blog, experimenting with home brewing is a great way to fine tune your brewing skills and to come up with some original/inventive recipes. Chris is a perfect example of how true this is. After taking up brewing as a hobby & passion (possibly obsession, but the good kind) he went on to win a gold medal for his Imperial Stout and three bronze ones for an English Barleywine, a Wood-Aged Beer & an Imperial Amber Lager at the 2012 Cowtown Homebrew Roundup. He took another gold in 2013 with his Belgian Dark Strong Ale and a silver for best of show with the same beer.
I think that it would be safe to say that he had a knack for brewing up awesomeness and that starting a microbrewery was his destiny.
Chris has told me that they will be opening up the Half Hitch Brewery and Gastro Pub in two stages. These will unfold over the next few years.
Stage one is to get the microbrewery up and running so that they can start filling our mugs with delicious craft beer.
The majority of their beer will be brewed in a 20 hectolitre system with the intention to distribute across Southern Alberta. David Neilly, the President of the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers, will be a brewery consultant to help get things in order so that they can eventually run it on their own.
Three core beers will make up the bulk of their production:
A nice easy drinking (but flavourful) Pale Ale. This will be a great session beer to have on the patio or while watching the game.
TheirRed Ale will step up the hop flavour a notch and deliver some of those roasted malt flavours and a slight caramel sweetness.
A Brown Ale that will be similar to the Porter style. This will have a hop backbone that will deliver some hop aroma and bitterness to the beer. I am a fan of the full body and malty taste that a good Brown Ale brings to the table.
On top of their main brewing system, Half Hitch Brewing Company will also be using a pilot brewhouse to create some small batch (i.e. around 4 kegs worth), experimental craft beers. These will only be available on tap and once they are gone they are gone!
This instantly caught my attention when Chris mentioned it. I really enjoy it when brewers get risky with their creativity and brew small batches of “out there” craft beer that not everyone will like but some will go nuts for! Hint to Chris, message me as soon as one of these bad boys get tapped!
The Gastro Pub
About a year after the microbrewery is fully operational phase two of their plan will roll out and a gastro pub will be joining the Cochrane landscape.
Similar to the microbrewery a consultant will be on hand to help get things started. In this case it will be Ian Hewitt who helped organize the Craft Beer Market .
This will be a great place to go grab some of their freshly brewed beer & pair it up with some food. If you are a veteran craft beer drinker you’ll probably want to see what they have on tap from their small batch experimental brews!
I have some good friends in Cochrane and they are really excited about having a local pub where you can go to have a proper pint with some good grub. Having an establishment like that will be a big plus for the community and from the excited rumblings it sounds like the community is eager for it to open. I know that I will regularly make the trip up there.
So until the next time be optimistic about the future of beer in Alberta and cheers to local craft beer!