If the BMO Centre seems strangely quiet recently it is probably because the Calgary International Beerfest has come and gone. I was able to take it in both as a volunteer (an experience that I highly recommend to any passionate beer fans) and as a spectator (read beer drinker ). I know that lots of you showed up and had a blast but I want to put a few of my highlights down here just for the record. So bear with me.
Some New Attractions
I’m pretty sure that most of you noticed that the festival was considerably larger this year. This extra space was filled up with more beer sampling & food stations as well as some other attractions like:
The Social Media Lounge
Ping Pong Anyone?
There’s a Raft in the Building!
I don’t know about you guys but if I don’t eat something before drinking it is a recipe for disaster. That’s why having good food available is pretty high on my list of things to include at beerfest.
Midtown Kitchen & Bar
My buddy Ric brought the Midtown crew down from Kensington to serve up some wicked spicy beef tacos. I had had some of their other tacos before at the restaurant so I was really happy to see these. Tool Shed had someone there to offer up tasters of beer to pair with (they had their main booth in the next hall next to Olds College who was pouring Night Owl). Personally I like an IPA to pair with a spicy dish so Star Cheek would be my choice.
Fresh oysters were the order of the day. I am kind of turning into a big fan of these slippery molluscs and I have a feeling that the people over at The National have something to do with this.
Banff Ave’s head brewer Kent Patterson and I had a stout & oyster shooter. This may sound odd but trust me, it’s a beauty. The saltiness of the brine is cut beautifully by the roastiness of the stout. It is best with a dry stout (Irish style) and even better when it is on nitro since the smoothness adds another dimension to it. Banff’s silver medal winning Reverend Rundle Stout was the perfect choice (although all 3 stouts from each of the brewpubs were available on nitro).
Ship & Anchor
Beer and sausages. That’s basically all that I should have to say before your head starts nodding in agreement. This is such a classic pairing that it would be odd if someone hasn’t heard about it. The Ship and Anchor brought out a variety of sausages to choose from and caramelized onions to top them off. Ohh so good!
Beer at Beerfest?
Now I’ll focus a little more on the reason we all attend this festival… the craft beer!
Hog’s Head Brewing Company
These guys up in St. Albert brew some of the “gutsiest” beers in Alberta in my opinion. All you have to do is try out their double IPA Hop Slayer, which comes in at a whopping 105 IBU (international bittering units) to see that these guys are not afraid to brew a beer that will force you to have an opinion. There were two which I wanted to single out in particular though.
Boss Hog Oatmeal IPA:
I had been excited to try this out ever since I heard about it. So naturally this was the 1st one that I ordered. The oatmeal gives the beer a pleasant smoothness (think oatmeal stout) and a slight sweetness. Of course the hops are present, this is Hog’s Head that we’re talking about after all. In short, I was not disappointed.
Black Hog Down Imperial Stout: I had heard about this one from my buddy Zach after he toured the brewery. It is an imperial stout so think big beer, rich flavours (mmm chocolate rye malts), dark black colour, low carbonation & roastiness from the grain bill.
On top of all of this they dry hopped it, so you’re getting some rejuvenating hop aroma whenever you go in for a sip. A flavourful and smooth sipping beer indeed.
The guys from Village Brewery brought their new ISA (India Session Ale) for us to try. Village Maiden comes in at at 4.6% ABV and packs 46 IBU from its mixture of Cascade , Centennial, Zythos Hops & New Zealand Waimea Hops. ISAs seem to be “all the rage” lately with microbreweries releasing their version of this hoppy patio beer. I rather enjoyed Village’s take on it. It’s between this and last year’s Cucumber Saison for my favourite Village beer.
Ribstone Creek Brewery
Lone Buffalo IPA is one of those new releases and I hope to see it stick around. The unfiltered IPA had some decent citrus & pine notes from the generous amount of hops that were added. The story about this brewery and beers like this makes me want to take a trip up there to visit.
Last Best Brewing & Distilling
My last article was all about these guys taking the Alberta craft beer scene by storm. And winning a Gold Medal for their porter after only a few months of production justifies what they’re trying to accomplish. Seek out There Will Be Porter and have a pint with some roasted proteins. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
Looking Forward to Edmonton Craft Beer Festival
After having a hell of a time at the Calgary International Beerfest I can’t help but look forward to attending the upcoming Edmonton Craft Beer Festival. Any craft beer fans in and around the YEG area need to come check this out.
The 700 plus beers that were available at Calgary will be available to sample up there with some minor changes to the lineup. One of these changes has me quite excited. Deschutes Brewery from Portland will be onsite pouring, in my opinion, some of the finest craft beer offerings from the immense US scene. Come on beer geeks, that’s pretty exciting!
I am looking forward to meeting some of the YEG craft beer crowd, especially the guys from Edmonton Beer Geeks Anonymous. Hopefully I’ll see you there June 6-7 to raise a cheers to local craft beer!