The Underground Tap & Grill
By Danielle Higdon

The Rise of Craft Beer

It’s been nearly four years since The Underground Tap & Grill opened its doors in downtown Edmonton, in 2012. They quickly set themselves apart from other establishments by having 72 taps of beer, a vast selection in a city that had not yet seen the explosion of interest in microbreweries that was to come.

But, even through the rise of craft beer in Edmonton, The Underground Tap & Grill has been able to solidify its niche in the local market. They remain the bar with the most Alberta-based brews available on tap in the city, no small feat for a hidden gem in the basement of a building in the downtown core. “Our focus is local,” says general manager Kris Anthony. “We put a lot of thought into not having overlapping styles of beer. We want to have a selection of flavours on our taps at all times so patrons can experience the differences and the options.”

With seating for 145 guests, the bar is surprisingly spacious. When you enter the building, you have to descend on an escalator to get to the door of The Underground, but don’t let it deter you. As soon as you walk in and see the glowing bar and the continuous row of taps, any second thoughts will fade away. This is no seedy underground establishment; this is a fine-tuned hub that just so happens to be downstairs.

We put a lot of thought into not having overlapping styles of beer. We want to have a selection of flavours on our taps at all times so patrons can experience the differences and the options. - Kris Anthony, general manager

An All-Encompassing Beer Experience

Every part of the menu has been conceptualized with care at The Underground. From changing out the menu every six months to offer fresh options to meticulously selecting just the right amount of sour beers, hoppy beers, amber ales and stouts, the staff take their business seriously.

“We have a great working relationship with the majority of Albertan brewers,” says Kris. “We are constantly engaging with them to keep on top of trends and to make sure we are offering a full, all-encompassing beer experience. A lot of the time, they will ask us what we need, so that if there is a particular style of beer that we are missing, they can provide that and fill that slot.”

Not exactly a beer connoisseur yourself? You won’t feel out of the loop here. Staff are regularly trained about the characteristics of the beers that are being offered. And, the menu is filled with descriptors and key words to help you decide which brew might be a good fit for you and your tastes.

If you’re indecisive, the best option may be their flight of beers, which consists of four five-ounce beers of your choice for your experimental pleasure. “You don’t have to go through 20 pints to find out what you want,” says Kris. “We want people to be able to sample and try new things.”

Underground Tap and Grill also offers tons of different food options to pair with their endless beer choices

A Cozy, Comfortable Space

Are you not a beer drinker, but know that a special person in your life would enjoy the selection? Don’t worry, the Underground Tap & Grill has options for non-beer drinkers, too. Their head bartender actually specializes in cocktail recipes and has travelled the world to develop his mixing skills. “We don’t have as wide of a selection of cocktails, but the ones we have are well thought out and developed to maximize flavour,” says Kris.

And, perhaps one of the best parts of coming to the Underground Tap & Grill is that there are endless food and beer pairings to try. “You can take one dish off of our menu and, depending on which beer you have with it, it will bring out different flavours in the meal,” says Kris. The bison burger is one of the most popular options on the menu.

With the demand for craft beer on the rise, The Underground Tap & Grill is aware that the market is changing. But they stay true to the things they know they do well, and remain focused on being a social hub – a place where different crowds can come together and enjoy a customized experience. “We are a great place to come after taking in a show at the Winspear; we’re a great place for a casual first or second date,” says Kris. “We have a lot of people that host bachelor parties here. We look at ourselves as a cozy, comfortable space that knows its strengths and focuses on them.”

Underground Tap and Grill offers beer flights for those who want to sample a variety of new brews
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