Breweries and distilleries in and around Edmonton

By Gene Kosowan

Before microbreweries entered the lexicon, beer was a staple for mainstream drinkers. Today, the alcoholic beverage landscape has broadened its horizons, thanks to the emergence of craft beers and spirits. And, Edmonton enterprises have lapped up the opportunity. [Photo credit: iStock.com/Rike_]

Breweries and distilleries in and around Edmonton

Alley Kat

One of the oldest independent breweries in Alberta, Alley Kat produces nearly four million bottles of beer annually, including its ever-popular Aprikat line, a wheat ale with a taste of apricot. They also brew Main Squeeze, a wheat ale with grapefruit, as well as lighter ales, such as Scona Ale and Full Moon. For those looking for something darker, its amber line fits the bill. The staff at Alley Kat love to show their passion for brewing and, to that end, offer brewery tours every Thursday and Friday afternoon.

Bent Stick

There are microbreweries and then there are nanobreweries. Included in the latter category is Bent Stick, which was launched in Edmonton by four brewers who bottle everything they create by hand, in 330 ml. containers, no less. They launched in the spring of 2016, with Swap the Hops, a light ale infused with ingredients that include grapefruit and caramel; and their copper-hued Brick Is Red. They’ve since added three more products, all agrarian-themed: Farm Stock, Hearty Farm Stock and Dark Farm. Given that all four brewers do absolutely everything on-site, they’re not able to conduct tours for now.

Big Rig

Based in Nisku just south of Edmonton, where companies manufacture wellhead components for energy-sector roughnecks, Big Rig opened a distillery and tavern in 2016, creating spirits distributed in oil derrick-shaped bottles. They’re especially proud of their Big Rig Vodka, distilled 16 times and filtered three times for extra smoothness and available in espresso, garlic and Saskatoon flavours. Also available in their signature decanters are Wild Rose Gin, Double Coffee Cream Liquor and Sugar Beet Brum (yep, rum with sugar beets). Tours and tastings take place during regular business hours.

Brewsters

One of the earliest brewery/restaurant chains, Brewsters started in 1989, and has since sprouted into 11 eateries in Alberta, including five in Edmonton. Besides the restaurant fare, Brewsters bottles eight regular beers, from its original lager to more eclectic offerings like Indian Pale Ale, River City Raspberry Ale and Hammerhead Red Ale. Besides offering variety, each beer is designed to be paired with various other items on the restaurant menu. The Oliver Square location still has an on-site brewery and staff can conduct tours on request.

Labatt

In business since 1847, and creators of the classic Labatt Blue, the venerable beer maker is hardly a microbrewery. Despite its corporate status and as Canada’s leading brewer, no doubt they’d argue that their beers qualify as craft beverages. After all, Blue, Labatt 50 and Labatt Ice are still popular items, as is Budweiser (made available after Labatt’s merger with Anheuser-Busch in 2009), Kokanee, Alexander Keith’s and Guinness. Tours of the Edmonton south side plant are available on request.

Red Cup Distillery

Believe it or not, moonshine roots were burrowed deep in rural Alberta, thanks to the home-brewing recipes brought over by settlers from Europe. Once relocated, they could easily distill their high-octane creations in their farmsteads on a prairie too vast to be scrutinized by the law. Red Cup carries on that tradition legally these days, after opening for business in 2015, using a 250-gallon copper still and open wood fermenters. The result is Wheat Shine, 100 per cent moonshine from hard red wheat – and you don’t have to go undercover to find it. The company’s in a strip mall in Vegreville, east of Edmonton.

Situation Brewing

Old Strathcona may be the Mecca for watering holes, but Situation Beer has taken it a step further, by making its own product in a brew-pub just off Whyte Avenue. Situation’s flagship citrus-fused Page Turner IPA is a light copper ale that’s still one of their popular offerings, but patrons can also choose from Declan’s Irish Stout, Extrovert Red Ale, Gateway Wheat, WTF Raspberry, Random Acts Pale Ale and the Afternooner Tea Saison (made from Oolong mango tea).

Two Seargeants

So, the story goes that two soldiers nearing the end of their careers with the Canadian Armed Forces are having a few pints in a garage, with one of them desiring to own a pub and the other admitting to becoming a brewer. Maybe it was the beer talking, but the chat led to a match made in heaven, or more precisely, Fort Saskatchewan, where the brew-pub is based. They make four original beers from the Bangalore Bangalore Torpedo Pale Ale and the Passion’d Ale Belgian Wit Wheat Ale to the Bear Beer (named after a classic rock FM station in Edmonton and the Constable Daniel Woodall Memorial Brew, an English bitter named after an Edmonton police officer killed in the line of duty.

Yellowhead Brewing Co.

Although Yellowhead first opened its doors in 2010, the company has taken great pains to honour Edmonton’s brewing past. For starters, Yellowhead takes its name from a beer created by the Edmonton Brewing and Malting in 1894, the first commercially-made beer in the city. Yellowhead also adopted the name to produce its first product, a premium lager that remains its flagship beer. It’s since introduced a Yellowhead Dark Lager and the sweeter-tasting Honey Porter. Because the company doesn’t bottle or can their products, Yellowhead is only available in kegs. Brewery tours are conducted regularly and the company also has a special event room for anyone to book anything from conferences to concerts.

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