The ultimate guide to Calgary beer

By Sarah Sussman

Each spring, the annual Calgary International Beerfest takes over the BMO Centre for a two-day celebration – but before you visit the festival, here's what you need to know about Calgary's thriving local beer culture. [Photo credit: Bob Keelaghan]

The ultimate guide to Calgary beer

Find a beer you actually like

The first step to determining your beer of choice is knowing how to classify your beer. Beers usually fall under one of two categories, based on their yeast – lagers and ales. Lagers (such as pilsners and bocks) are the most popular style and have a crisper, clean taste. Ales (such as IPAs and stouts) have a more flavourful profile.

Most people assume a darker beer will be heavier than a lighter beer, but that’s not necessarily true. “Dark” and “light” are used to describe the toast and roast of the grain, which determines how light or dark the beer appears. Note whether your beer of choice smells sweet (more of a malty aroma) or sharp (more of a hop aroma). Beer taste will usually fall somewhere on the spectrum between sweet and bitter.

One of the most overlooked qualities to take into account when choosing a beer is its "mouthfeel" – how the beer actually feels while you’re drinking it. This is all based on the brew’s carbonation. Some people prefer a thick and creamy mouthfeel, while others enjoy a highly-carbonated prickly mouthfeel. If there is an aftertaste, is it sweet, bitter or both?  All of these factors – as well as taking into account your brew's alcohol content – can weigh into your ultimate pick when it comes to your personal beer of choice.

Local brewery tours and tastings

Calgary's quality breweries offer up regular tours and multiple tastings on a weekly basis. Among those participating is Wild Rose Brewery, which offers public brewery tours for $25 per person. The tour includes a history of the brewery, a lesson on beer types, a beer tasting lesson and six Wild Rose tasters per person.

For those who want to learn (and experience) the beer-making process, Big Rock Brewery offers 90-minute brewery tours that covers the whole process, from ingredients all the way through fermentation, brewing, packaging and – the most important step – tasting.

Trolley 5 offers taproom and brewery tours for $15. Sample the brewery’s beers, seasonals and collaborations and see what the Trolley 5 brewmasters are working on. Last Best hosts a Last Best Social Club on the first Wednesday of every month. Admission is $10 and includes three 12-ounce sleeves of beer for tasting.

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Grab a pint or pairing

Drop into Trolley 5 and try their High Five IPA with refreshing citrus and floral notes. The hoppy bitterness of IPAs enhances salty, savoury flavours so you can pair it with Trolley 5’s pub grub like the beef brisket or the classic burger.

A local destination for beer aficionados, Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub is located just a few steps from the downtown core. Established in 1985, the bar/restaurant boasts one of the best offerings of craft beers with more than 300 different kinds of beer on the menu.

Craft Beer Market opened in the Beltline in 2011 as one of the first local spots to specialize in craft beer and food in a restaurant/beerhall environment. Try the locally-brewed Last Best Dirty Bird Black Lager, which is a light-bodied lager featuring notes of coffee and a refreshingly clean finish.

With four locations throughout the city, National has become a standard in Calgary’s beer scene. Try the locally-brewed Tool Shed Flat Cap Stout, a perfect accompaniment to oysters – the very first thing listed on National’s food menu.

What to do at Beerfest

If you’re looking to further your beer knowledge, Beerfest is the place to go. The festival features more than 40 different Alberta breweries along with breweries from across the country. The 2017 festival also includes an on-site Craft Distillery District showcasing 16 Alberta craft distillers, local pubs and eateries and an amazing lineup of informational seminars. The ongoing Cooking with Beer series features 30-minute-long tutorials on how to pair food with your beer.

Beerfest has teamed up with Craft Beer Market to present a series of 30-minute seminars aimed at teaching guests more about beer culture and local breweries. The Friday session includes guests from Dandy, Half Hitch and Last Best. The Saturday session features guests from Outcast Brewing, Theoretically Brewing and Trolley 5 Brew Pub.

Whether you’re new to the local beer scene or beer culture as a whole, Beerfest is a great stepping stone into the wonderful world of libations. Learn about Calgary’s breweries and beers and then go out on the town and enjoy the best of our local beer scene.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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