There is no doubt the craft beer industry in Alberta is taking off in a big way. After all, thanks to Erica Francis and Andrew Ironmonger, there is now a pocketbook-style guide to help keep track of the exploding number of breweries – the Alberta Craft Beer Guide.
“Having a physical guide book just makes sense,’ says Francis who, along with partner Andrew, launched the quarterly publication as a 68-page edition in September of 2016. She said the idea for the guide, first hatched by the pair last spring, was a no-brainer. “We know beer and we know publishing,” said Francis, who is the editor while Ironmonger handles the publishing and marketing side.
The latest edition of the guide added eight more breweries, expanded to over 80 pages and was available free at craft breweries, along with craft beer-focused liquor stores and restaurant, on December 6.
The impressive response they received convinced both that they made the right move. “It’s been gratifying. It has been so well appreciated,” she said.
Alberta’s brewery landscape changed forever in late 2013 when the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission removed minimum production requirements of 5,000 hectolitres a year for breweries. Since then, the number of craft breweries and brewpubs has exploded from 14 to more than 50 in the province – including smaller centres like Slave Lake and Olds.
Francis, who has a background in both the beer and hospitality industries, has created a user-friendly directory for everyone from the craft beer newbie to the serious aficionado. “We want to have something for everyone each time,” she said. “We aim to include a mix of articles that are informative and interesting, focusing on all aspects of craft beer.”
The graphic-heavy guide was visually impressive and easy to follow. Each craft brewery in the province is listed in a directory and a map near the front of the publication, all created by graphic designer Tyson Dueck. Inside the guide, each brewery is highlighted by featuring the top three or four beers along with a local legend indicating if a particular brewery has a tasting room, offers tours and makes food available.
“The breweries give us the information on the beers they want to feature,” said Francis, 32, adding that at home, she and Ironmonger, 30, usually try a different craft beer every day – either on its own or with a meal.
Since craft breweries cover most areas of the province, the desire to drink a local brew is bound to keep growing. “You can be a proud Albertan,” said Francis. “You can drink something that was brewed just down the road.”