The craft beer industry in Alberta has come a long way in a short time. The past year was particularly momentous in here Edmonton: with the arrival of a couple new breweries in the 99th Street area, the neighbourhood has finally grown into the walkable beer destination many people had been hoping to see. Long live Happy Beer Street!
But it’s a big beery world out there — and as we head into a new year, I’ve been wondering about where our craft beer scene is headed and what kind of inspiration we can take from other places. I asked some thoughtful and well-travelled beer community folks about their wish lists.
“I’m looking forward to the melding of breweries into Edmonton communities,” says Chelsea Tessier, an award-winning homebrewer who’s starting up a commercial brewery with her husband, Taylor Wacey.
Even though Edmonton’s city council had the foresight to ease zoning rules to allow breweries outside of industrial areas, Tessier says it’s been difficult to convince property owners that their venture, Polyrhythm Brewing, has the potential to enrich whatever neighbourhood it calls home.
“Many realtors and landlords don’t yet understand what a brewery taproom looks like. We want to create a taproom that brings music, beer and people together in perfect harmony,” says Tessier, who was still looking for a location in November 2021
Nevertheless, Tessier is optimistic that Edmonton’s baby steps toward allowing alcohol consumption in public spaces, like the pilot project in city parks last year, will open the door to other opportunities and show people that it can be done responsibly.
Like Edmonton, Calgary also experimented last year with allowing alcohol in public parks. Calgary-based beer writer Don Tse says he’d love to see that momentum result in different kinds of public spaces being licensed for alcohol consumption.
“In Europe, you can buy a beer at the corner store and walk around with it — though that’s probably a bridge too far for Canadians,” Tse says.
A more realistic aspiration may be something like The Forks Market in Winnipeg, says Tse, where the entire building is licensed and shoppers can stroll between local artisan boutiques with a drink in hand. (The Gasoline Alley Farmers’ Market in Red Deer has an on-site brewery and a licensed food hall beside it, but alcohol isn’t permitted in the rest of the building.)
Edmonton is a city that supports not one, but two breweries specializing in complex mixed-fermentation beers (Trial & Ale and Blind Enthusiasm’s Monolith), showing that local consumers aren’t afraid to embrace creative and adventurous offerings.
Owen Kirkaldy, co-founder of the Alberta Beer Awards, says he’d love to see more breweries venture into niche territory. Nearly 30 years ago, a long-gone brewpub in Calgary opened Kirkaldy’s eyes to English-style “real ale” — beers that are aged and naturally carbonated in casks. They’re dispensed using a manual pump, rather than a pressurized draft line.
“There’s nowhere in Alberta (today) doing hand-pulled cask pints of real ale. I’d like see a proper English cask ale pub, and I think it’s coming,” he says.
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