BEER TREK 2012: New Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere

The continuing saga of Michael 'fezz' Nazarec at large in the world of beer, hunting down new and varied species of the fermented ambrosia in its natural habitat: breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, restaurants, train stations, airports and beer festivals.
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Current Posts: fezz's picks: the Top 12 of 2012; Back to Brussels, London Calling; Get Lost in Maastricht; Amsterdam and Beyond; In Bruges and Ghent; Mussels in Brussels; Brussels Beer Weekend #14; Further Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere; Calgary's Best & Wurst; A Wee Peak at Vancouver Craft Beer Week 2012; A night out in Denver; Drinking Beer in L.A.

Calgary's Best and Wurst

The Wild Rose
I had an opportunity recently to revisit Calgary, a city I lived in for many years. The beer scene has grown and changed there, but all for the better it seems. Some brewpubs have closed, but great new beer bars have risen in their place. Whilst involved in the Stampede for those 10 wild days, I managed to visit with old friends and drop by a few new places of note and an old fave.

The one true independent brewery/pub left in Calgary is still my favourite place, the Wild Rose Brewery with its taproom on the old army barracks land just off of Crowchild Trail. A forerunner of great craft beer, in business over 20 years now, they bottle 6 different regular beers, many seasonals in specilaty bottles, offer up an unique cask ale every Friday, have a Brewers Special cask series going on right now too. The Wild Rose is also home to the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers, a beer/homebrew club with a large growing membership, who meet here once a month to sample, talk, taste, pair and learn all about beer in its many aspects. The Brewery and the club sponsor a home brew competition every winter and get entries from right across Canada.

This night found three of us hungry, thirsty, done work early and not far from the Taproom, and hearing about the excellent Hoodoo Heff on tap, well, we just had to make the trip. This is a wonderful hefeweizen, silky smooth, aromatic, cloudy as all get out and delicious! There are some spicy notes whirling around in the citric tartness, all understated and alluring. This beer went down easy with a long, subtle finish leaving the drinker to want more. And so we did!

Also available that night was Wild Rose's new seasonal, an unique twist on a Belgian IPA, which seems to be a style sweeping the West Coast, so many micros starting to produce them now. Head Smashed In is a big beer, with a huge nose of hop florals to start. It is unfiltered, amber in colour with a strong malty backbone to hold up the bitter assertiveness of Vanguard, East Kent Goldings and Cascade hops. Evident is the Belgian yeast strain, imparting a complex dance of flavours that defines this style on the palate. Fruity and intriguing, with a long, slow finish. Wow!

There was also a Brewer's Cask on, a supped up version of their flagship IPA, but a little stronger and aged in a bourbon barrel. This gave the brew quite a distinctive flavour, bold but not overpowering, with pronounced hints of whiskey, wood, vanilla, dark malt in the nose and on the palate. All I could think of was the poor selection at our hotel bar, and how I'd likely not get back here this trip. Sure glad to have the one night anyway!

A few days later, I was able to meet my son and some friends at one of Calgary's newer places, Wurst, a German style pub-restaurant on the premises of the former Wildwood Brewpub, once a mainstay of the Calgary beer scene. The street level upstairs features a more casual, upscale dining experience, lovely trees filling the spaces between tables. Downstairs, however, is your more traditional German beer hall, long, shared tables, large steins and big plates of food.

Wurst features 18 beers on tap, many authentic German lagers, pilsners, wheat beers (Ayinger, Erdinger, Krombacher, Konig Lugwig) and a number of German styles produced by local breweries (Mt. Begbie's Kolsch, Franzl's Roggen Ale, Okanagan Springs 1516) to name a few.
The Hacker-Pschorr Edel-hell was particularly refreshing, light, clean, crisp and the Aying Brau Weiss lead us to a number of wheat beers. All draft comes in 1/2 liter, full liter or ridiculous 2 liter steins. I think we call those pitchers in Canada, don't we?

At first glance the menu seems expensive, entres priced between $24 and $38, but we opted for a series of appetizers (between $10 and $15) and were delighted they were all 'German' portions! The Bavarian Chicken wings for example, there were 3 on the plate, but they were huge, de-boned, stuffed with sausage and breaded in pretzls. Delicious! Brad ordered the Smoked Cast Iron Ribs, which came stacked high and smothered in a beer BBQ sauce. Wunderbar! The rest of our meal was just as tasty and generous: Maultaschen (duck sausage), Octopus Salad, Venison Merguez Corndogs. We were a happy and well-stuffed lot after this meal. Capping off the night with a fresh Celebrator Dopplebock on tap was a no brainer.

Beer Revolution
One more night out in summertime Cowtown was spent at Beer Revolution, a separate and recent addition to the west side of Brewsters at 8th Str. & 11 Ave. SW. They have 24 taps, but can have as many 70 drafts listed on their Airport Departures-type board, many to be tapped as others are emptied. It's a very comfortable and pleasant room, except for the insistence of loud music. The place was maybe half full the night we were there, and we still had to shout to hear each other. Still, the selection was superb. From Paddock Wood Loki Double IPA to Amber's Zombie Apocalypse to
Dieu du Ciel's Dernière Volonté Blond Abbey, there certainly is something for everyone. The food is fairly decent as well, the wings and the pizzas being excellent accompaniments to the array of beers we sampled, from fruity & malty to hoppy & strong. They also offer a Rotisserie Feast (prime rib, chicken or porchetta), a raw bar, an interesting selection of appetizers, burgers and sandwiches too.

 The only downfall of this place is the poorly trained staff. Our waitress seemed to care less about the beer, complaining it was impossible to memorize details about all of the beers. She made no effort at all to answer questions and appeared more concerned with flirting with and spending time at the younger tables. With knowledgeable staff, this could be an excellent beer bar.