The Craft Beer ‘Boom’ Hits Alberta
Drive around a bend on Alberta’s iconic Cowboy Trail – any bend – and you’re bound to see a glorious scene of snowcapped mountains, cattle-peppered hills, and wind-battered pines on aerie ridge lines. For cowboys who live along the trail, these iconic scenes are forever etched on their hearts and minds. And, fittingly, they’re also etched on their beer cans.
That is, if they drink the right beer. The right local beer! The newly established Six Corners Brew Works in Okotoks – one of a handful of new craft breweries operating in the heart of cowboy country – is taking its “branding” (no pun intended) seriously. Currently, all of their six flagship brews pay tribute to the land and the lifestyle, the famous landmarks, and the raw and rugged beauty that’s found along The Cowboy Trail.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade, you’ve no doubt noticed that the craft beer scene is taking off like wildfire. And it’s not slowing down. Nearly every city is seeing craft breweries burst onto the scene. And the beerloving masses are buying in. And so are the cowboys. Until their taproom opens in Okotoks in 2019, buy Six Corner’s beer at select liquor stores.
And craft beer makes sense on many levels. It works. Why not buy better tasting, better for you, better-for-the-local-economy beer? For beer lovers, there is no downside!
In Alberta’s rural regions – where our world-class barley is grown – brewing delicious beer made with local ingredients makes sense. While Alberta has lagged behind BC and the US craft beer hot-spots such as Portland, Seattle, and Bend, to name a few, the gap is closing. The “Alberta Advantage” – which, besides the beautiful barley and pristine water, also includes recently changed tax laws favouring small-volume brewers – is fuelling plenty of growth.
And, along with numerous new craft breweries opening up in the major centers, there is plenty of beer “buzz” along The Cowboy Trail. Here are a few new craft breweries well-worth visiting on your next “trail ride”:
Oldman River Brewing Ltd. – Located in the little town of Lundbreck near the southern tip of The Cowboy Trail, the rustic charms of Oldman River Brewing will win you over as soon as you walk through the door. The “snacky” local menu, friendly staff – and, yes, the terrific fresh beer! – are destined for stardom. facebook.com/OldmanRiverBrew
Half Hitch Brewing Company – Half Hitch Brewing Company in Cochrane – a family-run brewery boasting a spectacular full-service restaurant and taproom – is a top attractions in this scenic, western-themed town. The food, the fun, the relaxed atmosphere – the scene here epitomizes what the craft beer movement is all about. halfhitchbrewing.ca
Olds College Brewery – Need to get “schooled” on the merits of the beer craze? Take a trip to the Olds College Brewery. Not only will they whet your whistle with some wonderful craft concoctions, but their pioneering, student-run programs are providing plenty of fuel for the Alberta craft beer industry.
Canmore Brewing/Grizzly Paw – Not surprisingly, the town of Canmore is one of the province’s hot spots for locally-made beer. Two breweries – Grizzly Paw and Canmore Brewing – are serving up the suds with plenty of style. While Grizzly Paw, with their super-popular brew pub, has been around for years, the Canmore Brewing Company is a new kid on the block. However, they’re already turning plenty of heads with their sweet taproom and exceptional beers, such as the Railway Ave Rye IPA. canmorebrewing.com, thegrizzlypaw.com
Bench Creek Brewing – Bench Creek Brewing has “hidden gem” written all over it. It is tucked away in the pines approx. 10 km outside of Edson. This pub has a friendly and “out
there” atmosphere. Their delicious brews, such as the Naked Woodsman Pale Ale (get the story firsthand when you visit), are winning over beer connoisseurs from far and wide. benchcreekbrewing.com
Not surprisingly, many other new craft breweries along (or in close proximity) to The Cowboy Trail are in various stages of development. Some, such as Six Corners Brewing in Okotoks, are already making beer and are currently building taprooms. And, coming soon to a “cowboy” town near you, such as Black Diamond, Turner Valley, and Bragg Creek, the local suds will soon be flowing. So on your next trip down The Cowboy Trail, just search “craft beer in Alberta”…and follow your nose.
By: Andrew Penner