Despite only being back from a month-long vacation in Asia for a week and a half, last weekend found us in Calgary, Alberta for a friend’s wedding. And you better believe Mrs. Sip and I got our craft beer on!
My first impression of the Calgary craft beer scene was that I was amazed by how much BC craft beer has infiltrated the province and comprises their industry. Half of the selection at restaurants, bars, and beer and wine stores are BC beers. This is partly due to taxes being lessened for BC and Saskatchewan products. Sadly, taxes were raised drastically for wares from outside western Canada, which some worry will kill the import of products from the rest of Canada, the US, and abroad.
Our weekend began with a late Friday night arrival in Calgary and we immediately hit the streets to check things out. It didn’t take long for us to get the fun started, as we stopped into the 5 Vines beer and wine store, where we had a great chat with their purchaser. He provided us with samples of the Fahr Fahr Away Hefeweizen and the Dandy Chatty Chappy English Mild, both of which were quite good.
Next up, was dinner and drinks at Bottlescrew Bill’s Pub (also housing Buzzards Restaurant & Bar). Here, we delved into more Calgary based brews, including Wild Rose Electric Avenue, Buzzard Breath Ale (brewed by Wild Rose as the restaurant and pub’s house beer), Tool Shed Flat Cap Stout, and Village Wit. Bottlescrew Bill’s has a really neat beer passport idea where you have one year to complete an 80-beer international challenge, with prizes up for grabs for those who are successful.
The next day, we made our way to one of Calgary’s National Beerhall locations, where we greatly enjoyed hanging out on their Rooftop Beer Garden and throwing back a number of solid beers. Among them, were the Village Squeeze Lemon Berry Helles, Wild Rose Velvet Fog Wheat Ale and Wraspberry Ale, and Big Rock Lucky 13 Femme Wave Red Ale. Our server even offered to get us set up with a game of bowling in their basement, but we had friends to meet, prior to the wedding.
The next pre-wedding stop was Last Best Brewery, where Mrs. Sip and I shared a flight of tasters. On our board was the Dirty Bird Black Lager, Hefeweizen, Caramel Latte Beer, IPA#2 – The Contender, Mandarina Kolsch, and Dunkelweizen. My favourites among the bunch were the Caramel Latte Beer and the IPA #2 – The Contender.
The day after the wedding, we met the newlyweds for lunch at Native Tongues Taqueria, where I paired a mezcal-based margarita with some delicious legit tacos (chicken, pork, and beef). We also shared the restaurant’s salsa sampler, which had some very interesting tortilla chip enhancers.
With a few hours to kill before flying back to Vancouver, Mrs. Sip and I conducted our own crawl of the downtown core. Our first stop was Wurst, which is a haven for drinkers of European beer, as they watch football matches from the continent. We took advantage of happy hour, which offered $5 domestic and import draught. Our bevvy of choice was the Erdinder Weisbier, a favourite of both mine and Mrs. Sip.
Next up, was Ship & Anchor, where legend has it one day the bar got fed up with macro breweries competing with each other and decided to banish them entirely from their menu. Here, Mrs. Sip tried their house beer, the Ship & Anchor Barnacle Pilsner, while I went for the Village Blacksmith, which was a very nice India Black Ale.
We wrapped things up with a stop at Briggs Kitchen + Bar for some food and drinks, having heard good things about the location from our fellow out-of-town friends. While splitting a delicious serving of Newf’s Poutine (that would be lobster, of course), we tried a couple of their interesting cocktails, including the Pepper & Tonic (Beefeater Gin, lemon, simple syrup, jalapeno and pineapple jelly) and The Finch (Jamesons Whiskey, St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur, cucumber, simple syrup, lemon). Topping the meal off with the eatery’s Warm Chocolate Pot was the icing on the cake for this wonderful weekend away.
Given this was my first visit to Calgary in 15 years (and the first one of legal drinking age), as well as Mrs. Sip’s inaugural foray into the city, we only hope it doesn’t take such a long time to get back to Cowtown!