|Since opening in 1999, Wildwood Grill & Brewing Company has had it all: great food, great service, great ambience and, most importantly, great beer. It was the best of times.
But in 2005, striking fear into the if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it crowd, Wildwood announced that it would be making changes. The downstairs pub would have several televisions added to draw a more sports-minded crowd. New faces, including a new brewer, would greet the customers. New food items would be added and the entire slate of award-winning beers would be wiped clean. It was the worst of times.
But fortunately for Calgary's beer-loving community, the pub, while different, is still great. And brewmaster Brian Smith, formerly with Wild Rose Brewery, Brewster's Brewing and Alley Kat Brewing, has come up with a new but equally delicious menu of finely crafted beers. Its the best of times again.
· Kipper Pilsner Lovers of Wildwood's Long Iron Pilsner need not fear. The new Pilsner is similar, but with a more gentle bitterness and a light hops flavour. The use of American hops has been reduced, with more German hops added in their stead. The result is a clean, light-bodied Pilsner balanced slightly in favour of the bitter side.
· J12 Golden Ale If you like Grasshopper, you'll like J12. With wheat comprising a portion of the grain bill, J12 has a slight gluten presence and is lightly malty. Its very pleasant on its own, but a slice of lemon will cut the gluten and make the beer more quaffable.
· Red Mile Lager During the Flames' 2004 playoff run, the Red Mile became world famous. Could Red Mile Lager attain similar fame? Doubtful, but this is a great Vienna-style lager (like Dos Equis Amber) nonetheless. This darker lager with a beautiful red infusion has a light toastiness in its aroma and, while only medium- to light-bodied, it has a huge malt presence. Red Mile is a great representation of a rare style of beer.
· Coach Pale Ale In Britain, pale ale and bitter (pale ale's twin brother) are revered for their ability to provide great flavour while having only moderate levels of alcohol. They are referred to as "session ales" because they can be consumed in quantity over long sessions at the pub. Wildwood's gold-coloured version is lightly carbonated with a light, gentle hops presence. It is dry, with a hint of crystal malt flavour. Have one. Then have another.
· Lord Stanley Dark Ale Wildwood's Trout Stout was world-class and I'm not the only beer lover to mourn its passing. Still, the Lord Stanley Dark Ale, a porter, is a nice substitution. It is very dark brown, but stops short of being opaque. The beer is malty, but balanced, with pleasant molasses notes.
· Cherry Picker Ale In my opinion, too many fruit-flavoured beers overemphasize the fruit and underemphasize the beer. Not Cherry Picker. While its aroma and flavour both have cherry influences, they are subtle and act as accents to the malty beer, helping to balance it with some light acidity.
For fans of cask-conditioned real ale, Wildwood remains one of a handful of places in Canada where you can get some on a regular basis. Each Friday, a cask of one of Wildwood's beers, usually the Coach Pale Ale, served straight from the conditioning vessel, will be available starting around 4 p.m. The cask-conditioned Coach Pale Ale is probably the most authentic tasting English bitter I've had outside Britain. Save yourself a lot of airfare and head down to Fourth Street S.W. Ask for the cask.
Wildwood Grill & Brewing Company is located at 2417 - 4 St. S.W.; phone 228-0100.