Recently, Granville Island Brewing Company dropped off a liquid press package at my door, and besides feeling thankful for the six-pack of beer, it also reminded me of my first brewery tour, which inspired this article. Being a beer neophyte at the time, it was a perfect way to learn some of the secrets of beer. Brewery tours are an interactive way to learn about beer and staying after class just means more fun by drinking more booze.
I would recommend a tour here in Calgary where we have four different brewhouses to choose from, each offering their own distinct variations.
5555 76 Ave. S.E.
Big Rock is the biggest of the four Calgary brewhouses. They can produce 10 times as much product in a single batch as any other Calgary brewery. While touring, ask your guide to point out the smaller Kasper Schulz brewing system that Big Rock has recently acquired. It’s another way to ferment beer. Weekly tours run Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. and are $25 each. All tours include a six-pack of liquid study material for home consumption, which is one of the best parts! Private evening tours are even more fun because you get to try more beer in a quaint pub-like sampling room. Evening tours can be arranged for groups of 20 people at $35 per person.
5519 53 St. S.E.
Brewsters’ tours are less formal and almost as easy to arrange as a polite knock on the door, although a phone call and/or appointment is preferred. Brewsters’ brewers know their suds and as knowledgeable as they are, they are also entertaining guides. Brewsters is Calgary’s second largest brewery and besides its extensive regular lineup, head brewer Rob Walsh has added two current seasonal beers, a Pacific Northwest-style India Pale Ale (IPA) and a Barley Wine. The best part about this brewery tour is it is free of charge and carries no minimum limits on the group size.
607 11 Ave. S.W.
Brew Brothers’ head brewer Alan Yule teaches brewing courses at Heritage Park so it’s a safe bet that tours with him will be fun but also very informative. On Thursday, January 20, Brew Brothers will feature its monthly special cask-conditioned beer, which is a mid-winter spice brew. Once a month, Yule brews one special barrel slightly different than the regular house brews and it is served naturally carbonated or off the cask for one evening. Cask conditioning is a British tradition that creates the freshest pints. Tours can be arranged on any brew day by phone and small groups are preferred. The brewery tours are free of charge.
4580 Quesnay Wood Dr. S.W.
Wild Rose is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, but it’s only been in its charming Currie Barracks/Farmers’ Market location since 2006. Coincidentally, they brew on the same 20-hectolitre Bohemian-built system that Brewsters uses. Wild Rose has recently started offering Saturday tours at 1 p.m. on a first-come basis for a group of up to 20 people. All tours are $12 a person (plus GST). Private tours can be arranged for a minimum group of 10 by calling ahead. Wild Rose’s tour includes a Wild Rose glass and a beer. Wild Rose’s taproom is a good place to apply your learning after the tour.
Visit one of the city’s four brewhouses for an experience you will remember each time you bring a pint glass to your lips. And thank you, Granville Island, for the reminder of how special a brewery tour can be.