Eight local breweries elevating beer’s place at the dinner table
The explosion in craft beer owes a lot to the general interest in good food, thanks to the popularity of food and cooking shows and the growth in specialty food retailers. Beer is food and people who want good food want good beer.
It is natural, then, that breweries are embracing good food to serve with their fine beers. Here are some local restaurants where you can dine with great beer.
Wild Rose Brewing – At 23 years old, Wild Rose Brewery has been cutting a new path for beer in Calgary for a long time. And at their Currie Barracks restaurant (4580 Quesnay Wood Dr SW), food is held to the same high standard Calgarians have come to expect of the beer. “We maintain a world-class standard of quality while at the same time we deliver innovation… that surprises and amazes,” says Chief Executive Officer Bill McKenzie. If you see him in the taproom, chances are, you’ll see him eating Bison Brisket and drinking Barracks Brown, his favourite combination.
Brewsters Brewing – Brewsters Brewing has been around since 1989. It started as a single outlet, but they now have six locations in the Calgary area (and more throughout Alberta). Brewsters was originally a brewpub (brewing for all locations has now been centralized), so they are no stranger to combining good food with good beer.
While the food menu may be described as pub fare, this is not your average burger and pizza. Executive Chef Mark Jekschtat searches for unique twists to familiar foods and is not afraid to try something a little outside the box. Meanwhile, the beer line-up is flawless in execution and bold but accessible. If you like the idea of a unique twist and thinking outside the box, pair Brewsters Cashew Chicken Chow Mein with a Farmer’s Tan Belgian White. While Chinese food and Belgian beer might sound odd, the citrus notes of the beer will accent the Chow Mein perfectly.
Dandy Brewing – “Our ownership has roots in the dining and restaurants,” says Dandy Benjamin Leon. “Like beers, food should be complex, and ingenuitive. There is nothing wrong with classic dishes (like classic beers) but there should always be a drive to keep it exciting. Enjoying food is much more important than consuming food.”
Dandy has been making beer waves since they opened their brewery in 2014. Since opening their Ramsay restaurant (2003 11th Street SE) in April 2018, they get to flex their food culinary muscle as well. Raw oysters with their flagship Dandy in the Underworld Oyster Stout is an obvious pairing, but Leon’s favourite is Dandy’s Une Vielle Maitresse Grisette with their Sweet Potato Cerviche.
Paddy’s Barbecue and Brewery – In case you could not guess from the name, Paddy’s Barbecue and Brewery (3610 Burnsland Road SE) combines barbecue and beer. Whether it is food or beer, everything is made in house. “All items are as from scratch and homemade as possible,” says Owner Paddy Sorrenti. “We even make our own sauerkraut for the pastrami sandwiches.”
As for the beer, “I like a beer that you can have more than one of,” says Sorrenti. “Clean, easy drinking and approachable.” As for beer and food together, Sorrenti takes pride in the value he offers. “A meal and a beer for under $20,” he says. His favourite such combination? Smoked chicken wings with Korean BBQ sauce alongside Paddy’s Dry Hopped Pilsner.
Prairie Dog Brewing – Like Paddy’s, Prairie Dog Brewing (105D 58 Ave SE) features house brewed beer and made-from-scratch Texas-style barbecue. It is almost as if barbecue and beer were made for each other!
Prairie Dog loves barbecue so much, they have the largest barbecue pit of its kind in Canada, dubbed “Clifford,” after its large size and red colour. As you can imagine, barbecue features heavily on the food menu, while the beer menu offers both standard craft beers (India Pale Ale) and creative brews (coffee Kölsch!). They even have a limited selection (and amount) of barrel-aged beers. I like the Prairie Cobb Salad (salad is healthy, right?) and their India Pale Ale.
Trolley 5 Restaurant & Brewery – Located in the heart of Calgary’s Red Mile, Trolley 5 (728 17th Avenue SW) is always alive with activity. Long-time restaurant veterans Ernie Tsu and PJ L’Heureux obviously know a thing or two about how to please your tastebuds.
To enjoy a great pairing at Trolley 5, order the Alberta Chicken Dinner and pair it with Upbeat Wheat. While the beer was brewed in collaboration with Una Pizza to go with their amazing pizzas, you will find Upbeat Wheat’s grainy wheat flavour with the citrus notes coming from the the dry hopping will accompany smoked chicken wonderfully.
Last Best Brewing and Distilling – It is the goal of the kitchen at Last Best Brewing and Distilling (607 11 Ave SW) “to be fun, approachable and memorable, while serving dishes that showcase our beer,” says Brett Ireland, Chief Executive Officer of Bearhill Brewing, parent company of Last Best. “We offer something for everyone as well as items that are unique for those who want to try something new.”
Of his beer, Ireland says “We try to make beer that bridges the gap between new drinkers experiencing craft for the first time, and the progressive and blossoming local scene.” In this sense, as with the food, there will be some familiarity to those looking for something comfortable, and yet, just a little creative edge to it.
Possibly my favourite thing to eat in Calgary is Last Best’s Korean Barbecue Chicken Wings. The perfectly crispy texture provides cavities in which just the right amount of sauce can hide before exploding flavour into your mouth. Pair this with Last Best IPA. IPA and spicy food is a classic combination. In this case, the citrus burst from the IPA will accent the sweet flavours while the hop bitterness elevates the spices.
Banff Avenue Brewing – Also part of the Bearhill group of breweries, Banff Ave Brewing (110 Banff Ave, Banff) offers food and beer of equal quality to Last Best, but with a more casual and accessible feel. “We strive to create memorable experiences for tourists and locals alike,” says Ireland. “We focus on regional ingredients found in the the Bow Valley and across Alberta, such as bison, elk and other game meats,” in the restaurant that has the unmistakable feel of a pub.
Being located in a tourism epicentre, Banff Ave must offer beer that is interesting to travellers and yet be familiar to locals. Next time you are visitng Banff, stop in for an Alberta Bison Burger and pair it with Banff Ave Lower Bankhead Black Pilsner. The beer has nice, though soft, roasted flavours that will accompany the bison beautifully.
— by Don Tse
The Alberta Craft Beer Market is ever expanding , there are 115 licensed Breweries in Alberta with another 13 on the way. Creating delicious food pairings in many of these establishments bringing a new facet to this expanding market. People can now enjoy satisfying meals and new recipes designed to expand the flavour-spectrum and to enhance the new and innovative brews, meads and ciders that are available in so many of these establishments.
Alberta’s rich beer culture is passionate and proud and is destined to become a large part of our heritage. We hope you will reach out and explore what they have to offer. For up to date information there is an Alberta Craft Beer Guide available in most of the breweries that keeps one abreast of all the happenings and openings.
Craft brewers are adventurous, diverse and creative with brews designed for every palate. Whatever your tastes are… hoppy, light, smooth, full-bodied, citrusy or refreshing, we know you’ll find something to love.
— Joel Gelfand