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  • Vintage Alberta Beer

    Your globetrotting liquor reporter has returned home from a whirlwind of international travel, and let me tell you, I missed our local Alberta beer.

    Perhaps it is the world class two-row barley grown here on the Canadian prairies that is the envy of brewers the world over, or our access to fresh water from the Rocky Mountains.

    Your intrepid liquor reporter can still remember his first jug of beer, back in that decade of decadence we called the 80’s. Those readers in the audience whose formative years intersected the 80’s will remember the outrageous hair-metal bands and terrible neon fashions, but your humble narrator remembers his first Alberta beer.

    It was at a dimly lit and smoke-filled bar, long before the idea of a smoking bylaw banished the tobacco fiends to puffing away in the alley between pints.

    Yes, gentle reader, in those bygone days of my halcyon youth, your humble narrator’s first jug of beer was Drummond Draft, ordered specifically because the cheapest jug was the only one I could afford.

    Those in the audience with a long history of local boozing may remember Red Deer’s own Drummond Brewing, which closed down in 1995 after several decades in business.

    The name and other assets were acquired by Sleeman Breweries in 1996, but they never did anything with the brand, so the trademark eventually lapsed, and was promptly picked up by a few Red Deer locals.

    Drummond Brewing has been up and running since 2009, and is widely available in the Red Deer market, but is harder to find in both Edmonton and Calgary.

    Drummond has not strayed far from their low-cost roots, even bringing back the generic Beer Beer with a white label that so many poor college students in the 80’s remember well.

    Your humble narrator first consumed Drummond Draft as a callow youth, without the benefits of time and experience to develop a sophisticated palate. Back then, the brewer relied heavily on lesser grains like rice and corn to save on material costs.

    Whe re-opening the brewery after a nearly two-decade absence, the new owners searched far and wide for the original brewmaster, eventually hiring him away from a microbrewery in Washington state to return to his post at Drummond Brewing, where he has worked hard to reformulate the recipes to use only pure Alberta barley, without the adjuncts of the lesser grains.

    This has resulted in a better beer than was to be had in the 80’s, bit it is still a mass-market beer that will be more popular with the mainstream Budweiser drinker than the snooty Budvar drinker.

    This strategy seems to be working, as the restaurant and taproom adjacent to the brewery is consistently full of happy customers, some who are there to reminisce over the days of their bygone youth spent drinking Drummond, and many from a new generation who are discovering the brand for the first time.

    There are currently 3 different brews available. Drummond Premium Lager pours as a pale straw color with very little head, and a slightly sweet taste.

    The eponymous Beer Beer in the plain white label is barely distinguishable from the Premium Lager, so the different labels may be more for marketing reasons than to indicate a different recipe.

    Rounding out the holy trifecta is Beer Beer Strong, which weighs in at 7% ABV. The main claim to fame for this inexpensive beer is that cheap dates like my last girlfriend now only need one beer before they start feeling tipsy. This brand does have a fuller grainy malt flavour than the other two, likely due to the additional barley malt required during fermentation to increase the alcohol content.

    All in all, the offerings from Drummond are not going to win much praise from the beer snobs of the world, but the teeming millions that make up the mainstream beer market in Canada seem to like these inoffensive lagers.

    Perhaps your intrepid liquor reporter should try to squeeze into a pair of his acid-wash 80’s jeans and down a few pints of Drummond while blasting some Def Leppard on the stereo to remind me of the old days.

    If you would like to revisit a beer from the days of your squandered youth, Drummond Brewing products can usually be found in branches of the Real Canadian Liquor Store.