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  • Airport Beer

    The holiday season has come to an end, and life has returned to a semblance of normalcy. The days of eating shortbread cookies and drinking mulled wine before noon are behind us for another year, and the bitter cold snap between Christmas and New Year’s Day is now but a fading memory.

    My last holiday duty was to ferry Aunt Gertrude to the airport after her annual visit, when the family endures her delightful stories of how much better things were in her day, and how the youth of today are the cause of all the troubles in the world. Indeed, good times.

    The travel gods were not smiling upon me, as the last vestiges of the recent cold snap caused many flight delays, so Aunt Gertrude’s departing flight was delayed by several hours.

    Unfortunately for me, Aunt Gertrude is not of the generation that will contentedly while away the hours on her smartphone when there is a flight delay. No, it would appear that chauffeur duty also extends to entertaining Aunt Gertrude until the moment that she boards her flight, so I was faced with the prospect of several more hours of the delightful company of the greatest generation.

    Fortunately, there have been not one, but two craft breweries recently open in the new business park adjacent to the Calgary airport, so I decided to entertain ol’ Gert at the recently opened Caravel Brewery.

    Similar to our fair home of Chestermere, the Caravel Brewery has a nautical theme. The brewery itself is named after the Caravel, a ship used Portuguese and Spanish explorers in the 15th century. Students of history may recall the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, made famous as the fleet of Caravel ships used by Christopher Columbus when he sailed to the new world.

    The Caravel Brewery has three flagship beers, along with a rotating roster of seasonals. My favourite is the Dead Ahead Irish Red, a full-bodied ale that pours a deep ruby in the glass, with plenty of caramelized malt on the tongue, followed by a rich and spicy finish.

    Shockingly, ol’ Gert herself displayed a liking for the Captain’s Log German Pilsner, a smooth and easy-drinking lager that she claims to have first enjoyed during the intermission between the great wars.

    German Pilsners are a milder version of the Czech Pilsners, which originated in the Bohemian village of Plzeň, now the modern-day Czech Republic. The original beer style owes its fame to the Saaz hops that are native to the region, and the extremely soft water that the area is blessed with. The German version of the Pilsner style is slightly milder, with less hop bitterness, and a smoother finish.

    With time to spare due to flight delays, we made the quick jaunt from the Caravel Brewery to the neighbouring Railyard Brewing, which opened for business at the end of November.

    Railyard Brewing boasts four flagship beers, with an easy-drinking lager, a pale ale, a hoppy IPA, and a dark nitro stout.

    Aunt Gert surprised me again by ordering the stout, claiming it took her back to the old days when stout was given to nursing mothers to keep their iron levels up. Offering me a sip, it had a creamy finish from the nitrogen tap, and a rich chocolatey backbone from the dark roasted malts, rounded out with a smooth texture from the flaked oats used in the grain bill.

    I was partial to the Railyard IPA, made in the Pacific Northwest style, with plenty of pine resin flavours on the nose and tongue, citrusy flavours from the American hops, and flinty notes that I assume are from Calgary’s hard water. The beer was straight from the brass teats in the brewery tasting room, and poured a medium amber into my sample glass, with nice lacing on the frothy white head.

    So the next time you need to make a trip to the Calgary airport, make a little time to visit the two breweries just off Airport Trail and 19th Street.

    If you cannot make it to their tasting rooms, the beers of Caravel Brewing and Railyard Brewing are also available in bottles and cans at your local well-stocked booze merchant, or on tap at better bars everywhere. Give them a try today!