We are lucky enough to live in a lakeside community, and even luckier to have Township 24 Brewing as our neighbourhood brewery, serving up delicious beers so local they even have a Chestermerian accent!
If you haven’t stopped in at Township 24 recently, you are missing out on the new Dominion Kolsch Lager. Kölsch is an interesting beer style, fermented at warm temperatures with an ale yeast, but then finished (or lagered) for an extended period at cool temperatures like a lager.
The Kölsch style was born in 1906 in the German city of Köln, known as Cologne to the English-speaking world. With the more complex flavour profile of an ale, and the clean finish of a lager, Kölsch brings the best of both worlds to your pint glass, so hurry over to Township 24 Brewing to try it yourself.
While our own lakeside lifestyle makes us luckier than most, I wondered about the other lakefront communities in Alberta, and if they were lucky enough to have their own local brewery.
Purely in the spirit of research, I made a day trip up to Sylvan Lake on the weekend. Interestingly, despite having a population only 80% the size of Chestermere, Sylvan Lake boasts not one, but two local craft breweries. Who knows, perhaps this portends a new neighbour for Township 24 Brewing in our future?
My first stop in Sylvan Lake was Undercurrent Brewing, which opened its doors earlier this year in an old gas station, across from the former site of the Wild Rapids Waterslide Park that graced the shores of Sylvan Lake for decades.
Undercurrent Brewing was started by a husband-and-wife team looking to escape their stressful law practices for a return to the small-town lifestyles of their childhoods.
Sylvan Lake is a tourist town in the summer, so the availability of craft beer right beside the lake was a welcome addition, making for a strong opening earlier this year. With four flagship ales and a rotating selection of seasonals, Undercurrent Brewing has a brew for every palate.
The California Common is the easiest-drinking option, and is a historical style born in the days of the California gold rush in the in the 1850s. The style nearly died out in the last century, but is regaining popularity as adventurous craft brewers work on reviving the old recipes.
Made with a lager yeast that is fermented at ale temperatures, the California Common style is basically the opposite of a Kölsch, and tends to have a sturdier malt backbone and more assertive hop bitterness than a typical lager.
The Red Rye IPA was my favourite, in no small part because I am a sucker for rye beers. Made with locally grown barley and rye grains, the rye adds a spiciness to the beer that is balanced with the citrus aromas from the unique yeast, and the sharp hop bitterness that one would expect in an IPA.
After sampling all the wares at Undercurrent Brewing, I made my way 3km down the street to Snake Lake Brewing, which also opened its doors earlier this year.
The brewery name pays homage to the original name of Sylvan Lake, which was named for the numerous garter snakes slithering along the shores. The name was changed to Sylvan Lake back in 1903 to avoid frightening away the squeamish tourists.
Snake Lake Brewing is the brainchild of 3 locals, born and bred in the area, who were looking to trade their careers spent on oil rigs producing black gold for the happier labours of producing golden nectar served in a pint glass.
The Varsity Hall Red Ale is named after a jazz bar that was the social center of Sylvan Lake back in the 1950s, where workers in the burgeoning oil industry would meet to relax after long and grueling days for some smooth jazz and perhaps a few libations as well.
Made from locally grown barley, the biscuity notes in the backbone are balanced with light pine aromas on the nose from the hops, without being overly bitter. This is a malt-forward brew with a slightly sweet finish from the caramelized malt that provides the reddish hue in the glass.
My favourite was the Commodore Stout, named for the annual regatta celebration. Plenty of dark chocolate and espresso flavours from the dark roasted malts, with just enough hop bitterness to balance the strong malt bill. I consider stout a good winter beer, so I will going back for this one when the snow starts to fall.
Broaden your lakeside imbibing by visiting our sister breweries on your next trip through Sylvan Lake!