Summer is my favourite time of year. We can drink beer on patios. We can drink beer out on the dock. We can drink beer and still have the sun shining outside after 5pm.
In addition to summer being a more pleasant time for enjoying a cold beer, summer is also the season for beer festivals.
The Canadian International Beer Awards took place in Calgary earlier this month, and I am fortunate enough to serve as a judge at this auspicious affair, which gives me a chance to give back to the beer community that brings such happiness to us all.
To ensure impartiality, all the beer judging is done via blind tastings, so I was eager to learn the identity of the many mystery beers that came across my table.
My category this year happened to be American Ales, which include blondes, pales, ambers, and browns. I sampled many fine beers, and waited with bated breath for an entire week until the final results were released, and was delighted to learn that they were all from new Alberta craft breweries.
The gold medal went to the Pale Ale from Blindman Brewing, who hail from the small town of Lacombe, just a bit north of Red Deer.
I first sampled the wares at Blindman Brewing back in 2016, shortly after their tap room had opened. I saw the opportunity for a rest break while returning home from Edmonton, and was glad that I stopped.
My first taste of the Blindman Brewing New England Style Pale Ale was straight from the brass teats in the tap room, but it can easily be found in cans at your local booze merchant or at drinking establishments where beer geeks tend to congregate.
This beer pours as a nice hazy orange into the glass, thanks to the unique yeasts and malt proteins that the brewer intentionally leaves in the brew for flavouring. There is plenty of citrus and tropical fruit on the nose from the aromatic hops, and sharp bitterness that is nicely balanced with the malt backbone.
The silver medal went to the Last Post Brown Ale from Origin Malting & Brewing, who faithful readers will recall are located in nearby Strathmore.
This one was my personal favourite, although my palate may be influenced by regular samplings because I like to get a fresh growler fill whenever I am running errands in Strathmore.
I was already familiar with this brew prior to the Canadian International Beer Awards, as it was released on Remembrance Day back in November, and I remember getting a growler fill that included a donation to the Poppy Fund.
Pouring a dark chestnut colour into the glass, the Last Post is a medium bodied beer with aromas of freshly brewed coffee, and hints of chocolate malt on the palate, followed by a nutty finish.
This beer has been raking in medals at multiple competitions, so it will remain in my regular rotation for as long as Origin Malting & Brewing continue to brew it.
The bronze medal went to the Spur Line Hoppy Brown Ale from Red Bison Brewery, who opened their doors in Calgary just last month in the Brewmuda Triangle, so named due to the three breweries within a block of each other.
Faithful readers will not be surprised to hear that I popped into their tap room as soon as I learned of their most recent award, only to find the place full of beer fans that had heard the same news. Fortunately, there was plenty of sudsy goodness to go around, which paired well with the fancy charcuterie boards and other munchables in the tap room.
The Spur Line Hoppy Brown is an interesting brew, almost like a cross between a Brown Ale and IPA. The abundance of aromatic and bittering hops grab your taste buds and take them for a wild ride, while the rich malts bring you back for another swig.
It is not every day that we see our homegrown Alberta breweries cleaning up at international awards like this one, so try to support our local entrepreneurs by thinking globally and drinking locally. Look for these brews at your local watering hole, or in cans at a bottle shop near you.