Faithful readers may recall that my weekends are often spent making day trips to the veritable cornucopia of new craft breweries in our fair province, in what I like to think of as the grown-up version of Pokémon, except I am catching tasty pints of beer instead of Japanese battle monsters.
This past Saturday was a quick jaunt east of Chestermere to Strathmore, to pay a visit to Origin Malting & Brewing.
Local boozers may already be familiar with Origin Malting & Brewing, who opened their doors in Strathmore last August.
Unlike the legions of other craft breweries that are popping up like dandelions across Alberta, Origin Malting & Brewing has its roots in barley farming, with a local family that has been selling premium barley for 40 years.
There was a light-bulb moment a few years back, with the realization that while selling raw barley harvests on contract was a steady gig, there was more value to be added in moving up a level in the supply chain by malting the barley themselves, and even more value to using that malted barley to make their own beer.
For those not in the know, malting is the process that starts with freshly harvested barley or other grains, then converts the starches in those raw grains into sugars that can be fermented by yeast during the brewing process. Once barley has been malted, it is ready to be used in the brewing process.
And now, less than a year after opening their doors, Origin Malting & Brewing is selling malted barley to scores of other craft breweries right here in Alberta, and also winning accolades for their own beer.
Just a few months back, Origin took home four medals at the Alberta Beer Awards, which is remarkable for a brewery in its first year of operation. The imbibing public has certainly noticed, as Origin is already running at 100% capacity, and planning for expansion later this year.
No need to worry about Origin Malting & Brewing decamping to the big city as they expand, as their roots are deep in the local community, and need to stay close to those waving fields of grain that make all the magic happen.
I have enjoyed the wares from Origin in cans or growlers many times in the past, but this was my first opportunity to visit their onsite tap room to suckle the golden nectar directly from the brass teats at the bar.
I was blessed with a willing chauffeur for the day, so was able to work my way through tiny sample glasses of the dozen or so brews that were available on tap, each more delicious than the last.
I started my sampling journey with the Last Post Brown Ale, recent winner of the Best in Show medal at the Alberta Beer Awards, and made in the style of an English Brown Ale. 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.
The Backdraft Red Ale is made in collaboration with the Strathmore Fire Department, so every delicious pint means a charitable contribution towards new equipment for the firefighters. The red hue comes from plenty of caramel malt, with a traditional European hop bill for an earthy and herbaceous finish.
My favourite was the Full Sleeve IPA, made with three locally grown barley malts, and three hop varietals from the Pacific Northwest. The hops provide plenty of pine resin and citrus on the nose, grabbing your taste buds with a sharp bitterness that is balanced by the malt bill for a full bodied and refreshing IPA.
Alberta boozers are a sophisticated bunch, and were early to recognize the quality and value that Origin Malting & Brewing brings to our little corner of the province. While their runaway popularity has the brewery running at fully capacity, it can make their wares a bit scarce at times.
Fortunately, additional brewery capacity should be coming online this summer to meet the increasing demand. Help support our local farmers and our local brewers by stopping at the tap room for a growler fill, or to take home a few of their awesomely sized one-litre cans.