Many Chestermerians are recovering Calgarians, or at least have a passing familiarity with the big city to the west.
As a transplanted Maritimer, the first place I lived in Alberta was a Calgary neighborhood called the Marda Loop, located just a bit north of downtown.
Back in the early 80s, when I was but a towheaded small boy, the Marda Loop neighbourhood was my first experience living in a big city, and was the site of many formative experiences. I recall learning to swim in the community pool, the latch-key kid phenomenon of walking a kilometer to elementary school without supervision in those carefree days before helicopter parents, spending my allowance at My Favorite Ice Cream Shoppe, and many other treasured memories.
The Marda Loop was adjacent to the Currie Barracks, so many of my school chums were army brats who would be uprooted every few years when the family received a new posting.
The closure of CFB Calgary in 1998 led to rapid redevelopment of the adjacent Marda Loop neighbourhood, with the military base housing quickly converted to the desirable community of Garrison Woods.
The influx of population drove demand for retail and commercial services, leading to rapid gentrification of what was a neighbourhood in the throes of urban decay, full of run-down houses and failing businesses.
Today, the Marda Loop is one of Calgary’s most desirable inner-city neighbourhoods, and many of the 1950s-era housing and commercial buildings have been replaced with fancy condos, coffee houses, and as of last week, its own craft brewery!
The Marda Loop Brewing Company has opened to great fanfare, and I fought the crowds to sample their wares on opening day, despite the sweltering heatwave wracking Alberta at the time.
The food menu is limited to French fries, French fries, and more French fries, which you can have with your choice of countless fancy dips. I chose a swanky garlic aioli and spicy ketchup to dip the chips, and settled in to sample the entire gamut of sweet malty nectars directly from the brass teats in the tasting room.
In a clever marketing ploy, the brewery built excitement long before they opened by engaging with the boozing public on social media, inviting fans to submit and vote on names for their different brews, each of which reflect a historical facet of the neighbourhood.
The Passchendaele Pale Ale pays sombre respects to the WWI Battle of Passchendaele, a mud-caked hellscape in the Flanders region of Belgium that was liberated by Canadian soldiers. The nearby Currie Barracks are named for the commander of the Canadian Corps in the Great War.
The Passchendaele Pale Ale is made with Belgian yeasts for a complex bouquet, with local Alberta barley for a well balanced malt backbone. With mild bitterness, it is a flavourful and highly sessionable pale ale.
The Jenkins Grapefruit Ale is named for Mark and Mada Jenkins, considered the founding family of the neighbourhood back in the 1950s, and owners of the iconic Marda Theatre, which later became the Odeon Theatre where I would surreptitiously sneak into R-rated movies as a mischievous ten-year old boy. With plenty of refreshing grapefruit notes and a crisp and clear finish, this is the perfect patio beer on a hot day.
The Casablanca Blonde pays homage to the eponymous video store of the same name, which was the go-to for local film buffs before NetFlix destroyed the retail video store industry. An easy-drinking blonde ale, this one is perfect for tempting your macrobrew-swilling friends into the world of craft beer.
The Red Trolley Amber Ale denotes the trolley cars that would toil up the steep hill from downtown Calgary before looping around the neighbourhood and returning downtown, with the occasional brake failure on the steep hill resulting in catastrophe.
I like a sturdy malt backbone in my amber ales, and Red Trolley delivers, with the perfect balance between the rich toasted barley and bittering hops.
The Marda Station IPA was my favourite, named for the streetcar station, and uses Belgian yeasts and highly aromatic hops for a complex bouquet and distinctive hop bite without being overwhelmingly bitter.
Whatever your passion, Marda Loop Brewing has the cure for what ‘ales’ you, so pay them a visit on your next trip to the big city.