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  • Prairie Doggin’

    I popped into the big city to run some errands on the weekend, and rewarded myself for a productive day by stopping at Prairie Dog Brewing, just a few blocks from Chinook Centre.

    Prairie Dog Brewing is another in the seemingly endless stream of new craft breweries popping up in our fair province, much to the delight of local beer fans.

    Prairie Dog Brewing is located in the former St. John’s Music space, which I remember visiting in the halcyon days of my towheaded youth, searching for replacement fiddle strings after a band practice that got out of hand.

    Prairie Dog Brewing has been in the works since early 2016, and finally threw open their doors this summer. After spending a few hours there, I can confirm that it was indeed worth the wait!

    With seating for up to 200, it is a gargantuan space, with the views of the open kitchen area dominated by the largest BBQ pit / meat smoker in Western Canada. Affectionately named Clifford after the big red dog, up to 800 kilograms of raw meat can be smoked in a single batch.

    While there are the usual assortment of salads, burgers, and whatnot on the menu, I didn’t visit a brewery with the biggest BBQ smoker this side of Toronto to order a salad, so I washed down the moist and tender brisket with a delicious stout beer, while my drinking companion dove into a half rack of ribs paired with a zesty IPA.

    Many craft breweries treat their kitchens as almost an afterthought, but with one of the founders having a background as an executive chef, it is clear that the restaurant section does not play second fiddle to the brewery.

    There are four in-house beers on tap, and four more rotating guest taps that feature the wares of neighbouring craft breweries. I am seeing more and more craft breweries feature guest taps from their erstwhile competitors. This may seem surprising at first, but the craft beer industry is steeped in traditions of cooperation, which is a delightful bonus to the beer nerds who can’t find enough hours in the day to visit every new brewery in person.

    The Ginger Lime Gose is an interesting twist on the Gose style, which is a regional specialty beer originating in the German town of Goslar, way back in the 16th century.

    Gose beers elicit strong reactions from beer drinkers. Typically made with coriander and salt, balanced by a sour lactic acid, this is generally a love-it-or-hate-it type of beer. If you are on the bandwagon for the recent sour beer craze, this is the beer for you.

    The Hopped Wheat was the perfect summer patio beer, pouring a hazy golden cloud into the glass, with plenty of grains and citrus on the palate. There are just enough bittering hops to make it interesting, without detracting from the poundability of crushing several on a sunny patio.

    My drinking companion found a new favourite in the IPA, made in the West Coast IPA style, bursting with citrus and tropical notes from the hops, with a subdued malt backbone. These are definitely more bitter than the more traditional and understated English IPA styles, so try this one if you are a hophead!

    Long time readers will be unsurprised to hear that my favourite was the Oatmeal Stout, a meal in a glass so thick you could stand a spoon in it. Loads of coffee and chocolate notes, with a smoky finish from the flaked oats that were smoked in-house on Clifford the big red BBQ smoker. The thick and lacy head stuck to the glass with such persistence that I was caught by the server trying to stick my tongue all the way to the bottom of the glass, just for one more taste.

    Prairie Dog Brewing has only been open for a few months, so the tap rotations are still in a bit of flux, making me want to return often to sample the new wares that are bubbling away in the tanks, eager to be poured into the pint glasses and growlers of the waiting fans.

    If beer and BBQ are the cure to what ails you, be sure to visit Prairie Dog Brewing on your next visit to Calgary. Be sure to arrive hungry and ready to wash down that smoked meat with a delicious brew!