Chestermere and the Bow River have a long history. Way back in the 1880s, the Canadian Pacific Railway wanted to irrigate the land between Calgary and Strathmore to make it more suitable for farming. A canal was dug into the Bow River, leading to the creation of Chestermere Lake on what was an existing wetland.
In the early years, the level of the lake would rise and fall with the whims of mother nature, making it difficult for farmers to maximize their crops. By 1907, the current dam and canal system were completed to control the water level, allowing the area farmers to irrigate effectively.
The Bow River is also the namesake of one of the newest craft breweries in our fair province, namely Bow River Brewing, located in Calgary’s so-called Barley Belt, now home to over a dozen craft brewers.
Faithful readers may recall that our fair province is awash in the malty goodness of craft breweries, with a new one seemingly opening every week. At last count, Alberta had over 150 craft breweries, and probably a few more will have opened by the time you read this.
Purely in the sake of research, I make a point of visiting as many new breweries as humanly possible, and Bow River Brewing was one of three new breweries that I visited last weekend.
Bow River Brewing opened for business just last month, and like their namesake river, are already making waves in the local beer industry.
There appears to be a consensus among the beer cognoscienti that any new brewery must produce a hoppy and bitter India Pale Ale, and Bow River Brewing is no exception. The Scared Rabbit Hoppy Pale Ale is made in the west coast IPA style, with locally grown barley malts and a hefty bill of hops from Oregon. If you are a hop-head, you will not be able to get enough of this brew, with flavours of pine and citrus bursting on the tongue.
For those who find IPA beer styles just a little too bitter for their liking, the YYC Calgary Ale is a highly sessionable Pale Ale inspired by Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, the brew that kickstarted the craft beer movement in North America. Pouring a pale strawlike colour into my glass, the effervescent bubbles brought plenty of floral aromatics to the nose, while the hop bitterness was understated enough to be perfectly balanced by the pale malt backbone of the beer.
The world-weary readers in the audience may now be thinking that Bow River Brewing is just one more faceless brewery with a generic set of brews that are indistinguishable from the next brewery down the street, and therefore nothing to get excited about.
Those readers should hold onto their pint glasses, because they are about to be shocked and surprised to learn that Bow River Brewing produce two different beer styles that have never before graced our fair province!
The RiverFest is made in the style of a Saxony German Lager, and may be the first Canadian brewery to produce this style, which is rarely seen outside its home city of Dresden. Fortunately, one of the brewery founders hails from this German city, and has brought this historical style to Alberta for our enjoyment.
Pouring a rich amber colour into my glass, the RiverFest had a surprisingly full and malty flavour for a lager, thanks to its unfiltered haziness and long maturation time. Definitely a beer worth waiting for!
The High County Amber Ale is made in the Scottish Amber style, another gem that is rarely found in Canada. The first sip made me feel like I was standing on the windswept heather of the Scottish Highlands, with plenty of caramelized malt on the tongue, nicely balanced with just a touch of hops from the Pacific Northwest.
As an added bonus, fans of the Scottish ale can enjoy it with real live bagpipers in the tap room every Saturday, which is the way that Scottish ales were intended to be enjoyed!
Look for Bow River Brewing in cans at your local well-stocked booze merchant, or get a growler directly from the source. The tap room at the brewery has room for 30 people, so pop in on your next visit to the big city, where kilts are optional, but highly recommended!