The holiday season is now but a dim and fading memory, as the bleak months of January and February lie stretched out before us, mocking us with those gray skies and desolate frozen tundra lurking just outside the warm and cozy confines of my living room window.
The nasty hangover of New Year’s Eve had barely faded when the December bills started to overflow my inbox, a nasty one-two punch to the pocketbook that puts yet another damper on this gloomy time of year.
Renowned poet T.S. Eliot may have claimed that April was the cruelest month, but I bet he never lived through February in Alberta! All these factors contributed to a heavy case of cabin fever, that found me slowly going batty staring at the same four walls, but also unwilling to get out of my comfy pants to go outside and face the world.
Salvation from cabin fever came fortuitously across the socials, appropriately enough in the form of a newly opened craft brewery called Cabin Brewing, the perfect solution for cabin fever!
While Cabin Brewing was not as close or convenient as our own beloved Township 24 Brewing right here in Chestermere, I had to make a trip into Calgary for provisions, so I decided to squeeze in a pilgrimage to Cabin Brewing, located in the heart of the so-called Barley Belt district of Calgary’s historic Ramsay / Manchester neighbourhoods, now home to more than a dozen craft breweries, with new ones springing up all the time.
Cabin Brewing opened their doors last month, helmed by three longtime members of the craft beer scene, so my expectations were high when I first strolled in the door. The head brewer left a long and illustrious tenure at Calgary’s Wild Rose Brewing to start up Cabin Brewing, which faithful readers will remember is a longstanding favourite here in this very column.
The other two founders share similarly impressive pedigrees, which shone through in the layout and decor of the brewery and attached tasting room.
As a delightfully unexpected bonus, Kiwi readers in the audience will be especially happy to hear that New Zealand style meat pies are on the small but thoughtfully curated food menu, thanks to one of the founders hailing from the land of Hobbits, so try to arrive hungry!
There were five brews on tap, as well as a kid-friendly hibiscus tea served from a nitrogen tap, and a hazelnut coffee also dispensed from a nitro tap for an effervescent caffeine buzz.
Perhaps I am still a child at heart, as I went back for a refill of the nitro hibiscus tea, served cold with a zillion tiny nitrogen bubbles making it taste rich and creamy. With some effort, I tore myself away from the red tea to focus on the five brews on tap, most of which proclaimed the founders love for hops.
The Retrospectrum Pale Ale is the easy drinking session ale of the lineup, with only mild hop bitterness, but bursting with citrus and fruity aromas from the late addition of hops to the brewing process to bulk up the aromatics without increasing the bitterness.
The Sunshine Rain IPA is a shining example of the Pacific Northwest style of IPA that has ruled the craft scene for many years. Bursting with tropical notes from the Oregon hop varietals, with a sharp pine resin bitterness balance by a sturdy malt backbone. Definitely hop-forward, and not for those raised on a steady diet of Coors Lite.
The Super Saturation NEPA was my favourite, a cloudy and unfiltered take on the New England IPA style. Much less hop-forward than the previous brew, the NEPA gets a silky mouthfeel from the generous additions of wheat and oats to the malt bill. I have always been a fan of hazy beers, believing that the filtration process used to make your beer crystal-clear removes some of the flavour, so this beer checked all my boxes.
Perhaps it was my imagination, but I thought this beer tasted even better after learning the wheat and oats are Alberta-grown, sourced from a fourth-generation family farm near Red Deer that has been in operation since 1929. It was like drinking the provincial flag!
The next time you need to head west to the big city, carve out some time to visit Cabin Brewing, or one of the dozen or so neighbouring craft breweries that can be found just blocks away.