Exciting things happened a few weeks back at the Canadian Brewing Awards, which was held virtually this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
For those not familiar with this auspicious affair, think of it sort of like the Oscars or the Junos, but for Canadian beer. In years past, Alberta breweries have won around 10% of the available medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards, so roughly in line with the ratio of provincial to national populations.
This year was a banner year, with our little province of Alberta bringing home 23% of the national medals, so the craft brewers of other provinces are definitely sitting up and taking note of what we are doing right here in Wild Rose Country.
You can thank the provincial NDP government for slashing the red tape in the beer industry back in 2013, eliminating the minimum production requirements that had kept all but the largest megabrewers out of the province for decades. Within just a few short years of eliminating the licensing requirements for minimum production levels, the number of Alberta breweries jumped from just a few dozen to over 150. This makes the Alberta craft brewing industry much younger than that of BC or Ontario, but if the number of medals and accolades are any indication, the craft brewers of Alberta are quick learners.
Unsurprisingly, most of the craft brewers in the province are located in or around the population hubs of Edmonton and Calgary, and it was a Calgary brewery that took home the coveted award for Canadian Brewer of the Year.
Common Crown Brewing opened their doors four years ago, co-founded by twin brothers that I am sure confused many a patron into thinking they were seeing double in the taproom after a few too many pints.
Located in the so-called Brewmuda Triangle in NE Calgary, the taproom has recently re-opened, but at reduced seating capacity due to the ongoing pandemic. Fortunately, all of their frosty wares are widely available in cans throughout Alberta, so you can easily find them at your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant.
Like so many other craft brewers, Common Crown has a core selection of 4 flagship brews, plus an assortment of rotating seasonals and one-offs.
Macrobrew drinkers will be drawn to the Brewmaster Blonde Ale, the easiest drinking option for those raised on a steady diet of Coors Lite. Made with German-styled malts and hops from the Pacific Northwest, the Blonde Ale is a light and refreshing brew perfect for sunny days on the patio, which sadly seem to be behind us with the approaching winter months.
Moving to hazier options, the Ploughman Hopped Wheat Ale adds locally grown Alberta wheat, providing a very slight cloudiness in the beer thanks to the larger size of the wheat proteins. Unlike German styled wheat beers that focus on the unique banana and clove flavour profile of the yeasts, the Ploughman Wheat Ale drinks more like a Pale Ale, thanks to the generous additions of Pacific Northwest hops, providing a sharp and citrusy finish. Those looking for a German styled wheat beer will need to keep their eyes peeled, as there is a Hef Off Hefeweizen on occasional seasonal rotation that I could not get enough of last year, and was heartbroken when it disappeared.
Bitter beer fans will rejoice at the Journeyman IPA, weighing in at a hefty 6.5% ABV, thanks to the heavy malt bill needed to balance the assertive hop backbone. As is common with hops from the Pacific Northwest, this beer will finish with notes of pine resin on the tongue from the bittering hops, as well as tropical fruits like mango on the nose from the aromatic hops. Fans of the North American IPA style will be drawn to this brew, with its sharp hop bitterness and clean finish.
My favourite is the Coppersmith Brown Ale, a malt-forward dark ale with caramelized malts providing a rich a slightly sweet biscuit finish, nicely balanced with a mild bitterness provided by traditional British hops.
Whatever your preferred style, Common Crown has a brew to whet your whistle, and thanks to their recent win as Canadian Brewer of the Year, will certainly grow even more in popularity. Run, don’t walk to your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant to pick up a four-pack of the tallboy cans before they disappear!