33 And Me

In the carefree pre-pandemic era, I would visit friends on the west coast a few times each year, and would often pop into 33 Acres Brewing, in the heart of downtown Vancouver. While my travel has been curtailed these past few years, it seems that 33 Acres Brewing has expanded into the Alberta market, and has even opened a new brewery in downtown Calgary!
I make it into Calgary a few times per week, so when 33 Acres Brewing opened their new taproom in May, I popped in for pints and vittles with a friend. Regular readers may recall my ongoing love affair with the Schwarzbier style, with my favourite being the Meridian Black Lager from our local pride and joy of Township 24 Brewing right here in Chestermere.
There is a new contender in town, in the form of the 33 Acres of Darkness, another dark lager in the German Schwarzbier style, which is an easy drinking lager despite its inky black appearance. True to style, the 33 Acres of Darkness has a light body, with notes of coffee and burnt chocolate, with a mild hop bitterness and just a hint of smoke on the finish. While I normally save my dark beers for the winter months, its light body makes the Schwarzbier style perfect as a summer slammer, weighing in at only 5% ABV.
My drinking companion could not get enough of the 33 Acres of Life, made in the style of a California Common, which regular readers may recognize as the style made famous by Anchor Steam Beer out of San Francisco, who kept this old-timey beer style alive for decades while the rest of the world had forgotten about it.
The California Common beer style is a relic of the California gold rush in the 1850s, when the prospectors were demanding beer to slake their thirst, but refrigeration was difficult to come by in those days. Fortunately, an ingenious brewer discovered a lager yeast that would ferment at temperatures of up to 24°C, while most other lager yeasts only work in the narrow range of 9-14°C. The result was an inexpensive brew for the working class, with the light body of a lager, and the full flavour profile of an ale.
The modern interpretations of the California Common beer style still use the same unique yeast strains, but are much more reliable due to use of modern brewing techniques with precise temperature control. From its humble origins as the drink of choice for grizzled old prospectors, California Common is now a beer style found only at a handful of craft brewers, and we are now lucky enough to have a local example right here in Alberta!
My favourite of the day was a one-off seasonal called the Dryhopped Foeder Beer, a Belgian farmhouse style brew that you may have heard referred to as a Saison. This brew is unique due to its fermentation in a large oaken vessel called a foeder (pronounced food-er). In a nutshell, a foeder is a gigantic barrel used for aging beer or wine.
This one-off seasonal has been a long time coming, spending up to 18 months in the oak foeder, with multiple dry hop additions along the way to add aromatics to the brew without increasing bitterness. The oak is more porous than the stainless steel vats typically used in brewing, so small amounts of air exchange and extraction of tannins and lignins from the oak allow the beer to age and develop over time. This brew is available only for a limited time in the Vancouver and Calgary taprooms, and has citrus and stonefruit prominent on the palate, with vanilla notes from the oak, and a funky hop finish from the different yeasts embedded in the oaken fibres of the foeder.
Foeders are very expensive, and breweries will typically source used foeders from wineries, despite the high transport costs that typically require a crane at each end of the trip. I have only seen a foeder at one other Canadian brewery, so 33 Acres is a pioneer indeed.
Fortunately, all the different styles from 33 Acres Brewing are widely available in cans at liquor stores throughout Alberta, so you can enjoy them from the comfort of your own home, or visit the Vancouver or Calgary brewery taprooms to sample directly from the source!

About the author

Nick Jeffrey

Nick Jeffrey

RSS Podcasts on CFTR – The Rogue