Five downtown craft breweries, open to the public
by Tiana Kirk
To be clear, I am the beginner and this is my guide to five of the fifteen craft breweries that Edmonton boasts – a small sampling of taprooms to enjoy refreshing drinks, friendly service, and visible brewing equipment to immerse yourself in Edmonton’s booming beer culture.
The five chosen were based on their central locations, their newness to me, and my burgeoning desperation for an excuse to leave the house. They are:
I am not a seasoned beer drinker; I am, however, a spiced beer drinker (Alley Kat Pumpkin Spiced Ale intermittently in hand as I type this). Two and a half years ago, though, I would have turned my nose up at the chance to try even a sip of a friend’s beer. I’d have stuck to my much more respectable
long island iced teas double long island iced teas and stuck out my tongue at their frat-boy offerings. But alas, as the age-old adage goes, I met a boy and then
~ everything changed ~
Well, not everything, but I’m writing a beer review on my own volition, so he’s done something.
This particular boy used to be very prevalent in the Alberta Beer world, and on a night out with some friends at Arcadia, he introduced me to the first beer I liked enough to drink a full pint of: Beets by Sinden out of Town Square Brewing.
This tart, sour, carbonated delight packs a beet-y punch and has been a welcome visitor in my refrigerator ever since. Though I am a sucker for sours, I went into this to get out of my comfort zone and find the best starter beers if you are anything like twenty-one year old Tiana – very stubborn and unwilling to try new things for no good reason.
We begin with Blind Enthusiasm out of convenience, as Biera is located directly across the street from work (Kind Ice Cream) and is open late. Making ice cream is not stressful enough to require an after-work pint; it is the sense of community that Ritchie Market creates and maintains which seamlessly flows through each of the businesses (Duchess Bakery, Acme Meat, Transcend Coffee, Doughnut Party, Two Mothers), making that nightcap a refreshing close to a long day.
When the sun begins to set, there is an eye-catching pull towards the modern industrial building with its crimson brick exterior and string lit patio, accessible only from inside the restaurant. The mask-laden staff are attentive and friendly: I am led to a seat at the cheese bar (with large clear dividers between each stool), and given a QR code to scan for the menu offerings. My name and phone number are taken for COVID-19 tracking and I am left to scroll through the menu.
What They Offer
Eight craft beers on tap, three bottle exclusives (offered for takeout)
What I Tried
“Preset Sampledoodle” – 4 x 100mL ($10)
Nordlichter – 3.5%: Very light. If it were in a can I likely would not enjoy it but the tiny glasses add a certain something. Definitely refreshing and not too heavy for sitting with some friends on a patio to distract you from your beer bias. Slight bitter aftertaste.
ZestyZee (4.8%): The description says banana and spice and it does not lie. I had some water and tried it again with my eyes closed trying not to think of the description in case it was swaying my judgement but it is definitely banana and spice beer. Slightly less bitter aftertaste.
Power Stance (4.8%): No bitter aftertaste! It is described as zippy and citrus-y and I am compelled to agree but I still taste bananas in this one. I cleansed my palate twice and still…. banana. Almost more in the foreground than the last.
Extra Special Monk (4.9%): This one tastes like it’s trying to pretend it’s not beer but it is not pulling it off. Not very bitter but I would not drink an entire pint – patio or no. If you’re scared of “frat boy” beer maybe take a pass on this one.
Between ZestyZee and Power Stance. I guess I’m a sucker for bananas?
The self-proclaimed mad-scientist, fine artist hybrids at Odd Company are up next. Located in a quaint residential area in trendy Oliver, this central location is highly accessible on foot, by bus (bus stop 290 m from the front door), car (free street parking), bike (nine bike stalls) – it’s even in a scooter zone! The twelve-minute walk from my downtown apartment was a delight; the tree-lined streets adorned the sidewalks with crispy autumnal leaves the entire way. With each satisfying crunch beneath my feet, my mood was lifted as I came upon the string-lit trellis covered outdoor seating of Odd Company. After a short wait in a socially distanced line, I was welcomed into the underground industrial taproom by friendly staff, given hand sanitizer and ample time to ask questions and pick my poison.
What They Offer
$4 half pints (250mL) $8 pints (500mL)
Six beers on tap and two bottles, though they mix things up quite often – worth a follow on Facebook to keep updated on their tasty antics. Also offering take out and delivery for bottles, growlers, and howlers.
What I Tried
Thai Basil Gose (5.3%): New and cool! Quite sour, very honestly present Thai basil flavor. Bright, not bitter or harsh at all. Very refreshing. Pleasant bubbles. Perfect patio drink. *chef’s kiss*
Vermont Dark Ale Lite (4.2%): Tastes like dark cocoa powder, or charred bread. Very dry. Like… darkest roast coffee. Not entirely unpleasant if you’re into that kind of thing. (I am not)
Sour IPA (6.9%): Tastes earthy, like grapefruit rinds. Not super sour (a good place to start if you’re scared of sour beers) not overly bitter. Kind of mango undertones, slight acidity.
American Table Ale (3.8%): Not fruity, bitter in the back your throat and lingers. Walnutty aftertaste. Wouldn’t order as a beginner. Very clearly beer. Would find in the keg at Brad’s party.
Thai Basil Gose, with Sour IPA at a close second.
…trying not to be concerned that my favourites had the highest ABV %…
Specializing in dark beer, Omen Brewing was not somewhere I expected to find myself but I’m glad I did.
Only a four-minute drive from work, this taproom feels a little hole-in-the-wall-y being surrounded by warehouses. There is a decent sized outdoor seating area with very cute large bright yellow umbrellas with the option of ordering or bringing your own food to eat at their tables with your beers as they don’t offer much of a food menu – small snacks and Pellegrino water. I was surprised to see that they offer a gluten free beer – Oh Beehave – 5% .
I asked for suggestions of beers that would be more in the “beginner” category – more specifically, which beers weren’t “scary”. They laughed and made it clear I’d come to the wrong place for boring beer. I looked at the flavor descriptions on the large chalk board and chose four that sounded both interesting and in an increasingly out of my comfort zone order. I was told I had good taste (obviously), as I’d picked the four most popular ones. I was given a glass of water and a table and received my flight in an alternating light-dark arrangement.
What They Offer:
Ten varieties on tap when I visited, with one – their blueberry session ale (the one I’d sought out to try – of course) – sold out. Cans, Bottles, Growlers for take-out.
What I Tried:
$9 for a flight of four beers (5oz)
Spilt Milk Nitro Milk Stout (4.5 %): Very strong coffee-chocolate flavor but not overly bitter. The aftertaste was. Definitely a nursing kind of beer. Generally poured with Nitrogen but they were out when I went. Not excessively harsh but very obviously a dark beer.
LiderHosen, Oktoberfest (5.78%): More carbonated, noticeably beer but more developed flavor profile than budlite. Not my favourite but a great place to start on dark beers. Not bitter, not as dark as spilt milk//claustrophobic
Claustrophobic, Black IPA (5.5%): I see the appeal but do not participate in it. Very bitter and not for beginners. Flavour takes a hold of your mouth. Very strong.
Knight Rye-der, Roggenbier (5.5%): I adore this, maybe just after the Claustrophobic but it’s almost sweet. Half-rye. Like eating the most satisfying piece of marble rye toast from Cobbs – but beer. (Wheat… Rye… Checks out.) Doesn’t feel too dark.
Likely the furthest out of your way is S.Y.C (Show Your Colours) but it is well worth the 13 minute drive west of downtown – particularly nice if you’re looking for a nice date locale that feels out of the city but doesn’t take forever to get to.
When you walk in, you will be greeted by exceptionally personable and knowledgeable staff, as well as by a small seating area (three teal stools) and the bright and clean bar – a well-loved pothos vine flourishing above.
If you continue through the space, there is a cooler stocked with cans and bottles to go, en route to a staircase leading to the dog-and-kid-friendly entertainment space perched above the bar, and the still visible brewing equipment. Skip the Dishes and UberEats are encouraged if you’re hungry for something other than a small bag of chips ($2) or a Zwick’s Pretzel ($4).
What They Offer:
Nine beers on tap, two exclusively available in cans – though any can be taken away in cans or growlers.
$4 for an 8 oz glass, $7.50 for 16oz glass, $5 for 473mL can
What I Tried:
Clockout Lager (4.4%): Easy, breezy beautiful Clockout Lager. A pleasant lack of bitterness and an even more pleasant after-taste. Patio drink for sure. One step above “beginner” beer. If you are feeling a little adventurous or like my reviews are coddling you.
Lunar Phase Farmhouse Pale Ale (5%): I was
warned informed that the flavour is pine-y and funky, but assured it was in a good way. As someone who has had a turning-point experience with gin, I was hesitant. The funk is real and it is in the best way. The pine is more of an aftertaste, not my favourite but worth trying if you are looking for something a little out there.
First-Timer IPA (6%): I could not resist trying this beer – it fit my review criteria to a T. This is a classic beer. Not quite frat-boy, more Homer Simpson’s beer, or your grandpa’s accoutrement to the hockey game. Tastes nostalgic – could just be me and my grandpa.
FOMO Pineapple Sour, Dry Hopped Sour (5.2%): I am extremely biased in favour of this beer over all other beers. It is as if the hardworking brewers developed this light, tangy, slightly hoppy, fruity miracle based on a dream I had about the perfect beer. Even if you don’t love hoppy beer, this one might just be the one to change your mind.
Hop Me Darkly Dark IPA (5.5%): RARE BEER!! They seldom have this in the rotation for reasons I was not let in on. It smells like high quality dark chocolate and has a pleasantly bitter coffee taste. A bit heavy. I don’t usually enjoy darker brews, but I might make an exception for this – if only to nurse it at the end of the night.
FOMO Pineapple Sour (duh)
We end our tour with Alley Kat Brewing, Edmonton’s oldest craft brewery. In true COVID-19 fashion, due to my work schedule clashing with their business hours, a health emergency, and my deadline for this piece, this tasting was done in the comfort of my home.
The service (my boyfriend being coerced into playing the role of bartender) may not have been as enthusiastically sale-motivated, but it was exceptionally convenient and very easy on the eyes.
If your schedule allows for a visit, Alley Kat’s taproom has an artisanal appearance to it with four wooden stools at a bar made of the kind of glass blocks you see in hotel swimming pools and saunas. The rest of the space has been positioned to allow up to twenty people indoors with appropriate distancing between the tables. The outdoor space remains open dependent on weather.
What They Offer:
$16.45 Six Pack, $32.05 Variety Pack (12 cans), $6-7 Pints
Six main flavours with rotating seasonals, back alley brews, and special editions. Nine beers on tap, Growlers and Howlers to go.
What I Tried:
Aprikat Wheat Ale (5%): Light, earthy, fruity with a lingering sweetness – natural fruit sweetness, not candy sweet. The most patio-in-the-summer beer I’ve tried and ironically the same beer that my friends tried to get me to taste all those years ago.
Full Moon Pale Ale (5%): Highly acidic, reminiscent of renovating my childhood home with my family – essence of drywall and paint. (weird comparison but accurate) Lingering bitter aftertaste. I am the Simon Cowell to this AGT contestant of a beer- It’s a no from me.
Main Squeeze Grapefruit Ale (5%): Light citrus-y goodness. Runner-up to the best patio-in-the-summer beer. Slightly bitter and acidic but it’s grapefruit and to be expected.
Scona Gold Kolsch (5%): Slightly off-putting smell – in that I put my nose against the open can and received a carbonated kiss to my nostril. Named the 2015 winner of Canada’s Best Craft Beer for its “drinkability” and “approachability” as the “lager of ales”. I don’t disagree. It’s the best classic beer I’ve had. Minimal bitterness, it’s unexpectedly sweet and as crisp as dried leaves beneath feet.
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Ale (5.4%): The piece de resistance – the scarf-adorning, knit-sweater-wearing, worn-in Ugg boot treading, Starbucks PSL ordering on September 22nd kind of beer. It’s a little on the heavy side, but heavy in the way that pumpkin pie is heavy – something to indulge in without thought or guilt. Strong notes of cloves with the perfect blend of cinnamon, ginger and pumpkin to round out the barely-beer flavour. I am never disappointed with this beer, but I can never finish a pint.
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Ale – seasonally circumstantial, otherwise Aprikat
With the five breweries and twenty-five beers sampled and reviewed, I hope you find something new to enjoy – beers to drink, places to meet up with friends, or even an appreciation for this booming local business and all those that love what they do so you can too. Cheers!
Alley Kat – 9929 60 Ave NW
Sun: closed, Mon: 10-5pm, Tues, Wed: 10-7pm, Thurs, Fri: 10-8pm, Sat: 12-8pm
Blind Enthusiasm – 9570 76 Ave NW
Tues-Sat: 3-11pm, Mon: Closed
Odd Company – #105 12021 102 Ave NW
Sun–Thurs: 12-8pm, Fri/Sat: 12pm-12am
Omen – 9942 67 Ave NW
Mon-Wed: 12-5pm, Thurs-Sat: 12-8pm
S.Y.C – 11239 180 St NW
Sun: 1-4pm, Mon/Tues: closed Wed/Thurs: 3-6pm, Fri/Sat: 1-6pm