Sunday, April 26, 2015


After sitting around my apartment for a couple months straight {thanks to a broken ankle}, I'm anxious to get out and enjoy Edmonton. At exactly the right time, Jason Foster posted about the 'Brew-Curious' tour, put on by the Edmonton City as Museum Project. My boss and I picked up a couple tickets and boarded an ETS bus last Saturday for a tour of Edmonton's beer history.

It was great to see tour tickets sold out for two full buses, and the group of people on the tour {or in our earlier group, at least} seemed to be interestingly split between those who may be involved in the Edmonton Heritage Council or City history, and those, like us, who arrived via Edmonton's present beer culture. The group boarded the bus at Brewsters, or to be more exact, at the #1988 bus stop. After introductions from Meredith {our chaperone, if you will} and Terry {our historian and tour guide} we set off towards our first stop at Yellowhead Brewing.

I think it's pretty easy to find Yellowhead around town, but it was interesting to find out exactly how their lager {now the only one in Edmonton} is made. A combination of malt from Alberta, Germany and the Czech Republic go into their beer, along with hops, water and yeast. From start to finish, a batch of their lager takes eight weeks to produce. Also notable, is that 'Yellowhead' has been the name of at least one other brewery, and several beers, in Edmonton's past.

From there we circled back to the 'Molson' site... After the tour, I hesitate to call it that. The German-style castle was designed by Bernard Barthel at the direction of Edmonton Brewing & Malting Co. owner, William Henry Sheppard {also the mayor of Strathcona at the time}. From 1913-1927, he produced, amongst other brews, Yellowhead Beer, before selling the company and building to Sick's Brewing from Lethbridge. In 1958 Molson took over the site, eventually closing down their operation in 2007. And well, we know the rest.

Next up, Alley Kat. I love visiting the brewery, and this time was no different; They are always generous and eager to share their brews and love of beer {as a side note, this year's summer beer, the Lemon Hefeweizen, is delicious}. One of the highlights of the tour promised to be a sample of a beer made just for us, a stout after a British recipe from the 1800s that they aptly named 'Girder Bender'.

The beer was brewed by Neil Herbst {Alley Kat co-owner}, Jason Foster {} and Shane Groendahl {EBGA}, so needless to say it was delicious. I believe they said they made the malt themselves at home, which means, much to our dismay, it's too labour intensive to produce again.

Our next stop was the City Archives! It's not open to the public, so this was a pretty incredible chance to view some Edmonton specific artifacts up close. Beer related items from Edmonton were pulled to share, then we were taken on a short tour of the upstairs portion of the archives, where this sign was pulled out:

The second last stop before heading back to Brewster's was the original location of the Edmonton Brewing & Malting Co. The building was in use until Sheppard decided to build the castle in Oliver. After all, it was expensive to hall beer up the steep river valley bank on a FUNICULAR.

Once we arrived at Brewster's, the assistant brewer led us on a tour of their space where they brew the raspberry and blueberry ales, and the rotational tap {currently a Hefeweizen for the summer}, then we sat down for a pint and chat with our fellow tour goers before heading out.

A pretty amazing day of discovery. It's not surprising that we have a rich brewing history in Edmonton just below the surface. While they might do this one again, our tour guide was pretty clear that they can't really get into beer tours alone. So if anyone picks up something similar, please let me know!