Jump on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway to taste test
I‘ve been talking a lot lately about how Alberta’s craft beer scene is finally taking off. We are seeing a couple new breweries open every month. One of the more exciting elements of the growth is that many of the new breweries are opening up in smaller towns around the province.
The emergence of breweries in various centres around Alberta opens up the possibility of beer road trips. A day can now be spent driving a couple hours and experiencing not only the sights of Alberta, but also some of the diversity of beer being made here. Take, for example, Highway 2, officially known as Queen Elizabeth II Highway.
Within a two and a half hour drive you can hit up to eight breweries without even setting foot in Edmonton or Calgary. Let me walk you through a possible day trip on the QEII beer trail.
First, beer trips take some advance planning. Most, but not all, of the breweries have tap rooms, which makes a stop-in visit easy. Just check out their hours to make sure they will be open. If you want a tour of the brewery as well, or your group is fairly large, be sure to call ahead to arrange a time. If the brewery doesn’t have a tap room you will also need to call ahead to see if they are willing to have you pop by.
So, let’s hop in the car and work our way south. First stop is Ponoka, just an hour out of town, and Siding 14 Brewing, who opened their doors this past summer. Located in a brand new building just off the main drag on the south end of town, Siding 14 aims to be a farm to glass operation, meaning they want to grow the ingredients for their beer. Their six core beer range from a Golden Ale to an IPA to a Stout, with lots in between. They also usually have four or five seasonals available at any one time.
Just another 20 minutes down the highway is Blindman Brewing in Lacombe. Only two years old Blindman has been pushing Alberta beer boundaries with creative styles and inventive one- offs. Their Kettle Sour series is a must try and they usually have a barrel-aged something on tap at the tap room, as well as mainstays like River Session Ale and Longshadows IPA.
Red Deer (about 20 minutes further) sports two possible stops. Something Brewing has been around for a few years but likely you have not tried their entire line-up. They have Alberta’s only Schwarzbier (a dark German lager) called Dark Side and offer a witbier, a brown ale and an IPA. On the other side of downtown sits Troubled Monk Brewing. This young brewery recently won a World Beer Cup medal for its Open Road Brown Ale and they produce accessible and well-made beer.
Your next stop will be Olds College Brewing in, of all places, Olds (about 45 minutes from Red Deer). Connected to the Brewmaster Certificate Program at the college, the brewery operates as a stand-alone operation but the students work there as part of their training. The brewery has a standard line-up of beer including a wheat ale, an amber ale, a brown ale, and an IPA, along with regular offerings designed and/or inspired by the students.
Your final stop will be in Airdrie, just another 30 minutes down the road, to Alberta’s youngest brewery, Fitzsimmons Brewing. Their grand opening is November 25, so if you wait a couple weeks you could be one of the first Albertans to try their beer.
Within five or six hours you could easily hit up a half dozen new and interesting Alberta breweries, without even venturing off of Highway 2. Just be sure to have a designated driver and a pillow for the inevitable nap on the trip back home.