There is something new brewing in Calgary, or at least there will be soon. Tool Shed Brewing is a new operation trying to break into the Alberta craft beer market. Tool Shed is basically Graham Sherman and Jeff Orr, two IT guys from Calgary who were doing security work in Afghanistan when they came up with the idea of opening a brewery. Upon their return, they started homebrewing like crazy to build their chops and test drive potential recipes. They also pooled the money they made working in a war zone to get Tool Shed up and running.
For now, Tool Shed is a virtual brewery, meaning they contract to Dead Frog in British Columbia to brew their beer and then ship it back to Alberta for sale. The plan is to open a physical brewery in Calgary in the next year or so, meaning the contract brewing stint is temporary.
For the moment, Tool Shed has three beer, all packaged in cans. There’s a blonde ale called People Skills, Star Cheek is the assertive IPA, and then there is an amber known as Red Rage Ale
I could have reviewed any of the three, but decided to write up my experience with Red Rage, given that is a flavourful yet accessible beer. It is light reddish-brown with copper highlights that build a voluminous, tight, off-white head. It actually pours a bit too aggressively, producing an excessively big head requiring some time to let it calm down.
The aroma is dominated by toasted grain, light toffee and a touch of breadiness. There is also some roastiness, which is unexpected in a beer so light in colour. When you take a sip, the first impression is toasty sweetness, a touch of burnt caramel and a dried fruit note of date and raisin. In the middle a rounded hop character appears to eat away at the sweetness, but leaves the burnt caramel and toast behind. There is also a roast undercurrent which continues to surprise. The finish is dry with a noted piney, sharp hop taste.
I find this an interesting interpretation of a red ale. It is sharper and drier, plus more roasty and hoppier than most versions. Those looking for Kilkenny or Yukon Red will be disappointed. Their approach is more assertive up front and lacking the gentle subtlety found in many examples. Personally, I would prefer the flavours to blend more, creating a more holistic experience. I really like the roast touch it offers, but wonder if combining both roast and hop is overkill.
Tool Shed is clearly a new brewery still developing its approach, but definitely a promising start. I am looking forward to the product made at the impending Calgary brewery.
Red Rage Ale
Tool Shed Brewing,
Calgary, AB /Aldergrove, BC
$14.20 for six pack
Jason Foster is the creator of onbeer.org, a website devoted to news and views on beer from the prairies and beyond.