The Ultimate Southern Alberta Beer Tour
New breweries keep popping up in Alberta. It is extremely difficult to keep track of all of the new openings and the countless new beers that are becoming available. Of course, Edmonton and Calgary are seeing the lion’s share of these new openings (by the end of this summer, eight new breweries will open in Calgary alone), but not to be outdone, rural Alberta has been experiencing its own craft beer renaissance of sorts.
So what does this mean? Road Trip of course! I’d like to take you on what I like to call “The Ultimate Southern Alberta Beer Tour”.
We’ll start by heading south from Calgary down Highway 22. Commonly known as The Cowboy Trail due to the region’s rich ranching history, the route takes us past picturesque farmland and the gorgeous rolling landscapes of southern Alberta’s Foothills.
We soon come to the town of Turner Valley and to the authentic German beers of Brauerei Fahr (123 Kennedy Drive SE). Owner/Brewer Jochen Fahr, PhD, left a career as a biomedical engineer, deciding to focus on the finer details of fermentation in a beer context, and the results are evidence of his academic and professional expertise. Fahr’s beers expertly reflect traditional German characteristics, but by adding his own subtle tweaks and influences the beers are unique and very delicious. You would be hard pressed to find a more authentic Hefeweizen than his Fahr Away Hefeweizen. Brauerei Fahr’s beers have been available for a while now, but the taproom at the brewery in Turner Valley is slated to open in mid-September, which will be a welcome addition to the community.
From there we head just a few kilometers down the road to Black Diamond to visit relative newcomer, Hard Knox Brewery (445 1st Avenue NE). The ownership team swiped brewer Isaac Privett up from Knoxville Tennessee, and he has set to work producing three core beers with the odd seasonal here and there. Hard Knox has been brewing since March and their taproom opened at the beginning of summer.
We then take a quick detour off the Cowboy Trail and head east to visit High River Brewing Company (510 21st Street SE). After completing the Brewmaster & Brewery Operations Management diploma program at Olds College, founders Kevin Guichon and Emily Gusse made their dream a reality by opening High River Brewing Co. It has a cozy taproom serving four core beers and the odd seasonal. The Diving Fox IPA is a standout.
It’s now time to get back to Highway 22 and head south until we come to the Crowsnest Highway and the hamlet of Lundbreck. There we find Oldman River Brewing (101 Breckenridge Avenue). Lundbreck is located just west of Pincher Creek. Keep your eyes open because it’s a small place that could be easily missed, but you definitely won’t want to miss the beer. They say they brew “good honest beer” at Oldman River, and I would agree. The Pale Ale was honestly good for sure.
Fort MacLeod & Lethbridge
From here we head east along the Crowsnest Highway through the town of Fort MacLeod, where Stronghold Brewing Company is scheduled to open later this fall. It fits in just perfectly as a quick stop on the way to Lethbridge and the first of the two breweries located there: Theoretically Brewing Company (1263 2nd Avenue S, Lethbridge). If you’re into vinyl records and board games, then Theoretically Brewing’s taproom is your happy place. Theoretically’s beers tend to be science-themed as they like to experiment with their seasonal releases.
The second Lethbridge brewery is Coulee Brew Co. (4085 2nd Avenue S). Coulee Brew is the proud recipient of two medals at this year’s Canadian Brewing Awards. Winning gold was their Coalbanks Porter and the Red Coat Trail Ale. They are fantastic beers that pair well with a number of the delicious dishes from Taps Restaurant—their adjoining restaurant.
Weekend Getaway Options
So where do we go from here? I’d say my list makes for a fairly good day of beer tasting, and if a day trip is all you are up for, then I guarantee you a great time on this tour. However, it wouldn’t be all too difficult to continue the tour east to Medicine Hat to visit Hell’s Basement Brewery, Medicine Hat Brewing Company, and the soon-to-open Travois Ale Works. While you’re at it, from there you could make your way back to Calgary and step into Piston Broke Brewing in Brooks (set to open this fall), and then continue on through Strathmore and Chestermere visiting Origin Malting and Brewing as well as Township 24 Brewery and Bottleshop. This would definitely turn the day trip into a beer-focused weekend getaway, but wouldn’t it be a great way to see southern Alberta and enjoy some fantastic beer along the way? Cheers!