Alberta Rockies Beer Tour
Winter in Alberta is all about heading out to the mountains. There are very few things more beautiful than the majestic snow-capped peaks of Alberta’s Rockies. There are an abundance of recreational opportunities throughout Alberta’s Rockies, but after a long day outside, the absolute best thing to do is visit one of the many beautiful mountain towns or villages. For over a century, towns like Canmore, Banff, and Jasper have been attracting multitudes of visitors from around the world. Now, while continuing to maintain their reputation as world-class destinations for skiing and hiking, these quaint mountain locations can add “world-class beer destination” to their profiles. So why not combine two of my favourite pastimes—visiting the Rockies as well as visiting brewery tap rooms. I think this calls for another road trip!
We begin our road trip travelling west from Calgary on the good old #1—though we take a slight dip north on Highway 22 toward Cochrane and Half Hitch Brewery. Half Hitch’s brewer/founder Chris Heier makes some tasty brews, such as his Farmer’s Daughter Pale Ale. The Heier family has been busy lately with an expansion plan that has led to them opening a restaurant in Canmore—which is our next location to visit on our road trip into the mountains.
Canmore is a beautiful town at the foot of the majestic Three Sisters mountain peaks, where in addition to the new Half Hitch location, we will find Alberta brewery veteran, Grizzly Paw, and relative newcomer Canmore Brewing Company. Grizzly Paw’s Main Street brewpub (622 Main Street) has been a long time favourite of Canmore’s visitors. Recently, Grizzly Paw opened a new production facility (310 Old Canmore Road) that offers daily brewery tours as well. Canmore’s other brewery, Canmore Brewing Company (1460 Railway Avenue) opened just a couple years ago and has come up with a great lineup of tasty brews. If our timing is just right, we might be able to catch a band in the brewery as a part of their Brewhouse Concert Series, which is a perfect accompaniment to some great Rocky Mountain beer.
Travelling further west into Banff National Park, we get to the town of Banff itself. There we will find Banff Avenue Brewing Company (110 Banff Avenue). This brewery has made a name for itself as the go-to location for local, mountain-made beer and tasty food. Banff Avenue Brewing Company was actually the second brewery to be opened by the fine folks at Bearhill Brewing Company, its parent company. Their first brewery is actually going to be our next destination, but we’ll need to leave Banff and take a bit of a drive to get there.
We will continue west down the #1 Highway, and eventually veer north along the 93 toward Jasper National Park and the town of Jasper. The Bearhill folks opened up Jasper Brewing Company (624 Connaught Drive) back in 2005 as the first brewpub to be located within a Canadian National Park. It immediately became a popular spot for great local beer at a time when there weren’t many options for locally made beer in Alberta, and definitely not in Jasper. The Jasper Brewing folks have now begun brewing a delicious pilsner—their Crisp Pils—through a contract arrangement with Big Rock in Calgary. This has allowed them to produce and distribute a lot more of the beer, and it is great to see the cans showing up in many major retail locations across the province.
After spending some time in the mountains, it might be nice to head toward Edmonton through the foothills east of Jasper. We get onto Highway 16, and drive east to the town of Hinton and Folding Mountain Brewing to visit their modern-rustic restaurant and taproom. This provides us an opportunity to pair their tasty eats with both core beers, such as their Moraine West Coast IPA, and seasonals such as the Salted Caramel Pretzel Stout.
We then travel east on Highway 16 toward Edson and Apex Predator Brewing Company (53527 Range Roadd 181A, Yellowhead County). Apex Predator (formerly known as Bench Creek Brewing Company) has made a name for themselves for their IPAs (the White Raven is fantastic), but recently they have been producing a new series called the “Villainous Series”—featuring a triple IPA and a beachwood smoked rye porter amongst others.
We would then travel east to Edmonton where we would end our tour. Edmonton has also had a number of new breweries that have popped up over the past few years, with a few veteran brewers holding steady as well, but alas, this guide is sticking to the rural locations for this tour.
After a day or two visiting Edmonton’s breweries it would be time to head back to Calgary—and if one was to visit the breweries along the way it would be possible to turn the three hour drive into a couple more days of brewery touring. A route back to Calgary could go as follows:
First, Norseman Brewing in Camrose (6505 48 Avenue), then Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka (3520 67 Street). Then it’s down to Blindman Brewing (Bay F – 3413 53 Ave, Lacombe), and then to Red Deer to visit Troubled Monk (5551 45 Street), Belly Hop Brewing (8105 Edgar Industrial Drive) and Sawback Brewing Co. (7023 Johnstone Drive). After that to Sylvan Lake to visit Snake Lake Brewing Company (26 Industrial Drive), and Undercurrent Brewing (5003 Lakeshore Dr #170). We then continue toward Olds to make a stop at Olds College Brewery (4601 46 Avenue) and finally to Airdrie to visit Fitzsimmons Brewing Company (4 – 220 East Lake Blvd).
At the rate that new breweries are opening in Alberta, I’m sure if you were to travel this suggested route a second time a few months later, that there would be a number of new locations to visit. That’s fine though—always an excuse to head out on another road trip!