How New Laws & Local Flavor Turned Calgary Into A Microbrewery Hotspot

Editorial Director, Music


Even a few hours in, it’s immediately clear who the heart and soul of beer in Calgary, Canada is. Long before I set foot in his Toolshed Brewing Company compound — and it really is a compound — Graham Sherman’s name had already come up a handful of times. Usually with a grin. The man himself is more of the same, all smiles and mischievously glinting eyes as he strides out of the back of his warehouse and up to the building’s cozy front room bar.

Sherman is something of a local legend, a legacy he relishes and actively cultivates — regaling our group of visiting journalists with stories from the days leading up to the legislative change in Calgary that allowed microbreweries to exist, paired with as many tales as he’s legally allowed to divulge from his special opps military past. Most importantly, he offers copious tasting notes on all his brews, and those of every other joint in town.

I didn’t intend to become an expert on Canadian beer when I left sunny California for a week in late June, but as I traveled through Calgary, it became clear that something unique was happening in the brewing culture. The whole ecosystem was just four years old and growing quickly. I loved the funky sour and wildly innovative beer at the nano-brewery, The Dandy Brewing Company; I felt at home in the relaxed vibe of our first stop, Village Brewery; and the stunning, salty cheese that accompanied our brews at the Annex Ale Project blew my mind. Still, it was Toolshed that left the biggest impression when it comes to just what beer in Calgary stands for. Each sip was crisp and well-executed, with interesting surprises to uncover.

Isn’t that what you want on a beer odyssey: To be surprised?

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