By Troy Hasselman, April 5 2019 —
This May, the Calgary International Beerfest will return for its 15th year, showcasing beers from both local and international breweries. The festival has grown into one of the biggest in the world and will include over 200 breweries from over 40 countries and over 30 local restaurants offering 700 different beers.
The festival includes multiple events to complement the massive variety of beers showcased, such as the crowdsourced ‘Ctrl-Alt-D’Wheat’ Hefeweizen beer, brewed by the team at the Olds College Brewmaster Program as part of the #BeTheBrewer contest.
“We’ve partnered with Brightside this year for the #BeTheBrewer contest. This is it’s fifth year and it gets bigger every year,” says Calgary International Beerfest president Bill Robinson. “We crowdsource the name, style and label design of a beer and people vote on it. The winners get to come and help brew the beer and the first time people try it is at Beerfest.”
Despite the name, Beerfest will also include other types of alcohol, like spirits, to highlight the growing craft distillery industry.
“Because there’s so many craft distilleries opening up and it’s such a close pairing with craft breweries, we’re opening up a distillery district that is getting bigger every year,” Robinson says. “You’ll be able to try all different kinds of spirits and mixology.”
Beerfest has grown along with the province’s craft beer industry, which has entered into a boom period in the last few years. Robinson notes that the growth is highlighted by the representation of local breweries alongside international beers.
“When we started, there were six total breweries in the entire province and even five years ago there were 13 breweries. There are now 138 breweries in Alberta. At the time it made sense to call it the Calgary International Beerfest because the beer was widely coming from somewhere else and now the local breweries have more than caught up,” Robinson says. “By having so many breweries from elsewhere bring their beers, it really showcases how great the Alberta breweries are. There’s some amazing breweries in the world and we’re happy to have them, but I think that shows that breweries in Alberta can play on the international stage really easily.”
The festival’s growth has given it appeal beyond diehard craft beer fans with casual beer drinkers across a wide age range also attending the festival.
“Some people will come in with distinct ideas about what breweries they wanna try while others will wander,” Robinson says. “Different people come here for different reasons. Our beer-geek community will come here and they’ll have very specific ideas about where they wanna go and what they wanna see. A good chunk of people there just like beer, they might find a new favourite and they like trying new stuff and it’s about community. We have people from 18-year-olds to a 92-year-old that shows up every year with his granddaughter.”
Along with beer, food from restaurants across the city will be showcased, highlighting the simultaneous growth of our city’s restaurant scene with its craft beer scene.
“When we talk about the evolution of beer and spirits in the province, we sometimes forget that the evolution of the foods that go with them have really grown as well. There are the places that people expect like Craft, National and Pig & Duke,” Robinson says. “But there’s other places that are coming in and the quality of food that is now paired with beer is higher. There’s still kind of a stigma in the sense that people think, ‘Oh beer, it must be wings and crappy pizza.’ A lot of people think of wine when they’re doing food pairings, and those are great, but beer has a wider range of flavours. You can do a lot more with your food pairings and cooking with beer than you can do with wine.”
Local music will also be showcased at Beerfest across two stages. The Barley Belt Stage will run live music throughout the festival. A new stage will be introduced this year in partnership with Sled Island, presenting local acts Sunglaciers, Lashes, Aruba and B Les & The Suede.
“We’ve had a love for Sled Island for years and the Beerfest staff likes to go to their festival. When we had a chance to meet with them, we found that a lot of our values aligned,” Robinson says. “We have a similar interest in community and all the things that make a festival like theirs great. We’re really excited to work with them, they’re an amazing group and they really work hard to promote the best of what we have going on.”
The Calgary International Beerfest will take place on May 3 from 3–10 p.m. and May 4 from 2–10 p.m. at the BMO Centre at Stampede Park. More information on the festival and tickets can be found through their website.