The story behind Alberta's craft beer boom. An insider’s look that brings together tasting notes, social history, politics, and science.
When Alberta eliminated its laws around mandatory minimum brewing capacity in 2013, the industry suddenly opened to the possibility of small-batch craft breweries. From roughly a dozen in operation before deregulation, there are now more than a hundred today, with new ones bubbling up each month. It’s an inspiring story, one that writer Scott Messenger tells in impressive scope.
At a time when Alberta was still recovering from the plunge in oil prices in 2008, deregulation represented a path to economic diversification. Messenger takes readers on the road with him to investigate artifacts left behind by Alberta brewers dating to the late-1800s, to farms responsible for the province’s unrivalled malt, and into the brewhouses and backstories of some of Canada’s best new beer makers. It’s an insider’s look at history in the making.
With humour, straight-talking tasting notes, and a willingness to challenge stereotypes, Messenger introduces us to key players in the industry. We meet Graham Sherman of Tool Shed Brewing, who helped spearhead the change in legislation; Greg Zeschuk, whose Belgian-inspired brewery is poised to put Alberta beer on the global map; the sisters behind Northern Girls Hopyard, Alberta’s first hop farm; and many more.
Messenger winds up his narrative with a good, old-fashioned pub crawl, a fitting finale for the story of an industry that is, at its heart, about having fun with friends. Bringing together social history, politics, and science, Tapping the West is engaging and balanced—not unlike the perfect you-know-what.
Scott Messenger’s blog One Year of Alberta Beer was featured on CBC radio, and led to a deeper examination of the steadily booming craft beer industry in Alberta. His writing on a variety of subjects has appeared in the Guardian, Eighteen Bridges, Canadian Geographic, Avenue and more. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and two daughters.