BREWERY TOUR: Mill Street Brewery – Calgary, AB
Dan Crocker, A.K.A. Booze Reviews, recently took part in a brewery tour of Calgary’s Mill Street Brewery. Follow Dan through Mill St.’s brewery to learn more about their brewery, taproom, and their beers!
By Dan Crocker on Nov. 09, 2016
Welcome to another brewery tour! This time I go and visit a Mill St. Brewery. Some people feel as though Mill St. is part of the evil empire in the world. If you aren’t aware, Mill Street Brewery was bought out over a year ago by Labatt Breweries of Canada. So there are some conflicts with people not liking this brewery just on that alone, however, talking with the Head Brewer, Bennie, he invites anyone to come down and see for themselves! So I did just that…
Meeting the Men Behind Mill Street’s Beer
When I got there I was greeted by Bennie who took me into the brewery. Looking around you see a lot of new equipment and the kettle and mash can be fully automated which is pretty sweet! However, I was told by Bennie that he does enjoy doing this more hands-on versus fully automated because it would take away from truly making a craft beer, and I have to agree. When you come from another brewery, as Bennie and Matt did, you bring with you your ways of brewing and you don’t want to have that taken away by any automated machinery, though it does help with the brewing time it just wouldn’t feel the same.
So which brewery did Bennie and Matt come from? They came from the one brewery that has made some waves over quite a few years in Saskatchewan by the name of Paddock Wood Brewing Co. Little note, that when I got into this gig, Paddock Wood was the second beer that I ever tried and I really enjoyed it (Barrel Full of Monkeys). So when I heard about this we started to really chat about beers and how much they grew to love brewing just by being there and how a hobby really turned into a passion for both of them.
Being able to sit down with Bennie and Matt was an honour and a treat, you can tell they have the passion for beer. These guys have talent and they encourage anyone to sit down to talk with them and try their beers.
Sampling Mill St.’s Beers
They also very graciously offered me some of the beers that were aging in the tanks and to try different styles of the beers that Bennie and company are making just for Calgary. You see when I think of this I’m very excited because that now means that we are going to be getting more beers made just for Calgary because they have a brewer that LOVES to brew different beers, they still have to sign off with the brew master, but they don’t have to go with Mill St. main location standard set of beers, they have the freedom to make their own and STILL get the beers to put on tap from the main location in Toronto. So you are getting a very big variety of beers in one location.
Want the Lemon Tea Beer from Toronto? They have that. Feel like having their Non-Alcoholic Root Beer from Toronto they have that too. But what about having a stout that Bennie and team made? Yup you can have that too! There are so many choices there that you can’t even drink all the stuff there in one sitting, even if you just order flights of beer (trust me I tried and I even had to tap out!)
I was nervous sitting down with Bennie and Matt because I’m an honest reviewer, and they showed me all these beers they have for the Calgary market, including a Double IPA that they personally weren’t happy with and told me to give my thoughts to them. This Double IPA wasn’t an IPA at all. Something happened while they brewed their first batch and it lost the characteristics of a Double IPA… even an IPA. With that being said, it was still really good, and for someone who never had an IPA, they would probably enjoy this beer, it came in at 8.2% but it drank like a 4.5%. The passion fruit flavor gave it such a sweetness that there was zero bitterness to it. I felt slightly bad giving my thoughts to Bennie and Matt but once Bennie said agreed with me, I felt better. They knew something went wrong but they still put it on tap, and they know there is always room for improvement and experimenting is part of the job when it comes to brewing. When they put it on tap the staff and public LOVED the beer, including me! It really is a great beer, however when it’s gone, it’s gone and the new version will be on tap after.
Mill Street Owned by Labatt
Now, what about this whole “but it is run by a macro brewery…”? IF that was the case, they would not be giving them the freedom to brew as much as they want. Yes, it is OWNED by a macro, and yes, there are debates that are for and against it, and YES I even jumped on the whole “OMG THEY ARE BUYING OUT THE CRAFT BREWERIES” bandwagon. I did though take a step back and took off my foil hat for a bit.. You look at the brew masters and head brewers that are there, and they don’t have their hands tied, they are still making their own beer, creating beers that a craft beer lover enjoys. They aren’t having a mass production factory like they do at Labatts where it is fully automated and they are pumping out all these cheap macro beers. Mill Street Brewery is still a craft brewery.
Final Thoughts on Mill Street Brewery in Calgary, Alberta
How was the visit overall? Well it is a GREAT location, wonderful building, many floors of space, friendly staff and just an amazing feeling over all and they have gotten off to a great start of being part of the Calgary craft beer scene. Yes, I’m grouping them in with that because they brew their own micro beers on top of the ones that they serve from the main brewery in Ontario. I personally, am looking forward to going back and seeing what they have made throughout the upcoming seasons, there are talks of an Imperial Stout and maybe even some limited release barrel aged beers too.
I do recommend going and checking out Mill Street Brewery. To the people out there that won’t because they are “bought out by the big guys”, go in and talk to Bennie and Matt and see what they are like, while trying Bennie’s Stout that he made at the brewery! It is what a stout is supposed to taste like, full bodied, full of flavor of the roast malts and coffee back notes, which I could drink all day, and shows the passion that they have to bring you great quality beers!
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