TOUR: Mill St. Brewery, Calgary
Hey Boozers, and welcome to another brewery tour! This time I go and visit a brewery that some feel they are part of the Evil empire in the world and some just don’t care. If you aren’t aware Mill St. was bought out over a year ago by Labatt’s brewing company. So already there is 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!
By Dan Crocker on Nov. 09, 2016
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. 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.
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 (btw, that is a great Root Beer!) But what about having a stout that Bennie and team made? Yup you can have that too, and if you want to have it side by side with the Toronto made Stout and see which one you like better! 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!)
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 like anyone else brewing 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, they are still craft brewers that LOVE to brew.
Being able to sit down with Bennie and Matt was an honour and a treat, you can tell they have the passion and they want to bring it to Mill St and to the beer drinker being it an average joe, to the craft beer snob. These guys have talent and they challenge anyone to sit down with them and talk with them and try their beers.
I for one 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 IN PERSON. 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, 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% and the passion fruit flavor gave it such a sweetness that there was zero bitterness to it, saying that to Bennie and Matt I felt a bit bad, however, having Bennie tell me that he agreed with me and that he has a second batch they are making that is going to be a lot different than this one, made me feel 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, that they hope will have the flavor of a Double IPA as it was still in production as the time of this press release.
Overall this was one of many beers they have had brewed for Calgary alone in the week they have been open, and the beers he wants to put out for us will keep them going for sure. For example one of the beers will be their “House” beer the Costigan Kolsch, which from the looks of things will be out in mid December.
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. Even though these are all things that will be coming soon they have already made a collaboration beer with Trolley 5 that will be a Weizenbock which will be released soon!
I do recommend going and checking them out, and for 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!
For now I’m PK saying Cheers and Stay Frosty!
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