A couple weeks back, word leaked out of a new brewery opening in Calgary. Tool Shed Brewing is hoping to launch this summer. After hearing about its impending launch, I decided to get in touch with the owners. A couple of days ago I had a phone call with Graham Sherman, who along with Jeff Orr are the founding partners, who gave me the run down on their plans and vision for their beer.
Graham and Jeff are IT guys by day (at least for now). When over in Afghanistan working on a security project, they got talking about what to do when they arrived back home, and the idea of a brewery bubbled to the surface. Upon their return home they started homebrewing like mad fiends – brewing multiple times a week – and giving themselves a crash course in the art and science of brewing. Their process was helped out by Graham’s brother, who is brewmaster at Four Pines Brewpub in Australia. At the same time they started beating the bushes in Calgary for start-up investments.
Graham is well-aware of the challenges of opening a brewery in Alberta. “There are not a lot of people who have gone after it because of the minimum production levels”, he says, acknowledging that has made their job harder. But he prefers to see it as an opportunity. “There is more room to grow here”.
The name Tool Shed comes from the location of their 10-gallon homebrew system, which is housed in the tool shed in Graham’s backyard.
They are currently working with DME Brewing Services to build a 25 hectolitre brewhouse and have already purchased a canning line (more on that in a moment). For the time being, however, they have contracted with Dead Frog Brewery in B.C. to produce their beer, which they intend to sell across Alberta. They anticipate the Calgary brewery is 8-months to a year away.
The first beer should be available in July. Jeff just quit his day job and has traveled out to Aldergrove to oversee production. They plan on releasing three beer this summer:
- Star Cheek IPA, which Graham describes as a heavily hopped “game changer IPA” for Alberta.
- Red Rage Ale, a “malty, dark” red ale.
- People Skills Cream Ale. Graham says they fancy the idea of people saying “Get that man a pint of people skills!”.
The beer will be sold in kegs and six-packs of cans (they shipped their canning line to Dead Frog, who does not have one). When asked why the decision to package in cans, Graham replies “There is a nostalgia to bottles, but the movement to cans is beginning to outweigh that nostalgia. Light and oxygen are bad for beer. Bottles let in both. Cans don’t change the flavour.”
Graham sees their upstart operation as part of the effort to build a stronger beer culture in Alberta. Graham has been to great beer locations and observes that “Alberta just doesn’t have that culture yet”. Graham is hoping to build some beer critical mass in Calgary. Their brewery will be built a few blocks north of the Big Rock brewery, and a block away from the new Wild Rose brewery under construction. Brewsters is also nearby. Graham is hoping to create a beer neighbourhood, with “walking brewery tours” of the area.
That is still some ways off, as Graham and Jeff have a lot of work ahead of them just to get their fledgling operation off the ground. In the meantime, Albertans can try a couple of new, almost-locally made beer this summer.