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Hop Aboard Trolley Five

trolleyfive_artistrendition1Calgary’s famous (infamous??) Red Mile is about to get a makeover. The site of the old Melrose Cafe and Bar, a longtime Calgary mainstay, is being demolished and will be replaced by Trolley Five Brew Company (no website yet), a project of two long-time Calgary restauranteurs. Ernie Tsu (former owner of 1410 World Bier House and Classic Jacks), and PJ L’Heureux (President of CRAFT Beer Market) have teamed up to build Calgary’s latest beer location. I had a chance to speak with Tsu last week about the brewery/restaurant and its plans.

“We want to bring the brewpub culture to Calgary”, says Tsu. “Our location is one of the most iconic in the city. We want to create a community feeling in the space. Family oriented. We want to emulate what we see in cities like Portland”, where quality beer meshes with a family-friendly environment.

Tsu mentions brewpubs but his vision is much grander than that. They are installing a 15-hl brewhouse (with 4 double-sized fermenters and 5 or 6 conditioning tanks) and envision selling their beer across the province. “Our goal is to be all over Alberta”. That said, they plan on taking it slow, starting with the restaurant and building out. “It will be a baby step process. Need to make sure can keep up with volume inside the pub,” notes Tsu. And there will be a lot of volume to meet at the pub, as they are planning a four-story, 15,000 square foot restaurant, with the brewery on site.

Community is a key priority for the new enterprise. The name is designed to reflect the history of the Beltline neighbourhood where the pub will reside. Trolley Five was the line that ran through the historic neighbourhood.

While Tsu is a restauranteur, he has a long connection with beer. “My lifelong passion has been to brew beer,” he says, adding that they are hiring a professional brewmaster for the brewery.  His restaurant chain was “the first one in western Canada, along with Sugar Bowl and Buzzards, to really push Belgian beer”. In preparation for the brewery, Tsu says that he has “toured 180 breweries around world. I have interviewed every beer master, and made beer with 70% of them.”

The exact beer line up is still a work in progress but Tsu suggests a West Coast-style Pale Ale , an IPA, a White IPA, and a Nut Brown Ale will be part of the offerings. “We will have six regular offerings and two seasonals on at any time,” Tsu says. “Plus guest taps. We will offer gold medal standard beer. Craft beer that won awards. The best North American craft and my favourite Belgians.” They will have room for up to 30 taps, but will start smaller to gauge interest and market desire.

“Our goal with our beer is to be big and robust. We want to bring flavourful beer to the table”. One of the debates among the team at the moment is whether to brew a pale lager or not and how that might fit into their vision.

They also plan to create a barrel-aged sour program.”We have a bunch of barrels on the way from Wiser’s and Mission Hill”, and plan on a regular rotation of sour beer in the restaurant. In fact, they want to get a jump start on the souring.” We are in talks with a brewery to get space to do barrel-aging right away so it can be ready two months after opening”.

There are also hoping to launch the brewery with a collaboration beer with a “well-known brewmaster from Portland”. Speaking of the opening, Tsu is hoping for a November 2015 launch, but speculates January 2016 may be more realistic. “There are a lot of details to address” he observes.

While the pub will be the early first priority, including growler fills, Trolley Five does envision being available at select accounts across Alberta, such as at Craft Beer Market and other associated bars.




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