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An Enthusiastic Blind First Tasting

Most Alberta beer fans already know that Biera by Blind Enthusiasm started its soft launch this past weekend – Thursday to be specific. Biera is Blind Enthusiasm’s brewpub located at the Market at Ritchie. The spontaneous fermentation brewery is still quite a distance away (the building is still under construction a couple blocks over from the brewpub).

Given that this has been the single most anticipated opening in the Alberta beer scene in quite some time I knew I had to find a way to get over there. Thursday was out as other plans took precedent. But Friday – right after my CBC column (post coming on the soon, I hope) – I dropped by for a quick visit and a sample of the beer (they offer 250ml and 500 ml pours). As it works out, I also ended up there on Saturday night, too, for dinner with a couple friends (their suggestion, not mine!). Two out of the first three nights, not so bad!

Both nights the space was hopping. I was told there were 90 minute wait lists on Thursday! It is a very open space with the gorgeous copper brewhouse anchoring the room. Lots of windows and sunlight contrasts the dark wood and metal. A small patio offers a bit of fresh air. The whole market space is quite remarkable. I really appreciate the fluid boundaries between the four spaces (the pub, the butcher, the coffee shop and the bike shop – I think there is a children’s nursery rhyme in there somewhere), as much as AGLC rules allow. It feels like a community hub, which I think was the plan.

They are doing a very conservative opening. Limited days (just the weekend for now), limited hours (4-11) and only three beer to start (they hope to have 8-10 when fully up and running). They are trying to feel out how much beer they will sell on a given day so that they can ensure a reliable supply. God forbid a brewpub run out of beer!

The first thing I noted is that they are embracing the realities of offering up first incarnations of their beer. They have refused to release the names of the beer, offer a three letter code followed by 1.0 (signifying the first version). I am told their plan is to tweak the recipes until they are happy, releasing each as subsequent versions (2.0, 3.0, etc.) until they hit where they want to be. At that point they will release the official name of the beer.

So, let’s get to the beer. They are not formally identifying the styles of the beer, but to be honest it isn’t too hard to work out what they are going for. ZES 1.0 is a soft, light-bodied hefeweizen. DEB 1.0 is an English-style bitter, likely strong enough to be an ESB. ESM 1.0 is the hardest one to pin down, offering  a fruity, west-coast IPA-ish beer, but without the assertive bitterness that can be associated with that style. It is a curious beer.

I won’t offer a full-length review of each of the beer, as I have a longstanding policy of providing some space for new breweries to tweak their recipes. I can easily say a couple of things, however. The beer are well made, professional and offer flavours that keep the drinker interested through the glass. I can see where they are going with each beer and each has a lovely accent feature. The ZES is soft with the banana and clove in a nice balance. The DEB has a classic ESB malt character that I always appreciate. The ESM is flirty and elusive – the hops are there but try to play mind games with you. Kind of fun.

Plus can I say that they have a 500ml marker on their pint glasses? I love that. More breweries need to be that open.

As for the food (remember, I am not a food reviewer), some of the menu offerings were a bit odd for my non-hipster palate, but everything I tried was beautifully presented and quite delicious. Of note for beer fans, they have what they call Malt Crunch, which is a kind of barley popcorn. They take barley malt (from the taste my guess is Maris Otter) and pop it (sorta) and add some spices for a flavour accent. They are crunchy but quite yummy, at least for me as someone who is used to chewing on malted barley. Not sure how non-beer people will react to the texture.

Biera will be open again next couple Thursdays to Saturdays and after that they will establish more regular hours. No official word on the grand opening.

And for those of you itching to pop by, be patient. There will be enough beer for all of us. They aren’t going anywhere after all.

 

 

 

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