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Ol’ Beautiful Aiming to Making Attractive Beer

Another new Calgary brewery quietly slipped onto store shelves and bar taps over the summer (they officially launched in April). Ol’ Beautiful Brewing (the website isn’t much yet, but you know) is the brainchild of Chris Carroll and Devon Sidwell. The longtime friends have been scheming for a couple of years about opening a brewery.

As Carroll says in my recent visit with him, the two just felt like it was the right thing to do. “We have similar backgrounds and interests in traveling, music and the outdoors, we get along really well”. They not only shared pastimes but an entrepreneurial spirit and craft beer. “I spend a few years in Colorado going to school, which is where my spark for the craft brewing industry started. I studied marketing and came back to Canada to become an architectural technologist, but I new lost the passion for craft beer”. As for Sidwell, he studied philosophy in university, “did the wandering nomad life” and after ran a couple of businesses in the safety auditing sector. “Over much biking and beer drinking Devon and I schemed on this thing”.

They watched what was happening in Calgary in recent years and took notice. They realized they needed to get going on their dream sooner rather than later. “We chatted a lot with Dan [Allard] at Cold Garden when he was starting up, getting the lay of the land. He is a key mentor for us. He took a bit of that intimidation factor out of it. Plus we got first hand experience helping him out”, says Carroll.

That relationship went so well Ol’ Beautiful is currently contract brewing out of Cold Garden. They installed their own 30-hl tank and brew during Cold Garden’s down time. “We brew the night shift, We go in after and Zoei will brew 11 hours through the night. It is a quad batch to fill the fermenter up”. The Zoei he mentions is Zoei Thibault, a recent Olds College graduate and someone who totally fits into Carroll and Sidwell’s vibe. Carroll says Thibault grew up in Kaslo and so shares their outdoor passions. “Zoei is technical and well-trained”.

The plan is to have their own space. “Our main ideal is to have a space to share the craft beer experience, share in the culture”, says Carroll. “The focus is on having an approachable, pedestrian-oriented space. That is why we haven’t rushed on space. We are waiting for the best spot”. Carroll is flexible on the timeline but hopes it will be in the next year or so. Their plan is to install a 15 Hl brewhouse and aim to do Alberta distribution, although Calgary will be their main focus.

For the time being they are happy contracting with Cold Garden, who are becoming something of a new brewery incubator as they also host Outcast Brewing. “The contract phase is great”, says Carroll. “We have gained nice accounts and have been able to brew beer that fits the seaons”.

Pegasus Pale Ale was their first beer and continues to be their flagship. They followed up with  Gatekeeper Belgian Chocolate Stout, Siren Song Wheat Ale and Hair of the Dog Country Ale, an English Bitter intended as a fall one-off. Going forward they hope to have four to six mainstay beer with one-offs and seasonals. “It will include Pegasus for sure and the Wheat most likely”, opines Carroll. “The buzz around the Belgian Stout has been huge, so we may want to keep that around. From there we just want to play with beer and beer styles. We want to hit a wide range of everything, and want to suppo0rt Zoe in her in exploration of beer”.

Overall their vision for the beer is a mix of traditional and new. “We want to take something done for a long time and put our own spin on it”, Carroll says. “It will be our spin on a classic trade in a modern era of beer production and pushing the limits of what beer can be”.

The name was chosen for similar reasons. “Ol’ Beautiful to us is our homage to taking back the production of something we are passionate about and not relying on big boys to do it for you”, explains Carroll. “We have a mutual admiration for all things classic – the old way of doing things. In a way the name is a tribute to maker movement. We are all very inspired by the contrast of old design, the way things used to be done and new approaches”.

I ask all new breweries where they think they will be in five years. Carroll’s answer is interesting. “We definitely want to be part of the social fabric of Calgary. One of our main goals is to be a destination spot, a place where people can  experience beer and culture in Calgary. Our hope is when people come from other cities and ask who they should check out we want to be on the top of the list”.

But for now it is a batch at a time brewed during the graveyard shift. Keep an eye out for Ol’ Beautiful. You may find yourself quite attracted to what they have to offer.

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