I like going to Kensington Wine Market, Oak & Vine, Lacombe Park Spirits, 5 Vines, and other stores of that nature for my beer shopping. By “stores of that nature” I’m referring to bottle shops that don’t remind me of big box hardware, electronics, and appliance stores. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking the big box-like purveyors of fine libations. They’re convenient, they’re ubiquitous, and sometimes you can get a pretty good deal. There’s even a couple near me that have decent staff that care about the stock they sell and the customers they sell it to. And therein lies the crux of the matter …

When I go in to one of the shops I mentioned in the first line of this post, it’s a completely different experience than when I walk into one of their big box competitors. What ought to be a quick in and out to grab a six-pack can easily turn into thirty minutes or more of chatting about the various beers in the store, new arrivals, relative merits of one brewery over another, opinions of what I tasted the week before, and talking about the local (Calgary) craft beer scene. Hell, I’ve even had beer mongers tell other customers in the store to ask my opinion about craft beer (not that I know much beyond what tastes good to me).

When I go in to one of the big box stores it seems just a little, I don’t know, clinical and antiseptic. Yes, I can still get craft beer, but what I don’t typically get is that interaction with someone that shares my fondness for craft beer. I don’t have the interaction with someone that actually gets the whole community and collaboration that is intrinsic to craft beer culture. I can get a six-pack or bomber of good, local IPA pretty much anywhere. But if I want to explore and chat, I will go out of my way to visit the likes of:

Kensington Wine MarketShawn knows his stuff and is really great to chat with

Oak & Vine – Really nice guy and lady I chatted with on my visit (Inglewood location) a few weeks ago

5 Vines – Sorry I didn’t get your name, Bearded Dude, but thanks for helping me out.

Lacombe Park Spirits – my go to place for craft beer in St. Albert

I’d encourage anyone that’s into craft beer, especially if you’re just getting into it, to take the time to visit the smaller, independent retailers. The attention to detail and level of service is really hard to beat. It’s worth the extra effort.

If there are other retailers that you think I should visit, please let me know via the comments.

Calgary Tap Room Tour 2017

Since I’ve really become fond of and enamoured of the craft beer scene here in Alberta, I’ve decided to do what I can to support it. I joined CAMRA, and will consider being elected to the Executive in the Spring (I think). I’ve also decided that I am going to visit every taproom and brewpub in Calgary this year, and may even include surrounding areas like Cochrane, Airdrie, Bragg Creek, etc. I will also likely be able to visit a few out-of-Calgary places due to my travels. So far I’ve managed to get visits in to Highline Brewing and Cold Garden. I got excited because I thought I could add a few more to my list, but it turns out those visits were in late 2016. Oh well, I guess I’ll make the sacrifice and visit again.

I’ve determined that the only fair way, in my mind, to rank the various establishments, is based on how good their IPA is. There are a lot of good IPA’s brewed in this city and province, so I am really looking forward to this journey / challenge. However, I can’t imagine that, based on a scaled ranking, there will be a huge gap between first and thirty-eighth.

By the way, if you’re not looking to pick up a variety of beers, purchasing direct from the brewery is a pretty good option.

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