There’s a good chance you’ve been consuming part of Alberta your entire adult life but you didn’t know it. And if you haven’t been careful, you may have over-consumed it once or twice too.
We're talking about Alberta barley, a key ingredient in beer and one of the great export crops of the province’s vast prairies. For generations all over the world, Alberta barley has been crushed, boiled, mashed, germinated and otherwise exploited by some of the biggest beer-makers in the world.
Ironically, however, until recently, much of that barley was sent elsewhere for its tasty transformation. While craft breweries popped up all over North America in the past decade, provincial laws kept a lid on small producers of beer back in the place where the barley was grown.
Graham Sherman’s story of how he started his craft brewery will make you chuckle and want to chug a beer.
Until, that is, a group of would-be beer entrepreneurs, including Graham Sherman of Calgary’s Tool Shed Brewing, led a charge that opened the floodgates of beer in Alberta. A rule change in 2014 unleashed a torrent of pent-up demand for local beer from both drinkers and brewers. In a few short years, Alberta’s craft beer scene has exploded, with dozens of breweries opening within a matter of months all over the province. (That growth has been mirrored by craft distilleries, making great use of some of those other delicious Alberta crops.)
Almost instantly, locally brewed craft beer has become a staple on restaurant menus, patios, festivals and weekend plans. From Hell’s Basement in Medicine Hat to Edmonton’s Situation Brewing to Troubled Monk in Red Deer, craft breweries are popping up everywhere.
What’s especially gratifying for those in the industry like Sherman is the community that has built up around the craft-beer scene. From the early days, a sense of camaraderie and collaboration formed as the industry took off. Despite being in competition, brewmasters shared tips and techniques, collaborated on joint projects and patted each other’s backs as the accolades rolled in. “It’s a community,” Sherman says.