Brew Brothers Brewing Co.

Here in Ralph’s World, we like to gripe about unemployed Maritimers migrating to our province. But little do we know that this influx brings fringe benefits. In fact, if you’ve ever tried one of the four beers crafted by local microbrewery Brew Brothers, you know just how tasty such spinoffs can be.

This story begins way back in Newfoundland, where five long-time friendsæCal Cran, Beverly Guthrie, Mark Larsen, Brad LeDrew and Win Nieblerægathered weekly to sample each other’s home brew. After moving west to find work, they founded Brew Brothers in 1995 with their four favourite creations. A few years later, however, Brad LeDrew bought out his four "brothers," raised a million dollars in investments and took the company to the next level.

Talk about the Alberta Advantage.

While a million dollars may sound like it could buy a lot of beer, the company is still very tiny. So small in fact, that while the company is Calgary-based, the beer is actually brewed by contract out in Kamloops. According to Calgary Brew Brother’s rep Brian Abra, the water is softer there, resulting in a higher quality beer.

And quality is the main focus of Brew Brothers. Like many other microbrews, their product is unpastureized. There’s nothing but the necessary ingredients in their bottles.

The bottles themselves are notable. The beer names and labels play up Alberta’s heritageæmaybe they figured labels chronicling Newfoundland’s history just wouldn’t sell here. But the pint-sized bottles themselves are much more interesting than pictures of wheat. The bottles also feature surprisingly fun to open swing-top caps. Fully resealable, one opens them by gripping the neck and pushing with both thumbs. Fun when sober, fantastic when not, it’s like champagne for beer fans.

While the company and the bottles are both intriguing, it’s the beer itself that’s the most important. Small companies are built on the reputation of their product, so not surprisingly, Brew Brothers make good beer. While they mainly produce four beers, they also have a Garlic Pilsner, featuring a whole clove of garlic and a garlicky waft when opened. For some reason or another, the Brew Brothers have decided to focus on the other four instead.

Brew Brothers’ most popular beer is the light Tumblewheat, which tastes heavily like wheat. If you ever wondered what the prairies would taste like liquified, this is it. Though often compared to Big Rock’s Grasshopper, as the two appear alike, the taste is quite different. While the Tumblewheat is a pilsenerænot an ale, like Grass-hopperæboth handle lemon well. Some people in our beer tasting crew described it as a "good Grass- hopper"æand this is coming from Big Rock fans.

The Ambush Ale is next up. Excessively flavourful, this dark, india pale ale offers a mouthful of hoppy goodness. There’s no single dominant flavour, just a dense variety of tastes for beer geeks to mull over as they drown their sorrows.

Their Prairie Steamer, an amber cream ale, is a sweeter version of Kilkenny, so long as you can get it on tap. From the bottle it leaves a sharp, bitter taste behind. This is apparently because they haven’t figured out how to bottle nitrogen yet, and the smaller bubbles of that gas are smoother than the bubbles of the carbon dioxide normally found in bottles. Either way, those who want to avoid bitter beer face should stick to the draught version.

While the Black Pilsner may look as ominous as a Guiness, it’s only in appearance. Very light bodied for a dark beer, its looks are happily deceiving. With a strikingly smoky taste, the Black Pilsner is the most unique of the Brew Brothers’ beers. While the others taste like solid variations of previously tried beers, Black Pilsner has a much more distinctive taste.

And while things may not be perfect here in Ralph’s World, we can always appreciate a good beer.

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