Summer in Calgary is usually marked by a few key events. Snow becomes less frequent. The Flames get knocked out of the playoffs. Evenings grow warmer and people flock to patios for a cold beer. Now, every summer, the Calgary BeerFest provides an opportunity for local swill-drinkers to extend their appreciation of beer to a new level.
Erika Baltrus, project manager for BeerFest, explains that the event aims not only to help wannabe beer connoisseurs gain knowledge, but also to aid beer veterans to delve out of their comfort zone and try exciting new varieties. She notes that the popularity of beer helps the event reach a wide audience.
"We want people to take their beer knowledge to the next level," says Baltrus. "Beer is the second most popular beverage in the world- after water- and has as many levels and differences to it as wine does. At [the] Calgary BeerFest, patrons can talk to the brewmasters and try out unique ales and lagers that they normally wouldn't try."
BeerFest originally began five years ago as a smaller event, but has grown exponentially in size since then. Last year's festivities saw 10,000 thirsty patrons pack the Big Four Building over two days and Baltrus expects a similar turn-out this year. She notes that there is more to do at BeerFest than just drink, although the many and diverse beers are the biggest draw.
"There are over 200 different types of beers this year from 25 different countries," says Baltrus. "My favourite right now is Mill Street's Coffee Porter. We'll also have food samples from several great local restaurants such as Soho Bar and Grill, Ric's Grill and China Rose Restaurant."
Drinking events sometimes degenerate into drunken tomfoolery, requiring the involvement of security staff. This hasn't been a problem for BeerFest, though, as the event has been framed around enjoying the taste of beer, not imbibing massive quantities.
"We have security, staff and police on site to make sure no incidents happen," says Baltrus. "Our event is about the appreciation of beer- it is not a pre-drinking frat party. Anyone who gets out of hand is dealt with as quickly and quietly as possible."
If 200 different kinds of beer, a wide variety of food and local music groups sound like your idea of a good summer weekend, Calgary BeerFest may quench your palate. Bear in mind that space is limited, so be sure to head down early.
Some tickets will be available at the door, but they can be purchased online beforehand at calgarybeerfest.com
BeerFest takes over the Big Four Building Friday, May 29 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday May 30 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.