Launch Slideshow
BREWSTER’S EAU CLAIRE: The old Hard Rock Café refurbished. Do you remember the giant guitar that used to be there? Hello John Deere.
Michael Leung/The Gauntlet

As fresh as it gets

Calgary brew pubs

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From Columbia to Big Rock, the West sports some of the best breweries in the country.

Beers like Kokanee, Grasshopper and Traditional have turned our beer-drinking nation on its ear in the past decade but there are a couple of little-known secrets in the brewing game. And they're both right here in Cowtown.

Innocuous brew pubs are a localized phenomenon, but nonetheless serve as some of the best places to find a good wobbly pop. Brewster's Brewing Company and Wildwood Grill and Brewery are Calgary's answer to home brewers' questions. With a large variety of ales, lagers and pilseners, Brewster's and Wildwood are the only places in town that can proudly say their beer is their own.

In addition to supporting local vendors, the avid beer drinker will be happy to hear that because the brewery is on-site, no preservatives are added. Why should you care about that? Well, as our tour guide at the Eau Claire Brewster's informs us, preservatives = hangover.

"A lot of people tell me 'I can't drink draft because it kills me the next day,'" he says. "But with the freshness of our beer you can drink draft all you want and not worry about the consequences." He doesn't guarantee you won't be praying to the porcelain god because if you drink eight beers you can pretty much expect to feel like you've been hit by a Mack truck the next day. In that situation, you can't blame the beer.

In addition to the fresh beers, both places offer unique ambiences. Wildwood is perhaps the higher scale of the two, offering fine dining mixed with a crowded bar in the basement. But, the crowd may not be what the average college Joe may be looking for. With the upscale front comes the "higher-class" clientele. The restaurant caters to the business exec while the packed bar is a showcase of middle management thirtysomethings. The beers are something every connoisseur must sample but the atmosphere is a little too stuffy to really enjoy the experience.

For guaranteed good times with good friends, Brewster's is your best bet. With locations at Crowfoot Crossing, 11 Avenue SW and Eau Claire--where the beer is brewed for all Calgary Brewster's--you can talk to friends at a reasonable volume, enjoy pleasant service all the while sipping on some of the finest beers known to man. The selection is as varied as the bars themselves. You can enjoy the delicious Downtown Daddy's Lager (a must for Canadian drinkers) at the spacious, two level Eau Claire locale or cruise over to 11th for a pint of the astounding Flying Frog (a blissful amber ale). Northwest dwellers may be upset to hear the Crowfoot store will be closed for three weeks for renovations, but when it re-opens you can bet the Hammerhead will flow as free as your spirits. Both are a beast unto their own, but while differences abound the similarity between Calgary's only brew pubs is what will undoubtedly impress--great beer.