This past Sunday Craft Beer Market held Caskapalooza, a gathering of local brewers who have created a special cask of beer to be shared with a small group of people. Now I have had a busy, busy summer, and Sunday was meant to be a day to relax after driving from Winnipeg to Calgary the day before, but when Brewsters Brewing Company offers you two tickets to take part in Caskapalooza, you say “yes, please.”

I arrived at Craft Beer Market, accepted my tickets at the door, and took my stack of tokens. How Caskapalooza works is that you are given 12 tokens that you exchange for samples from the casks that are lined up through the bar. You are given a ‘Caskport’ that you get ticked off by the bar staff to keep track of the kegs you’ve sampled, and then you are free to wander through the bar, tasting the unique casks that have been gathered from around Calgary and surrounding areas.

Once I received my tokens, I picked up a list of the beers and tried to plan my attack.

The beers on offer were:

Dandy Brewing Company – Bright Young Things English Summer Ale with Passion Fruit

Parallel 49 – Yuzu Face

Grizzly Paw Brewing Company – Kowhai Express

Alley Kat Brewing Company – Full Grey Moon Pale Ale with Earl Grey Tea & Vanilla

Village – Chocolate Cherry Blonde

Four Winds -Passion Fruit Saison

Big Rock – Kentucky Kicker

Boiling Oar – Three C’s Imperial IPA

Minhas – Belgian White Wolf Cask Ale

Brewsters – Honestly Honest Paul IPA

Banff Ave – Head Smashed IPA

Tool Shed – Ruby Red Dry Hopped Star Creek IPA

Banded Peak – Tropical Saison

Troubled Monk – Pesky Pig Fruit Basket Dry Hopped Pale Ale

Last Best – Berliner Weisse

Ribstone Creek  – Belgian-American Rangeland IPA

Blindman – Cascadian Dark Ale with Galaxy

Yellow Dog – BC Blackberry & Pineapple Wild IPA

Central City –  Red Racer Caramel Rooibos

Wild Rose – Grapefruit & Korean Melon Gose

I did my best to get a taste of all of them but there were a couple that I didn’t get to sample. The good thing about events like this is that you get to try more beers than you would on a normal night. The bad thing about this style of event is that when you taste so many beers in such a short amount of time, it’s hard to truly appreciate the nuances in each beer.

There were a couple of beers that I hope the brewery puts into regular production. They were unique, balanced, aromatic, and I wanted more of them. On the other hand, there were plenty that I would gladly pour down the drain.

My top three casks:

Alley Kat’s Full Grey Moon Pale Ale with Earl Grey Tea & Vanilla: It’s a beer that sounds odd from the description, but is incredibly pleasing on the palate. This is a fragrant beer that uses the bergamot of Earl grey tea to balance the Centennial and Cascade hops. I honestly didn’t think this beer was going to be a winner, but I left wanting to buy a case of it. It is a great summer beer that is light and flavourful.

Ribstone Creek’s Belgian-American Rangeland IPA: For this cask Ribstone took their Rangeland Ale and combined it with a Belgian yeast strain. This is superbly balanced brew that felt new and familiar at the same time. I asked them if there were any plans of putting this into production. There are none.

Blindman’s Cascadian Dark Ale with Galaxy: This is a beer that has had limited release before Caskapalooza, something that the other casks don’t have. There is one elusive pub in Edmonton that has had this on tap, and Blindman thought they could share their work with the people of Calgary. The roasted malts in this beer offer a nice chocolate taste and a very smooth mouth feel. I am going to have to do some research to find that Edmonton pub.

In all Caskapalooza is an excellent day. It offers people a chance to try new local beers, speak with people from the brewery, and gain a new insight to the local craft beer scene. The only disappointing part of the day is not knowing when I will get another Cascadian Dark Ale. However, I now appreciate the sentiment behind “it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”

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