Times are tough and I’ve come to realize that besides death and taxes, the only true industry that survives and thrives is brewing. Beer has been constant throughout human history, it’s one of the oldest beverages produced dating back to at least the fifth millennium BC, according to Wikipedia. So, it’s no wonder that when the economy tanks (and doesn’t look like it’s rebounding any time soon) people turn to what is familiar and comfortable. This doesn’t mean that everyone is going to start a microbrewery but surprise, surprise…beer consumption is up these days as well. Beer is (relatively) cheap to drink and acts as a social lubricant. These days it’s less about ‘drowning your sorrows’ at a lonely bar with a glass of scotch on the rocks, and more about commiserations and ideas…uniting against a common problem and most importantly, supporting local.
This thriving ‘beer economy’ has attracted others to our city as well and that’s okay. Friendly competition is always a good thing, it keeps the brewer’s honest, provides jobs, and helps our local economy. Our local brewers are a tight group, who gather quite frequently for collaborations and cask tappings. A few them have told me that there’s room for everyone’s brews here in Calgary, though for the most part the arrival of Mill Street Brewery has created a mixed response. Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery has arrived and opened a Calgary brew pub in a prime location on 17th Avenue SE. It’s a great place to hang out with friends before a Calgary Flames game or concert because it is literally blocks from the Scotiabank Saddledome. Even though everything inside is new and shiny, the brewery building has a bit of a history and is known among Calgarians as ‘The Costigan House’. This 100+ year old mansion was home to several prominent Calgarians (the first of which were John Ryan and Ada Costigan), before being utilized as a boarding home, and finally as a series of nightclubs (ending as The Republik). The significant renovation on this historic home kept most of the exterior feature characteristics, while completely changing the interior. Along the east side, there is a ‘garage-like’ addition which houses a retail store and a brewery, boasting all Canadian made Stainless Steel vessels which are visible from the street and through the large windows on the lowest floor. The muli-level pub has seating for 225, with another 160 seats added during patio season.
Mill Street Brewery’s first location opened up in Toronto’s Distillery District in 2002 serving their Original Organic Lager which continues to be their biggest seller, making up 60% of their beer sales. Four years later they expanded the brewery to include a brew pub, then opened an Ottawa brew pub in 2012. 2016 was their biggest year yet with brew pubs opening in St. John’s and Calgary. Each location has a selection of year round core brews (Original Organic Lager, 100th Meridian Organic Amber Lager, Tankhouse Ale, West Coast Style IPA, Cobblestone Stout, and Stock Ale) in addition to seasonal brews (Lemon Tea Beer), Special Brews (like the Belgian Tripel, Betelgeuse), and location-specific brews. In Calgary that means the Chuckwagon Wheat, Basecamp Stout, Twin Tips IPA, Honest Bucker Pale Ale (among others) on a rotating/seasonal basis. While the core brews are produced in Toronto under the direction of brewmaster Joel Manning and shipped to all other locations, the Calgary microbrewery (overseen by brewmaster Bennie Dingemanse) produces roughly 30-40 kegs per week in house.
But this is a FOOD BLOG so you probably want to know about the food at Mill Street Brew Pub. I’ve been a couple times already and I’ve been quite impressed with the food. It is definitely not your regular ‘pub grub’ as it is much more refined and regional than you would expect. Executive Chef Glen Manzer also creates some of the dishes using beer brewed on location, which I always love to see. So far the stand outs for me have been the Wedge Salad, Barley Mushroom Risotto, Wild Rice Pudding (with 100th Meridian Caramel), Mushroom Bruschetta and the Nanaimo Bars!
In all, I think Mill Street Brew Pub is a welcome addition to the Calgary beer scene and will add value to 17th Avenue SW scene. Brewery tours are available daily after 4 pm, though I would call ahead to double check availability. If you want to take some swag home or fill a growler full of your favourite Mill Street Brewery beer, both are available at the retail store from noon to 9 pm daily.
Mill Street Brew Pub219 17th Avenue SW; (403) 454-6871