Say Hello to Calgary’s Newest Craft Brewpub

EF |

bar interior[1]

mC:t    2015.07.03    #mct

Beer drinkers rejoice! There is a new spot in town and they can’t wait to pour one of their brews for you!

 

The craft beer scene is not necessarily new to Calgary, with Big Rock and Wild Rose being around since the 80s and 90s respectively, but its popularity has certainly risen over the past decade or two. A number of bars in Calgary now boast extensive menu’s full of a variety of craft beers that would pique the interest of even the finest beer aficionados. We have even seen the rise of a number of beer halls dedicated to serving craft beer from all around the world, such as Craft Beer Market, National Beer Hall, and Bottlescrew Bill’s just to name a few. Very few of these establishments do what Last Best: Brewery and Distillery does, however, and that’s brew your beverage right before your eyes. Located at 607 11th Avenue SW in the former Brew Brothers building, Last Best Brewery is a bar/restaurant that epitomizes the craft beer movement. The owners believe that “pubs should be hubs that bring people together; a place where we can grow community, and the culture of beer, in a fun and interactive environment”.[2] Their vision is to capture the community essence that village inns and pubs of yore once embodied, and attract people with a locally made product. The beer pub model attempts to join two very different types of spaces together; with the more industrial brewing side on one hand and the comfortable dining side on the other. To understand the needs for beer production I received a tour of Last Best’s brewing facilities, and following my tour it became very apparent that the environment necessary for a brewing space is considerably different from what would be desirable for a social space. This makes for a rather interesting architectural challenge in how these two opposites can be joined together within a single establishment.

To understand the necessities for the brewing side of the equation, I sat down with brewer Keil Wilson who explained the ins and outs of the craft beer market. Wilson expresses how it’s important to keep a variety of brews on tap so that people who are new to the craft beer experience can come in and try something similar to the taste they prefer. This allows patrons to work their way into the microbrew culture without being overwhelmed by some radically different type of beer. To facilitate this, Last Best boasts no less than twenty-seven brewing tanks, with fifteen 3000L tanks dedicated to brewing new and interesting types of beers, and twelve smaller tanks for the consistently popular brews. Beer must be boiled for a number of hours and then left to ferment in the tanks for several days, or possibly weeks depending on the type of beer that is being brewed. Because of the heat involved in this phase, the boiling room is quite moist and humid, and full of a number of interesting smells due to the chemicals and ingredients that are added into the recipe here. The beer is then stored in a cold room in order for it to reach a temperature reasonable enough to be consumed. Neither the hot & humid nor the frigid cold make for very appealing environment for people to socialize in, and there therefore must be a particular degree of isolation amongst these spaces and the restaurant area.

Left: Boiler. After several hours of boiling, beer moves from here to one of the tanks where it can ferment. Right: Beer tanks and kegs connected to taps in the cold room.

 

The brewing element is such an important part of the craft beer experience, however, and Last Best values the visual significance that the brewing tanks have to the consumer. In order to preserve this relationship, the design team at RAD Architecture & Interiors enclosed the boiler and seven of the tanks behind a moisture-proof glass wall along the west side of the building. This makes it possible for patrons to sit and enjoy their beer while observing whats happening behind the glass. It turns the brew space into a pseudo-presentation space situated directly opposite the bar. The cold room is located in the basement where tanks and kegs are hooked directly into the bar taps. A number of lines run from the cold room to the bar, often with two or three of the same kind of beer connected at once so that the bar won’t need to continually switch out the kegs. I’m sure we’ve all been at a bar when one of the kegs runs out and that’s no fun for anyone, so by having multiple lines connected at once, Last Best has all but ensured they won’t run out of your favorite brew.

kegs 600

Collection of kegs containing various types of beer connected to the bar taps.

 

On the pub side of the building, much of the buildings original interior has been restored which makes for an exceptional space to enjoy dinner, experience new kinds of beer, or simply socialize in. The building’s high ceilings, exposed brick walls and bare timber framework add to the feeling of being in a brewery and enhance the connection between brewing and consuming. Tables wrap their way around the central bar and spill out onto the semi-covered patio, complete with its own fireplace and, of course, kegs. The interior space really offers a wide variety of seating possibilities depending on the atmosphere you are looking for; with adequate 2 and 4 top tables for a more intimate dining experience, as well as plenty of arrangements more conducive to larger groups.

Left: West side of the bar. Brewing tanks can be seen behind the glass wall. Right: Patio on the East side of the building.

 

The brew pub bar/restaurant model has certainly seen its popularity rise in recent years, and it is fair to say that this trend will continue. Whether you are interested in craft beers, enjoying a nice dinner, or out for a night on the town, this establishment caters to each and every group. So if you are interested in a fresh new experience in Calgary, be sure to check out Last Best: Brewery and Distillery and their impressive beer menu. They also offer tours of their brewery which is an excellent activity for beer connoisseurs and novices alike. And if beer isn’t your thing, fear not because Last Best is also the only brewery in town with its own distillery! While they haven’t began distilling anything as of yet, Last Best assured me that they are already planning a number of rums and whiskeys for the coming future.

EF

Share with us some of your favorite spots for craft beer in the comment section below! Also be sure to check out Last Best and let us know how your experience went!

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REFERENCES

[1] Interior Bar Photograph, Avenue Calgary, Date Accessed June 29, 215. http://www.avenuecalgary.com/Restaurants-Food/New-Restaurant-Last-Best-Brewery/
[2] Last Best Brewery & Distillery, Date Accessed July 2, 2015. http://www.lastbestbrewing.com/about/

 

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