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Calgary brewery number boom crown city a hop spot

Beer business is booming in Cowtown as new brewery concepts pop up more than ever before

Paddy Sorrenti is the owner of one of Calgary's newest breweries, Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery.

Jennifer Friesen / for Metro

Paddy Sorrenti is the owner of one of Calgary's newest breweries, Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery.

Calgary's sud scene is really getting a-head.

According to a City of Calgary report, in 2012 the city barely had any breweries with only five dotting the map, but as of 2017 the city's broken 20 establishments – and industry insiders say the tap is open for at least six more in 2018.

In the city's southeast, areas like Ramsay, Inglewood and the Manchester industrial area have made a name for their neck of the woods now nicknamed the barley belt for their concentration of breweries, taphouses and unique takes on serving brews.

Terry Rock, Executive Director with the Alberta Small Brewers Association, said the beer-explosion is an Alberta-wide phenomenon, but Calgary itself is definitely a hop spot.

"It does seem to be a little more concentrated in Calgary," he said.

Although it's hard to pinpoint why there may be more breweries popping up in Cowtown he attributes some of the startups to experienced brewmasters making their way through the ranks at Big Rock and then forging out on their own – that and the highly-skilled workers becoming economic downturn entrepreneurs.

In the Calgary metropolitan area, there are 33 breweries, including one that just opened in Chestermere. And Rock said the city hasn't hit a peak of saturation yet. In Portland, a comparably sized metropolitan, there are more than 105 breweries.

"We might be getting close to saturation for certain kinds of breweries, it's going to be tougher, but you can still make a go of it," Rock said. "Every new brewery at this point is still actually bringing new people, new fans in...you have a brewery you can walk to, try things, it's low risk."

Haydon Dewes, founder and editor of the Daily Beer, said a combination of government legislative changes in 2013 that removed minimum production requirements and the city's own actions have helped breweries germinate.

“The floodgates opened, and we’ve been seeing breweries pop up right across the city, and in most small towns around Calgary and right across Alberta," Dewes said. "The City of Calgary relaxed its zoning rules and the AGLC updated its liquor rules to make it easier for taprooms to operate and make money, just as the appetite for craft beer and understanding of taproom culture was exploding."

He said there are clusters and hubs developing both in the northeast and southeast of the city because of zoning and property prices.

"It means craft beer drinkers don’t have to go far from one brewery to another," Dewes said. "This is only going to get better in the coming year as more breweries open. It’s a great time to be a craft beer fan in this city.”

Paddy Sorrenti, the owner of Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery, opened one of the city's newest breweries five weeks ago. It's a serve-yourself, cafeteria-style space – oh and you can't get their beer anywhere else.

"My concept is that people have to come in, enjoy a beer, there’s no pressure to compete with the bars and the taps and shelf space," Sorrenti said. "I thought there was more room for that sort of niche market in Calgary. Get out of the traditional, massive brewpubs. Maybe there’s room for something different or more speciality."

When it comes to brewery-retail operations Sorrenti said that's where the market is wide open in Calgary, but it's the shelves at your local liquor store, or the taps at the neighbourhood pubs, where the real competition for space is brewing.

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