On a Saturday back in November, Mack and I met up with Thom at Amber’s Brewing Company for a tour. Thom works for Liquor Depot, and in part because of a recent deal between the company and local brewers, Liquor Depot staff were invited out for a friends and family day.
Mack and I are not as familiar with Amber’s as we are with the other two local brewing companies, but seeing as we had already made the rounds at both Alley Kat and Yellowhead, we knew it was only a matter of time before we crossed Amber’s off our list too.
We have tried Amber’s products a few times in the past, most notably during the intermissions at Hey Ladies. I remember being amazed when I was first introduced to Grog, their lime cooler with no artificial ingredients – in fact, the list of ingredients reads like any homemade cocktail. Or, sampling their cinnamon and cardamom beer, which they developed exclusively for New Asian Village, I was sceptical that the spices would come through, but hey, there they were.
Having seen Jim Gibbon up on stage, we knew he was a personable guy. But we didn’t know quite how personable until the tour. He claimed it was because he was on his third tour of the day (which, of course, involves gratuitous beer sampling every time), but we suspected his outgoing personality would shine regardless of blood alcohol content.
Thom and Jim (I really should have taken more pictures, but the tour went fast – Jim condensed the normally two hour tour into half an hour)
I’m sure someone, somewhere, will eventually compile a list of “Jim-isms” such as, “Wine sucks ass.” Why? “It’s just rotten grapes.” Or, “Beer is the foundation of humanity,” his statement that preceded one of his “thirty second stories” that once humans adopted a sedentary civilization, that water purification, through the creation of beer, was our saviour. His obvious passion for beer, weaved with his humour and sarcasm, made him a fun tour guide.
In addition to historical insights, the tour highlighted the environmentally-friendly aspects of the brewery, which included recycling of plastics and cardboard, donation of expended malt and hops to farmers for feed, and even heat recycling, which decreased their need for external heat units down from eight to two.
And then, the beer. Jim wasn’t shy about letting us taste whatever was brewing. The Sap Vampire Maple Lager (the #1 seller at Amber’s) was served to us directly from the vat, unfiltered. The Kenmount Road Chocolate Stout (best, Jim said, served as a float with ice cream), was uncarbonated. I can’t comment too much about taste (not really being a beer connoisseur), but my fellow tasters were floored.
Where the beer brews
Jim was really excited about the deal with Liquor Depot, the largest Canadian-owned liquor store by both number of stores and sales figures. The agreement will see four Amber’s brews, four Alley Kat brews, one Wild Rose and a percentage of Big Rock sold at all Liquor Depots in Alberta – a reach totalling over 175 stores in 25 communities across the province.
Australian Mountain Pepper Berry (Jim’s favourite)
It’s great to see a trend of local beers increasing their distribution venues (Local Public Eatery of the Joey’s Restaurant Group being another example). I hope to see this trend continue!
Thanks to Jim for sharing his afternoon with us, and to Thom for letting us tag along!
Amber’s Brewing Company
9926 – 78 Avenue