Born to Brew: Canmore’s Grizzly Paw Brewing Company

By Rachel Shoniker, February 25, 2014

Grizzly Paw Brewing Company is a Canmore institution with one main goal: brew amazing craft beer!

Studies show that Canada is one of the most beer-loving countries in the world!

Canada is one of the biggest beer drinking countries in the world. Based on annual per capita consumption, Canada swills and guzzles more beer than almost every other nation on the planet. With their daily commitment to liquid carbohydrates, only the esteemed beer-drinking people in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Ireland out-drink Canadians. According to Wikipedia, 46 percent of the money Canadians spent on alcohol in 2009 was dedicated to buying beer, while only 29 percent went towards wine.

 

An Evolving Beer Scene 

Up until recently, the Canadian beer scene was drab and predictable. By the 1970s, three heavyweight corporations dominated the beer industry in Canada: Molson; Labatt; and Carling-O’Keefe. Molson eventually became Molson Coors, which also bought Carling-O’Keefe. Labatt was acquired by a giant European multinational brewer. Today, our country’s heftiest beer companies are Molson CoorsLabatt and Sleeman. Not unlike the fate of the Hudson Bay Company, none of these remain fully Canadian owned. Moosehead is currently the largest Canadian-owned beer company, capturing about five and a half percent of the market.

Fortunately for beer drinkers in our country, hundreds of microbreweries and brewpubs have sprung up on Canadian soil since the 1980s. With these small, local breweries producing high-caliber beer with tremendous flavour, Canadians are discovering that good beer has more personality and oomph, than the bland and weak dishwater that we drank for a long time. I guess you could say that we’ve become more cultured since the Bob and Doug McKenzie days, eh?

 

The Rise of Craft Breweries in Canada

According to Jason Foster (beer columnist for CBC Radio and beer blogger), Canada has about 275 craft brewers. Foster claims that on average we have a brewery for every 124,648 citizens, which means that we have more craft brewers per capita than the United States. Although microbreweries in Canada currently claim a modest five percent of the market, our thirst for craft beer is intensifying. A change in Canadian tax legislation has supported the growth of microbreweries as well. Since the 1990s, Canadian breweries are taxed based on how many hectolitres of beer they produce. Prior to this time, all breweries (from gigantic to pint-sized) were taxed the same.
Drinking local craft beer is not only good for your region’s economy, but it is also healthier for you. Microbrewed beer is made with natural ingredients, including malt barley, water, yeast and hops. For extra pizzazz, fruit or spices are added. On the contrary, mass-manufactured beer often contains preservatives and fillers. It’s like eating at McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken versus dining at a restaurant that uses fresh ingredients sourced from local farmers. Both will fill your belly, but natural, fresh food tastes superior and is healthier for you. (If you care to debate this, you might want to watch the movie Super Size Me.)

 

The Origins of Grizzly Paw Brewing Co. 
For an expert opinion, I tracked down a staunch craft beer devotee. I didn’t have to look far. A popular brewpub in Canmore is becoming famous  for their selection of craft brews — the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.

With a ‘go big or go home‘ mentality, Niall Fraser opened in 1996 what would become a landmark in Canmore. Boasting a 70-seat brewpub, a 100-seat dining room and a 50-seat patio with stellar views of the Three Sisters mountain range, the Grizzly Paw is a social hub for locals and tourists. The first brewpub in Canada to can its own beer (second in North America), Niall Fraser and the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company are pioneers in the microbrewery industry.

Brewed with natural ingredients and glacier-fed mountain water, the Grizzly Paw crafts satisfying, flavour-rich beer, including Powder Hound Pilsner, Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat, Rutting Elk Red, Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale and Big Head Nut Brown. For kids and other non-beer consuming folks, the Grizzly Paw also brews their own caffeine-free, low-sugar sodas in various flavours, such as root beer, black cherry cola, orange cream soda, grapefruit, among others.

Not unlike the craft beer he brews, Niall Fraser is rich with character. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, this Rocky Mountain beer mogul is a hard-working businessman who also knows how to have a rip-roaring good time. Often spotted rolling around town on his black cruiser bike wearing a loud, blue helmet, Fraser isn’t someone who goes unnoticed. Locals also tell me that he’s no stranger to sporting a Scottish kilt, if the occasion calls for it!

 

Grizzly Paw Today 

To support his microbrewery’s unrelenting growth, Fraser opened an enormous, new brewery in April 2013. This state-of-the-art facility boasts 20,000 square feet of space and is capable of efficiently brewing and packaging a significant quantity of Grizzly Paw beer. Featuring beautiful architecture with exposed timber, this modern and stunning brewery is quickly becoming an attraction.

For tours and tastings at the new Grizzly Paw brewery, please call 1-403-678-2487 or visit 310 Old Canmore Road.

To visit the Grizzly Paw pub or restaurant, call 1-403-678-9983 or visit 622 8th Street (a.k.a. Main Street) downtown Canmore.

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