A locals view: niall fraser owner of canmores grizzly paw brewing company

A Local's View of Canmore: Niall Fraser, Owner of Grizzly Paw Brewing Company

How Canmore caught hold of current local, brewmaster, and craft brewery owner, Niall Fraser.

For almost 20 years, I’ve been quenching thirst in the Rockies with hand-crafted, smooth-sipping microbrewed beer. In 1996, I opened Canmore’s first brewpub —the Grizzly Paw Brewing Company. With a 70-seat brewpub, a 50-seat patio and a 100-seat dining area, the Grizzly Paw has long been the heart of Canmore’s social scene.

Motto: Work hard, play hard

I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in Edmonton, Alberta. After studying hotel management in Switzerland, I worked in the hotel industry all over the world, from Lausanne and Brussels to New York and Whistler. I eventually decided that I would rather channel my vigor and zeal into building my own business. In 1993, I moved to Canmore, where my parents owned rental properties. Circled by the soaring Rockies and full of friendly people, Canmore quickly had a hold on me.
Canadian-owned and brewed on home turf, our beer is crafted with natural ingredients, pure mountain water and barrels of love. Fruit and spices are added to amuse your taste buds. Our flavour-packed beers include: Rutting Elk Red (Scottish-style amber ale); Powder Hound Pilsner; Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat; Beaver Tail Raspberry Ale; Big Head Nut Brown; Indra Island IPA; and Moose Knuckle Coffee Stout. At the Paw, we like to try new things and often offer seasonal brews. This past summer, our citrus fruit-infused Hefeweizen was a big hit. During the holidays, we make merry with a Christmas Cranberry Ale.
It recently came to a point in my business when it was either ‘piss or get off the pot’. Strong-willed by nature, I determinedly chose the former. In April 2013, the Grizzly Paw opened a 20,000 square-foot, leading-edge brewery. Our new, state-of-the-art microbrewery allows us to brew, bottle and supply more beer than ever before. What used to take 32 hours to brew, now takes us only 6 hours. Our old system was a 10-hectolitre system.
Today, we have a 35-hectolitre capacity system. Our modern facility is a stunning building with exposed timber, towering ceilings and gigantic windows. We welcome thirsty and curious craft beer fans to visit for tours and tastings. Families with kids are invited too.
Our new brewery is also home to the Paw Shop, where we sell bottled and draft beer as well as our caffeine-free, low-sugar sodas in nostalgia-invoking flavours. (Think: ginger beer, cream soda, black cherry cola and other old-school friends.)
Although I work a lot, Canmore locals can attest that I am always game for a good time. I like to celebrate life and have fun. At 45 years old, I have the mentality of someone in their late 20s. It seems that my voluminous microbrewed beer consumption has pickled me, giving me eternal youth.
In the winter, I love to ski. We are lucky to have numerous fantastic ski resorts near Canmore. Lake Louise Ski Resort is definitely one of my favourite ski hills – the mountain scenery is mind-blowing. In the summer, I can be spotted rolling around Canmore on my cruiser bike. With an abundance of incredible hikes, awesome bike rides, excellent cross-country skiing trails, alpine lakes and much more, Canmore truly is an outdoor playground.
In a mountain town that is brimming with outdoorsy, active people, I provide the beer and the entertainment. Whether you’re soaking in the view of the Three Sisters Mountains from our sunny patio, hanging out with friends in our inviting, timber and stone brewpub or sampling beer at our new microbrewery, my raison d’être is to encourage people to have fun. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed.