Alberta Craft Beer Detour
Take a detour in Southern Alberta and explore of amazing craft beer scene!
Everyone loves a road trip, the excitement of unknown adventures, making new friends, the exhale of the open road! And when road trips involve new Breweries, yummy food & incredible scenery the excitement is palpable.
There is no doubt that our beautiful province of Alberta hosts a plethora of new Breweries waiting to be explored. But have you ever thought of doing a ‘Craft Beer Detour’, venturing off the beaten path of city Breweries and exploring rural Alberta? That is just what I did and I’m bringing you along for the ride. You don’t need to pack or kennel the dog either. Just sit back and enjoy!
Detour Down the Cowboy Trail
Taking the QE2 to Nanton from the deep SE in Calgary connected us to my favourite road. The unmistakable beauty of the Cowboy Trail. The rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains greet you as you excitedly begin the Alberta Craft Beer Detour. Keep your eye out for many varieties of birds of prey on the route, you never know what you’ll see! We spotted a beaver leisurely swimming on his back, horses galloping and many healthy-looking cattle.
The first Brewery on the list is Oldman River Brewing in picturesque Lundbreck Falls. From the Cowboy Trail take a left when you see Chain Lakes Provincial Park & left onto Hwy 3.
You’ll see the Brewery as soon as you come up the road, their massive patio is dog friendly and there is usually a food truck parked to fill your belly with more than beer. The patio was filled with locals enjoying a cold beer after a long day of work. The interior is small but very open with a ton of natural light and lots of places to sit and enjoy their offerings.
I tried as many beers as I could but fell in love with their Spread Eagle Stout, even though it was a spicy 30 degrees. The malts were rich but not overpowering and they filled my palate with the comfort of coffee and chocolate. Ask for a flight and sample a little of everything, in fact, that is what I recommend for each place you visit on this Craft Beer Detour — Find more of their beer here.
My husband sampled the corn beef sandwich, and it was a big hit, I snuck a bite and loved how the malts from my stout paired with the smokiness from the sandwich. The Lime Sally was a popular choice with our crew, it is their citrus ale with lime, orange and citrus hops, a must-try!
Lundbreck is a charming hamlet in southern Alberta within the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, take time to visit the falls when you’re there, the falls have a drop of about 12 metres. You can view the falls from the observation platform or hike below the falls for a truly spectacular sight and some cool pictures!
I bid adieu to the friendly staff at Oldman River and hit the road in my jeep headed for Fort McLeod’s Stronghold Brewing. Maybe I’ll run into Pedro Pascal from the Mandalorian who is in town shooting “The Last of Us”, an apocalyptic HBO series. Apparently, he was shooting from inside the actual Brewery that very morning. How exciting!
Action — Detour into the Old West!
The drive from Oldman River Brewing to Stronghold Brewing is pure scenic Alberta, beautiful healthy farmland with small valleys alongside the road where you can see trickling streams running through the countryside. There is something about this drive so far that makes me exhale. I have my Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton on the Alpine system, only to be mixed in with Paul Brandt’s Alberta Bound. Yes, exhaling deeply now.
As we entered Fort McLeod we were quickly impressed with the strength of the Film Industry in our province. The entire street was remade to resemble a Texas town. It made the Brewery a little hard to find as it was now a Texas BBQ Pit. I chuckled at the new signage and felt a true walk back in time with this former Mercantile turned Brewery. Stronghold quickly charmed its way into my heart, and I haven’t even tried the beer yet! I mean it when I say you will not find another Brewery like it. The vault from 1907 is still there, now holding their secret brewing recipes!
I ordered a flight like every beer geek does and tried their Cream Ale, Haskap Berry Jamboree, Brut Mimosa IPA and Interstellar Stout — Find more of their amazing beer here. I left with a 4 pack of their cream ale which Co-Owner Alicia said is their top seller. I could see why as it drank like a creamy lager with that perfect white foam topped head.
The vibe is classy as a brewery gets with antique wood throughout, a stunning rooftop patio and an amazing beer selection with that true farm-to-glass taste. Be sure to keep your eye out for a brass door knocker, you’ll know what I mean when you find it. Take a pic!
Detour from the Ordinary in Lethbridge
Now singing Willies Nelsons ‘On The Road Again’ as I hop back into my Jeep headed for Lethbridge this time. Dropping our dogs Whiskey & Yoda off at Gramma & Grandpas for the weekend, we drove up to my favourite hotel in the city, The Sandman Signature. Many a hockey tournament was enjoyed in this city and we always stayed at this hotel, formerly ‘The Lodge’.
The courtyard area is filled with a plant lover’s dream, massive palm trees, tropical plants, a large indoor pool and the hottest hot tub around. The sound of waterfalls is hard to beat, and when you glance upwards you are greeted with little balconies off each suite. Our room had a king bed with a massive couch and welcome cannoli’s in the fridge from the Italian Table restaurant on the bottom level. What a thoughtful touch!
After such an eventful day we opted to enjoy the evening in the hot tub and went back to the room, put our feet up and cracked those Cream Ales from Stronghold.
After a very quiet and restful sleep, we started our morning off with the Starbucks coffee in the room coffee maker, put on our plush hotel robes and walked downstairs for a quick soak in the tub. Again, yes lol, we love our hot tub time.
Now it’s time to venture over to the famous Japanese Gardens the Nikka Yuko Gardens for a romantic picnic in the park. This is a must-visit when you are in Lethbridge, the gardens are meticulously maintained and emit Zen-like energy. You immediately feel a sense of peace and will be in awe at the waterfront beauty stretching out over Henderson Lake.
Melanie (The head of Marketing) met me at the gate with our picnic essentials and guided us through a slow walk of the gardens. Melanie informed me they started doing events like picnics, happy hour in the park and other special events to pull people in during the pandemic. They are very popular, and many happy couples were seated together under red umbrellas having picnics together.
As we came up to our picnic site I was blown away. The staff had set up a low wooden table with a quintessential red & white checkered cloth, a bright red umbrella to offer shade, and two large red cushions that invited us to sit and enjoy the view. The view is as Japanese as you can have without getting on a plane! There were water features, a large playful gong, Japanese style snowball pruning on the trees, all while looking over the crystal waters of Henderson Lake which is cozied up to the gardens.
There was a bucket full of ice on our table waiting for our chosen drinks. Melanie offered the drink menu to us, I quickly chose the two Japanese beers, Asahi & Kirin while I suggested to my husband he try the strawberry Sake flown in from Japan. We were both happy with that choice as the rich creamy strawberry sake covered our palates with a milkshake-like sweetness. Mmmm, you need to try this!
Our lunch was from partnering restaurant Mocha Cabana and consisted of sushi, salad, protein and some homemade cookies. It was the perfect amount of food and paired nicely with the light Japanese beers I chose.
The calmness of the gardens and the deliciousness of the food & drinks invited me to soak in the moment. Every so often a guest would bang the gong and the sound echoed across the lush environment.
I was not in a rush to leave but two more Breweries awaited me, and well someone must try all those beers!
Detour to Lethbridge Breweries
Pulling up to Theoretically Brewing I was impressed with their patio & gardens, which looked like a nice spot to cozy up with a flight. Co-Owner Kelti was waiting for me at the front, and it was nice to see her again after a long pandemic. The vibe in Theo is akin to a cozy home with oversized chairs, a piano & a games area with couches to chill on.
I like to ask Owners & Brewers to choose the flight for me, I know it’s hard to pick favourites but they seem to do a good job! I tried 5 beers and left with a 4 pack of their Raspberry Sour. It tasted like the brewer picked raspberries from the garden & jammed them into my little tester beaker. All their flights are served in beakers! It’s really fun to drink from them and it speaks to the owner’s character. I quite enjoyed their stout as well — it had an intense amount of coffee bean flavour that covered my palate — Find more of their beers here.
I thanked Kelti for her hospitality and took off for my next destination, Spectrum Ale Works!
Spectrum Ale Works is the final Brewery of our Alberta Craft Beer Detour, I met owner Elaine pouring beer from the taps for her thirsty customers, the brewery was busy when we were there with a running group doing a jog & beer tour (lol). Good for them! Running and drinking don’t seem to go together, for me anyways! Kelti from Theoretically recommended we try their Razzy Peach brew and that is one of the eight I had Elaine pour for me.
The Brewery is in the Industrial area of Lethbridge, a very clean open spot with character spilled throughout. Darrel has his collection of old radios on display along with an eclectic collection of old shovels and tables displaying antique tools. It’s an open-air concept which made it the ideal location for summertime beers.
Owner Darrell was very friendly and pulled up a chair to chat, he brews everything at 5% abv and under, and I find that refreshing in itself. I cannot pick my favourite beer as I liked everyone I tried. I will recommend these: Razzapeach Wheat Ale, Distortion IPA, Drifter Rye Brown Ale, Coffee Stout — Find more of their beers here.
I will tell you about their Seltzer which I will say is the best one I’ve ever tried. It comes perfectly clear, and the carbonation is sparkling, basically jumping out of the glass. The aroma is familiar to cream soda & while the taste is flirtatiously sweet with a light floral note. I told Darrell & Elaine they need to can this product so more people can enjoy it. It’s clearly perfection.
I said goodbye to Spectrum and left with some stickers for my collection and a hunger for supper!
Detour to a Downtown Lethbridge Vibe
Having just enough time to change at the hotel we decided to walk to our next spot which was the Telegraph Pub, Lethbridge is a very walkable city, and the pub is only 5 minutes away. We settled for a table on their expansive patio which has a Stephen Avenue vibe to it.
I decided to have another flight (of course) and sipped on Creamsicle from Medicine Hat Brewing (a favourite of mine) Albertarita from Blindman Brewing, Pear & Peach Cider from Broken Ladder and Fruitesse.
The interior of the pub is small but quite unique, there are old suitcases, lots of brick and it carries an old British pub feel to it.
It’s wonderful to see some businesses expanding their services to patios, it really helps increase the appeal for people to want to hang out and relax. It would be exciting to see some streets closed to vehicle traffic to really pull people into the core. The city is filled with old buildings, green spaces and so many unique shops to explore. After dinner, we walked around the city with my In-Laws who have lived in Lethbridge for over 15 years and have many stories to share about the revitalization of the downtown. Around the corner, I heard music playing and was delighted to see more patios and people laughing and enjoying themselves. The vibrancy of Lethbridge is palatable, there is a lot of potential in the core, with a mix of stunning historical buildings and whimsical modern storefronts. Of course beautiful Galt Gardens in the center with a large splashing water feature that my own children have played in many times.
The evening was capped off with a soak in the hot tub and I quickly dozed off to sleep after such an eventful and exciting day.
In the morning we packed up the jeep and headed to Firestone Restaurant & Bar for a 10 am breakfast reservation.
Our host sat us in the dining room, there is also a lounge with a wall of TVs. The soft lighting throughout the restaurant is a vibe in itself. It was a popular choice for hungry tourists and locals alike. I recommend making a reservation as it can fill up quickly. I enjoyed a robust cup of hot coffee and a fresh glass of orange juice while my husband sipped on a tropical coconut-pineapple mimosa! I stole a sip, and this is a must-try! This restaurant is known for their rum cocktails, I recommend trying this location for dinner too.
I wanted something light, so I opted for a plate of poached eggs, gluten-free toast, bacon and fruit. My husband was giddy to try his order which came to him in a sizzling skillet filled with potatoes, chorizo sausage, veggies and scrambled eggs.
The service was friendly, and the food arrived very quickly.
What a way to end this incredible road trip.
Thank you, Lethbridge & Area, for the hospitality and gastronomical deliciousness.
Get off the beaten path and take the detour. It’s going to surprise you, in all the right ways.
The Beer Maven,
Detour Further — Medicine Hat and the Crowsnest Pass
West <— to the Crowsnest Pass
West of Lethbridge, and Oldman River Brewing —Sondra’s first stop on her tour, is the Crowsnest Pass. A major route through the Rocky Mountains, you can stretch out your craft beer detour up to the BC border. While in historic Blairmore, swing by The Pass Beer Company. Sours, Kolsch, IPAs — along with a wide variety of beer, they serve up wood-fired pizzas and more. Then In Coleman, you can wet your whistle at the Tin Dogs Pub and Brewery.
East —> to Medicine Hat
If you’ve been inspired by Sondra’s epic beer adventure and are continuing your journey east, grab another round in Medicine Hat. From Lethbridge, just keep going east on the Highway 3 Craft Beer Corridor. Medicine Hat has three craft breweries, and more Alberta magic to tempt your palette.
Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s description of the area in 1907, Hell's Basement Brewery serves up a heavenly range of brews. Sample some award-winning beers at Medicine Hat Brewing Co. Indulge in a beautifully restored heritage building downtown — Travois Ale Works.
Itinerary — the Alberta Craft Beer Detour
We’ve saved all the breweries and stops Sondra visited during her visit. See (and taste) for yourself on your next visit. Best of all, it’s easy to share the My Itinerary feature to share the Alberta Craft Beer Detour with your friends and family.