The Edmonton Craft Beer Festival is one of the fastest growing beer festivals on the planet with over 500 brews from more than 100 breweries on tap to discover over two-days at the 2019 edition and I wanted to drink it all in one small sample at a time.

“There definitely seems to be something special going on for the festival this year,” says Alberta Beer Festivals CEO Mark Kondrat. “Every year, the Edmonton Craft Beer Festival (May 31 & June 1) has gotten bigger and better, but this year, the growth has been incredible. We’ve doubled ticket sales and we have over 125% of the exhibitors we had last year.” In its 7th year, the event has become one of the fastest growing and largest beer festivals in the world. “So much goes on at the event, it really is a festival everyone can enjoy. You don’t have to love beer to love Beerfest, and you don’t have to love every beer or spirit being sampled. The whole point is to try things you might not normally try so you can find a new favorite and have a great time!”

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I spied a $19.99 “buy one,get one free” general admission ticket promotion for the Fri., 31st May opening night that proved too hard to resist. Upon presenting your ticket at the Expo Centre venue and being scanned in, patrons are given a plastic 4-ounce tasting mini-mug but to fill ‘er up  $1 sample vouchers sold in blocks of 10 need to be purchased. Most beer samples around the cavernous convention hall are 2 tickets with food ranging from 4 to 6 tickets. I invested $30 to try an assortment of the best craft beer from all over Western Canada and consider that a bargain!

Popular local brewpub Brewsters tempted tasters with a variety of beers and while I normally favor Kolsch, wheat beers and amber ales, I went off script to try the Peanut Butter Porter whose flavor isn’t subtle as it hits you like a peanut butter sandwich between the eyes.

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There’s an event map and list of all the breweries, distilleries, food vendors and others here and they include a few quirky booths such as the Canadian Drink Mitt which is a sock with a beer holder at the end to allow thirsty drinkers to keep their hand warm in the depths of winter while still enjoying a cold beer. Perhaps a Christmas gift for the man (or women) who has everything.

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The boys of Bent Stick Brewing are all smiles as they shared their microbrewery magic with the masses. I sampled and fell for the B.S. Wit, a cloudy Belgian style wheat beer that’s the Edmonton brewery’s first canned beer. I’ll drink to that!

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Calgary-based Wild Rose Brewery paid homage to its Alberta roots with a DJ in the bed of a pick-up but after a 2019 sale to Sleeman Breweries, itself owned by Japan’s Sapporo Breweries,  it was immediately removed from the Alberta Small Brewers Association.

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Before the town of Ponoka was named for the Blackfoot word for elk it was simply identified as  Siding 14 on the Calgary-Edmonton Railway Company serving as a supply point for steam locomotives making their way between Alberta’s two main cities.  Siding 14 Brewing Company takes its name from the town’s original  name and delivered a host of choices but I settled on the Switch Point Honey Cream Ale which surprised me with its subtle flavors. I could easily make this a regular, year ’round favorite as its such a balanced beer.

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Troubled Monk Brewing shared their Red Deer-based craft brew and when asked where the brewery name originated the staff on hand hinted that it was chosen to allude to the beer history of the Belgian Trappist monk slaving away to create a beer worth celebrating.

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Speaking of monk’s, Edmonton’s Blind Enthusiasm Brewing brought their award-winning beers to the festival which include the Extra Special Monk, the very first beer brewed by the founders of this  Ritchie neighborhood brewery.

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The Alberta Small Brewers Association says 117 independent craft breweries operating in Alberta are a  35% growth since 2017 meaning the 2020 Edmonton Craft Beer Festival should be even  bigger and better and I can drink to that!