The opportunity to sample the beer Edmonton’s soon-to-be newest microbrewery while supporting local artists proved too much for me to resist so I snapped up a ticket to the Polar Park Brewing Company Midnight Market held at their off-Whyte Avenue headquarters.

The Bee-Bell Bakery was an Edmonton institution for 50-years until its 2013 closure but after a spell of idleness the building has been converted into a brewery which opens to the public in May and there could hardly be a better facility for a microbrewery with the sturdy red brick building’s second floor outdoor patio offering thirsty patrons a lofty locale to soak up Summer a few blocks south of the popular Whyte Avenue, an epicenter of many festivals, most notably the Edmonton International Fringe Festival which is the oldest and largest fringe theatre festival in North America.

photo by author

If the Polar Park name sounds somewhat familiar to those of a certain vintage it’s because the name was used by Al Oeming when he relaunched his Alberta Game Farm which he operated in the Edmonton area for four decades until its 1999 closure. At it’s height the park was the largest private game park in North America housing more than 3,000 animals and 166 species.  There’s more about the Brewery’s name and family heritage from Al Oeming’s grandson and brewery co-founder Robert Oeming in this video.  The  brewery pays homage to it family history on its website using the slogan “From Bears to Beers”.

On tap for Eventbrite ticket holders for this exclusive seek peek is an IPA brewed off-site at the nearby Situation Brewing and speaks to the collaborative spirit of the burgeoning  Alberta craft beer scene. While I normally avoid IPA’s as most are uber-hoppy this brew didn’t assault my taste buds and went down well while waltzing around the dozen local vendors on hand selling their wares which ranged from designer cakes and cupcakes to  perogies.

photo by author

One artist demonstrating her time-honoured traditional wood block print making is printmaker Zhuyin Sarah Zhao who described the painstaking process to carve out of the intricate design which is pressed onto rice paper as shown in this video.

photo by author

The first of 16 limited edition 8″ x 10″ prints I purchased will be framed and mounted in my home as a thing of beauty for myself and guests to admire and remind me of my travels in Asia.

The Friday night event served to whet my appetite for the official opening of Polar Park Brewing as the sneak peek reinforced the local roots the company has set down which bodes well for its long-term outlook.