New Calgary beer hall taps into Kensington neighbourhood

"We have a microbrewery and distilling boom going on like I've never seen before," says restaurant owner Stephen Reid

Alberta’s booming craft beer industry got yet another boost with the planned opening of a new beer hall in Calgary’s inner city.

Free House will offer 24 taps featuring local beers and ciders, in the trendy Kensington neighbourhood. In addition to Alberta brewers and distillers, it features Canadian cuisine.

It is part of the Creative Restaurant Group which includes such well-known area eateries as Bonterra Trattoria, Posto Pizzeria and Bar, Cibo 17th, and Rose & Crown Banff. Free House is to open within days.

Free House
Photo courtesy of Parker PR

“We have a craft beer boom happening in Alberta, and we wanted to create a space that puts a spotlight on the brewers and distillers in our province – all while offering a high-quality, unique dining experience,” said Stephen Reid, the company’s CEO. “Our guests will be exposed to the educational component of our restaurant, because all of our staff are highly ingrained in the craft beer community.

“We have going on in Alberta right now – besides a terrible economy – is we have a microbrewery and distilling boom going on like I’ve never seen before. There’s more breweries opening here than even the boom I saw in Seattle in the ’80s or Oregon and Portland in the ’90s.

“I’ve never seen more breweries open in a shorter period of time. Knowing how hard it is to make really good beer and the risk and the fears that go along with trying to make money in that business, the people who are doing all these breweries, and a lot of them are very good, besides the fact they’re a bit nuts I also think they’re champions. It takes a lot of guts to quit your senior accounting job at KPMG and decide your yearning is not to be an accountant but your yearning has always been to make great craft beer.

“These people are risking everything to follow their dreams.”

Free House is in 5,000 square feet of space with an additional 5,000 square feet on the roof for a patio.

Reid said the menu includes Alberta focused products such as spent grain flatbread, a bison burger and Alberta-made water buffalo baked brie.

Mario Toneguzzi is a business reporter in Calgary.

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