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Calgary Brewery Tour Reviews 
Bow River Brewing  
Jan, 2024
Flight- Mixed

Bow river brewing logo

On our YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tours, we do our best to introduce our guests to a wide variety of beer styles. We ensure that each of the flights during our excursions contain several different flavours and profiles for a well-rounded experience. Often that involves making sure our guests enjoy at least one hoppy beer like an IPA or pale ale, a lager, a sour, a dark beer, a wheat beer and then whatever else we can fit in. However, without question, the most important part of our YYC beer tour is also ensuring that our patrons are provided with the highest quality beer possible. That is where our first choice for 2024’s Calgary Brewery and Beer of the Week comes in. Almost every time we stop here on a tour, by the end of the night our guests rank it as their favourite, and this is considering that our Calgary craft beer tours also include stops at some of the most well-known, respected and awarded breweries in Calgary. 


As can be seen on our Calgary Brewery Map and Dog Friendly Brewery Map, Bow River Brewing is located close to Chinook Mall at 5769 4 St SE where they have been crafting beer since 2019. Founded by a match-made-in-heaven husband and wife duo Ian and Beatrice Binmore, Bow River Brewing has quietly and perfectly produced award-winning beer on the national and provincial stage for years. 


Ian Binmore is a former home brewer from back-in-the-day who first became interested in making his own beer while studying engineering at USC in the 80’s. It was here in an upstarting California craft beer scene where Binmore was exposed to beers like Sierra Nevada and Anderson Valley that his love for good brew began. Many university nights were spent with fellow home brewers in a sandwich shop late at night with the curtains closed while they talked about recipes and shared beers like Detergens Witbier, an inspiration for Bow River’s Athabasca Wit. Beatrice Binmore, or should we say Dr. Beatrice Binmore, a native of Germany and who received her PhD in chemistry at Edinburgh, Scotland met Ian at a conference in Houston while she was studying for her MBA in Texas. Lucky for us craft beer fans, the universe decided there was no better combo for building a brewery and making beer than an beer-crazy engineer and a doctor of chemistry from Germany.

A flight of beer at bow river brewing

As an engineer, Ian personally drew and designed the impressive Bow River Brewery with his own needs in mind, including a custom semi-automated cleaning system. Drawing further on his background, he has occasionally identified small issues and inconsistencies in some of the equipment received from manufacturers and has made his own tweaks and modifications to improve their capabilities. Binmore’s original home brewing system is still in use today to experiment with new beer styles, except now it has been altered to transmit data directly to the brewhouse via a module designed and built at Bow River. When they use this home brew system and find a beer they want to make on a larger scale, this technology allows them to send information like ingredients, mash times and temperatures instantly to the brewery while all measurements are automatically scaled for larger production. While we were visiting, the homebrew system was being used to create a Dampfbier, which is a German-style steam beer similar to California Common except in ale form. We have never seen any other brewery in town make this one, so it's going to be worth a trip for the experience once it's ready. Since inception in 2019, Bow River continues to grow having recently added additional fermentation tanks and systems for de-oxiziganation, pasteurisation and  dealcoholization. 


Working under the Binmore's wing is another German, Matthias Hahnel. A former military medic who came to Canada only to be astounded by how expensive his traditional beers were at liquor stores compared to his motherland Germany. So, he did what anyone would do and decided to start brewing his own beer at home. With this interest in beer, and his completely self-taught understanding of brewing basics, he applied to be a brewer’s assistant at Bow River so he could learn more. Today, it is evident that his hard work and determination paid off as he has since been promoted to head brewer. 


Together, the Binmores and Hahnel have mastered the art of making true-to-form German-style beer, or at least following in those traditions, and each of their offerings stands out as possibly the cleanest and most balanced beers you can find in Calgary. Our Calgary Brewery Tour guides often share with our guests that you can always taste craftsmanship when the beer is so well made that nothing stands out as unbalanced or out-of-sorts when you drink it. That is the case here at Bow River. Passion, education and dedication are all noticeable in each sip of Bow River’s beers and since they tend to stick to the classic easy-drinking styles, a trip to visit their brewery and taproom should be on every beer drinker's list. 

a flight of beer and pizza with a dog at bow river brewing

On our latest stop at Bow River, which we should mention was with our canine mascot because Bow River allows dogs on leash inside, our beer flight included four beers. All of which we were familiar with, but one in particular which is an annual small-batch release is on our all-time favourite Calgary beer list. 


Our first pick for Calgary Brewery and Beer of the Week in 2024 is Bow River’s Riverfest. This Saxony German Amber Lager is a 2021 Canadian gold medal winner at the Canadian Brewing Awards that pays homage to traditional German lagers. It is insanely crushable and is almost always named as the best beer on the tour by our guests. A light maltiness places this unfiltered beer close to a Vienna lager with a clean, rich, toasty and bready malt flavor, restrained bitterness, and a smooth finish that definitely encourages another drink. The overall malt impression is soft, elegant, and complex, with a rich aftertaste that is never overbearing. This beer is a perfect bullseye. 


Next up was the Cascade Light Pilsner. At only 3.5% ABV, like Riverfest, this is another super-crushable beer. We found this version to have the standard cracker/doughy flavour one would expect with a European-style pilsner along with a perfect light hop balance. Pale in colour and very easy to drink. 


The next two beers we chose were because we are big fans of exploring styles. As stated before we have huge respect for any style of beer, even ones we don't often drink, when we recognize and taste craftsmanship in the final product. Here at Bow River, finesse and mastery are in abundance with the seasonal Mystic Monk Abbey Ale and the Prairie Night Smoky Porter. 

a glass of smoky porter with a dog looking at the camera in bow river brewing

Often with many smoked beers, or Rauchbiers, (Rauch means smoke in German) there is no denying that the smoke flavour can sometimes be overwhelming pending on the quality and quantity of smoked malt, peated malt or even extract. Here at Bow River, like with all their beers, the flavour balance is incredibly perfect and smooth. Most of our beer tour guests admit that they do not really drink smoked beer, mainly because they are hard to find, but nonetheless, they usually don’t drink them. We love when we pour someone a glass of Bow River’s Smoky Porter as almost every time they try it, their eyes get wide in amazement of how good it actually is and how surprised they are that they like it. Even as seasoned beer vets, here at YYCTOURS we have to say this may be one of the better, easy drinking smoked beers we have ever had as we can easily have more than one without being 'smoked' out.


Lastly, the Mystic Monk Abbey Ale. We absolutely love Abbey ales which are very difficult to find in Calgary. Luckily we know that Bow River crafts one every year so we practically camp at the front door waiting for it to drop. As we covered in one of our first ever articles about Belgian Beer at YYCTOURS, Abbey Ales are essentially Trappist Ales (beers made by monks in a monastery) that are made outside of a monastery. The first one came about in 1952 when Albert Lootvoet purchased a recipe from a monastery that was in financial trouble. Monks still make these beers for themselves as everyday table beers using the same recipes, so essentially you are drinking like a monk when you consume one of the beers. Known for being somewhere around dark burgundy in colour, Bow River's 7.2% ABV Abbey contains all the necessary elements and despite it being one of our favourite beers, we have a hard time describing it as everyone's tastes are different. For us, we think light caramel or toffee poured on a cracker with raisins or figs and a light bite from a spicy banana dipped in brown sugar. Ok maybe not one of our best descriptions, but take our word for it, this beer is absolutely amazing! 

food menu at bow river brewing

Aside from offering some of the cleanest beer in Calgary, Bow River has a small and quick food menu for perfect beer snacks. They also have a patio and allow dogs inside or out, so there is no reason you shouldn’t be on your way there now. Unless of course you want to include Bow River Brewing as a stop on a Calgary Brewery Tour. YYCTOURS is happy to work with our guests to create any type of beer event for any type of drinker so just let us know what you like, or might like to try. 

See more of our Calgary Brewery Reviews here



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