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YYCTOURS 
Calgary Brewery Tour Reviews 
Tailgunner Brewing Co. 
Nov 25, 2023 
Flight- Historical/Czech

Tailgunner Brewery logo Calgary Brewery Tours

This week our YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tour guide stopped into one of the spots that we really enjoy visiting when we are not out showing people around Calgary’s thriving craft beer scene, but also, when we are out showing people around Calgary’s thriving craft beer scene. Tailgunner Brewing Co., which opened in spring 2022 and as seen on our Calgary Brewery Map, is located just outside of the downtown core/Beltline, in Sunalta, and is a local, and Canadian, leader in decoction brewing (more on that later). Founded by two lifelong buddies Cael and Mike, many agree that Tailgunner has the nicest looking taproom in town. The spacious area with both ample booths and traditional beer hall style bench seating is an inviting and comfortable balance between modern and medieval times.  Tailgunner currently offers 12 beers on tap, one being a shared local handle (the Establishment), several other drink options including spirits, and a small but tasty menu that features the ideal beer companion, Bratwurst.

bratwurst served at tailgunner brewing on a Calgary brewery tour

Tailgunner’s head brewer, Blake Enemark, has a very impressive background in the world of craft beer despite having only started in 2017 when his first brewery gig was under industry icon, Luc Lafontaine, founder of Godspeed and a former Brasserie Dieu du Ciel brewer. Enemark also tutored under two time Canadian Brewery of the Year and beer veteran, Mike Lackey at Great Lakes. From the beginning Tailgunner was meant to be a brewery that focused on lager style beer. Founders Mike and Cael had a thing for Helles, Kolsch and Czech lagers before they opened the brewery and when they met with Blake, they let him know these styles of beer were what they were hoping for. From there, the Tailgunner brewer began his deep dive research where he became interested in the traditional Czech (and sometimes German) brewing technique called ‘Decoction”. Decoction is a stage during the brewing process where part of the mash is removed, boiled at higher temperature, and then added back in. This higher temperature allows a brewer to arrive at different caramelized flavours without having to cheat by adding specialty malts. If you have ever cooked with sugar, you know that as it heats up, it changes colour and picks up a more caramel type flavour. This is what happens during decoction. If you look at a German Pils and a Czech Style Pilsner that has been decocted, a noticeable difference in colour can be spotted even though the two styles contain the exact same ingredients, 100% pilsner malt. This, along with a difference in taste is a result of decoction brewing. 

Two glasses of beer with the same ingredients but different colours. Why? becasue of Decoction brewing by Calgary brewery tours

Decoction brewing can only be done by one with a true passion for beer and one who is not scared of a little extra work. Especially when a brewer decides to double, or triple decoct a beer, like Blake does, they are looking at 14-16 hour brew days. Much longer than a traditional 8 hour day. At Tailgunner Brewing, it appears that Enemark has truly mastered his craft as the beers we sampled on our visit were all excellent examples of their style, and one even got a score of perfect by our Calgary Brewery Tour guide. 

The Tailgunner flight consisted of four beers; ‘Welcome Lager’ Keller Pilsner, ‘Ajax’ Czech Dark Lager, ‘Sentinel’ Munich Helles and ‘Ross Dixon’ West Coast Pilsner. 

 

The traditional Ajax-Czech Dark Lager featured roasty / almost espresso notes in the aroma with hops and breadiness taking over the flavour. This beer was double decocted, very well balanced and contained a nice level of hops, likely the noble variety Saaz, as this beer was made with 100% Czech ingredients. Czech dark lagers have a very long and rich history dating back to the 1400’s and were around hundreds of years before Czech Pilsner came into existence after the discovery of coke furnaces in the 1800’s.

A flight of beer at Tailgunner Brewery on a Calgary brewery tour

Welcome Lager, is Tailgunners take on a Kellerbier, a very historical style of beer which basically means ‘cellar beer’. Kellerbier were some of the first beers ever made with the lagering method of using cooler temperatures and history shows this dating back to the middle ages when beer makers would brew in the cooler months and then store the beer in cool caves.  As there were no real filtration techniques back then, this beer by definition is going to carry some German yeast flavours and Tailgunners version is no exception. 

The Ross Dixon West Coast Pilsner is a double-decoction pilsner that features Australian hops. The name alone tells us a couple things, expect hops because any beer that has the words ‘west coast’ in front of it tells us it will be hoppy (in America, everything is bigger), and the pilsner lets us know it's going to be light bodied. This juxtaposition made the beer very interesting as with the light German Pilsner beer, there are no other flavours to hide behind or blend with, so the hop balance has got to be bang on for the beer to work, and it does. This beer was done in collaboration with Calgary’s own Canada Malting, is very unique, and despite the lack of ingredients, was quite fascinating and complex. 

 

Last up is the YYCTOURS Calgary Brewery Tour pick for ‘Beer of the Week’, Sentinel Munich Helles’ (‘Hell-us”). Meaning light, bright or pale in German, Helles lagers date back to the late 1800’s and were created as a result of competition between countries. The Czech’s (Josef Groll) invented Pilsner, but, the stubborn Germans who were still drinking their dark ‘dunkel’ beers, and wheat beers, were not going to have any of that and when German brewery Spaten released a ‘light lager’ or ‘helles lager’ according to Jeff Alworth in The Beer Bible, it is rumored that German brewers and drinkers took to the streets in protest over this new gold-coloured beer. Luckily for us all, they must have sat down and drank one and the style staked its claim in beer history. Tailgunner’s version of this beer is probably the cleanest and most close to perfect, if not perfect beer we have had in a long time and if anyone asks what the best overall beer in Calgary is right now, this might be it. 

 

If Tailgunner sounds like the kind of place you might like to visit on Calgary Brewery Tour, let us know. Did you know YYCTOURS also offers Calgary charters, so if you want to plan your own tour of Calgary and just need some wheels and a driver, give us a shout. 

To see more of YYCTOURS Calgary brewery reviews, click here

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