I used to work in northern Alberta. I loved living up there and enjoyed my work, but after five years of living in a town of 350 people, four hours north of Edmonton, I started to get a little stir crazy. I knew that I didn’t want to live there forever and after a while I began looking for jobs in Calgary. I chose Calgary solely because my sister already lived in there and I figured if I was moving, I might as well move somewhere close to family (it didn’t hurt that she agreed to let me live with her rent-free for a couple months). Then a couple weeks ago I was invited back to my former workplace in a consultant role. This meant that I could visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in a long time and be paid for doing it. It was a win-win. On top of that, I knew I would make a pitstop on the drive at Blindman Brewing in Lacombe, Alberta. Win-win-win. I only had a passing familiarity with Lacombe. It was where I would stop when I was driving from northern Alberta to Calgary so I could avoid the slowest Tim Hortons in the world (seriously, the Red Deer Tim Hortons is the worst! It should be avoided at all costs), but I never spent a lot of time in the town itself. It’s postcardy. It’s small enough to feel close-knit, while still being large enough to have anything you’d want. This is an important quality to have when you’re coming from a town of 350 people. I would make a quick stop at the much better Tim Hortons in Lacombe, get back on the highway, laughing from my car at the suckers stuck in the drive-thru at the Tim Hortons in Red Deer.
Blindman has been making great beer in Alberta for a little over a year now. I’ve had quite a few of their beers and I have always been pleased with their work (their nitro porter is phenomenal). A couple of months ago, at the Edmonton Oktoberfest, I was able to try a small sample of their Anniversary Ale, a celebratory brew commemorating their first year in business. The small glass I was given that night was not close to enough, and I knew exactly what I was looking for when I stepped into the Blindman taproom. I also left with some River Session Ale, Peculiar Fellows, and a shirt – but I went in for the Anniversary Ale.
Appearance: Pouring the beer you notice the straw colour that bubbles up into three-fingers of white head. It’s a cloudy beer that leaves very nice lacing on the side of the glass.
Aroma: There is a lot going on in this beer. There is a complexity that confronts you as you pull the glass close to your nose. There is a peppery scent that is underscored by citrus and floral hops.
Taste: If I were drinking this in the summer months, I could see this being a very dangerous mix of drinkability and high alcohol content. Its 8.9% ABV is masked with effervescence and citrus flavours. It does not have the strong alcohol taste that accompanies some beer with higher ABV. There is a nice hop bitterness and a cornucopia of esters that dare you to take another flavourful gulp. This is why this can be a dangerous beer. I can see me drinking a lot of this very quickly and being very happy with that.
Feel: This is a medium-bodied beer that dances in your mouth. It’s smooth and finishes very dry.
Overall: I knew when I had a small sample of this beer at Oktoberfest that I needed to track down more of it. It is robust, complex, and perfectly balanced to support its deceptively high ABV. Blindman has a wonderful operation going in Lacombe and I will toast their 1-year Anniversary Ale to them, wishing them many more years of creative and satisfying brewing. And here’s to more stops in Lacombe for more reasons than avoiding a slow Tim Hortons.