By ADELE BRUNNHOFER
“Calgary wants more craft beer,” says Graham Sherman, co-owner of Tool Shed Brewing Company, the city’s newest craft beer producer. Though the city is home to few brewers, the proliferation of its beer halls and the diverse, international flavour of their menus supports his claim. The city’s thirst for beer is a natural match for its well-known entrepreneurial streak. Sherman and business partner Jeff Orr have suitably transformed their onetime backyard project into a refreshing new beer business.
The two met in Afghanistan while working at IT firms and bonded over their desire to return to their families in Calgary and a mutual dream to set up their own brewery. Recalling the time he installed a coffee roaster in his basement just to create the perfect cup of joe, Sherman says, “I take things way too far, so beer was a logical next step.” They began brewing in Sherman’s tool shed, milling grains to produce malt and engaging in trial-and-error experimentation with the brewing process.
Moving from the backyard to the beer tap was challenging. The province requires that beer makers have the capacity to brew a minimum of 5,000 hectolitres of beer per year—a whopping amount for a small business. The budding brewers partnered with Dead Frog Brewery in Aldergrove, British Columbia, and the ale of their dreams began to flow.
“We’re not making beer that fits style guidelines, we’re making beer we love the taste of,” says Sherman. One of Tool Shed’s earliest taste successes was the accidental creation of Red Rage, loosely categorized as a red ale. Now tweaked to perfection, the brew is less sweet and more complex than Irish and American red ales. It is dark, rich and malty with strong notes of caramel.
On the other end of the spectrum is People Skills, a light cream ale created with chicken wings and patios in mind. Feeling that Alberta doesn’t produce a strong variety of India pale ales, the brewers created Star Cheek, a hoppy but well-balanced (read: not overly bitter) take on the style.
The Tool Shed philosophy, says Sherman, is taking the same great home-brewed beer he and Orr have developed and pouring that into your pint glass. Thanks to the Tool Shed boys’ entrepreneurial spirit and Calgary’s growing taste for craft beer, the city’s brew scene is hopping.