Since 2017, Caravel Craft Brewery has been serving some of Calgary’s most flavourful and unique European-style beers. With one of the largest and most vibrant taprooms in the city, Caravel is known not only for its wide selection of award-winning beers but also, bringing people together through various fun and inspiring events including brewery yoga, concerts, art classes and more!
On this edition of Behind the Tap, we sat down with brewery co-founder Vlad Covali whose passion for home brewing began more than a decade ago in his home country of Moldova. Since moving to Canada in 2010, Vlad’s thriving entrepreneurial spirit combined with his love for craft beer brought him to finally open his dream brewery.
In this interview, Vlad shares his story and his passion for the wonderful world of craft beer here in Calgary, Alberta.
founded: 2017 (Calgary, Alberta)
opened: May, 2017
# of founding partners: 2
Brewing capacity: 30 HL Brewhouse
Welcome to the blog Vlad, thanks again for your time chatting with us today. Let's dive in...
What was the first ever beer you shared with your dad? Do you remember?
Yes, absolutely! It was the first Pilsner that I ever brewed back when my family and I were still living in Moldova.
Very cool! We’re big fans of Caravel’s European-style beers.
How about your own son, Nick, what beer did you both first share together?
It was an Irish Red Ale home brew.
That’s quite the beer for a first-timer! How did he like it?
He thought it was too strong - that batch was 6.8% abv.
Wow, I hope it didn’t turn him off of craft beer!
No way, he loves it. Nick has been working at Caravel since he turned 18, helping out with brewery duties and in the taproom.
That’s great to hear, it’s a true family business.
Looking back, before you founded the brewery in 2017, what line of work were you in?
I was working as an electrician in Calgary, but was educated in psychology in Moldova. We wanted to open a brewery almost as soon as we arrived in Canada back in 2010.
The love of making good craft beer and sharing it with others is what led me to the brewing business.
On behalf of us Calgary beer lovers, thank you for making such a major career switch! Your passion certainly shines through in your beer.
How about the brewery's name, what's the story behind it?
It’s about exploration!
When I was studying for my Canadian Citizenship, the study booklet mentioned that John Cabot came to Canada on a Caravel-type ship. The ship was created by the Portuguese and very popular with explorers back in the 15th & 16th Centuries because of its ability to easily maneuver into unknown ports.
We wanted something that represented our personal journey to Canada, as well as the old-world brewing styles that influence us.
That’s a fantastic story!
Switching gears a bit, we've seen a lot of interesting beers come to market over the past year, from hoppy IPA's, to nitro stouts and sours.
In your opinion, what’s the next big trend in Alberta’s craft beer scene? Are there any particular beer styles you feel we are currently lacking here in Calgary & Alberta?
It can be so unpredictable. Honestly, I think Alberta’s trend is everything.
The beauty of Alberta is that it’s made up of a broad range of people and cultures, so the trends tend to be more broad, just like our people and landscape.
As for what we’re lacking - it will probably end up being our next beer!
Well said. I know I speak for all of us when I say we can’t wait for your next beer to arrive!
On that note, as someone who experienced your first-ever craft beer in Calgary not too long ago, if someone were visiting Calgary for their first time and has never tried a craft beer, what would you serve them first?
Everyone is very different, so it all depends on their their personal tastes, but I actually had this experience fairly recently…
An elderly gentlemen came into the taproom while visiting Calgary from Arizona. He had never tried craft beer before so I gave him a little sample of everything. He ended up ordering a pint of our Hazy Horizon Hefeweizen and absolutely loved it!
He certainly can’t go wrong with your Hefeweizen, it’s one of the best in Calgary, as your many awards have shown.
You mentioned having your first ever craft beer back in Moldova – a home brew Pilsner with your dad. How about present-day Alberta, are there any craft beers on your favourites list at the moment?
That’s a tough question. Really, I like every brewery for what they’re doing and trying to accomplish. Alberta is such a unique market with so many different taste profiles. We’re all trying to do something a little different and I appreciate that.
Fair enough. It’s incredibly difficult to pick favourites with so many great breweries across the province.
How about Caravel? Is there anything special or unique you’d like people to know about your beers?
More than most breweries we make a lot of lagers. Since lagers take longer to make, they’re not always a brewer’s first choice for production, but we love them. People tell us our Cold Brew Coffee Lager is one of the most unique beers they’ve ever tried!
Ah yes, we’re BIG fans of both your Cold Brew Lager and the darker Munich-style lager. Good on you guys for taking the extra time to brew such great beers. We know it’s not always an easy task; a task which most people don’t realize when they walk through your door.
That’s exactly it. People don’t realize just how much effort, skill, time and energy it takes to create a good, consistent beer.
As for the buildout of the brewery, you started as a home brewer like so many others. If someone were aspiring to open their own brewery, what advice would you give them?
First and foremost, do your research. Home brewing and starting a brewery are two very different things. Talk to as many people in the industry as possible and make sure it’s the right choice for you.
Brendan from Eighty-Eight Brewing mentioned the same thing – it seems as though people don’t always look before jumping into the industry.
On a less intimidating topic, you’ve travelled all over the world and began your craft beer journey many years ago in Europe. You must have visited dozens, if not hundreds of unique breweries over the years. Are there any favourites which stand out?
This is a very difficult question since every brewery I’ve had the pleasure of visiting has their own unique character. That’s what makes craft so awesome – they’re all so different and have their own special charm. As long as the beer is good, each brewery (and beer) has remained with me in a different way.
We haven’t visited many breweries in Europe (yet). Maybe a brewery trip is in order? Although, one which does come to mind is the Porterhouse Brewing Co. in Covent Garden, London. It’s such a great atmosphere and their beer is top notch!
Anyways, we know you’re busy running a brewery, so just one last question...
If you had to drink one brand or style of beer for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Without a doubt, Pilsner.
It’s so easy to drink, so crisp, delicious, and approachable. It goes with everything (food or mood). There’s a lot of layers to a Pilsner that make it flavourful but easy to drink at the same time.
Pilsner it is!
Well thanks once again for your time Vlad. It’s been exciting watching Caravel grow over the past few years and we can’t wait to see what unique styles you have coming up this fall.
Keep up the great work and we'll see you around the taproom soon!!