Recently opened in August 2018, Eighty-Eight Brewing Co. is Calgary's throwback to 1988 – a mythical time in our city's history – a time of Olympic glory and global recognition.
We spoke with Eighty-Eight's Head of Brewery Operations, Brendan Barnett, better known as the' Make It Happen' guy around the brewery. Brendan shares his words of wisdom on following your passion and opening a brewery, the next big trend on the Alberta craft beer landscape, and a delicious craft beer alternative for the wine-drinker in your life!
founded: June 2017 (Calgary, Alberta)
opened: August, 2018
# of founding partners: 4
Brewing capacity: 17.5 HL Brewhouse + 4 HL Pilot
Welcome to the blog Brendan, thanks for chatting with us today, and congrats on your recent opening! Let's dive in...
Do you remember the first ever beer you shared with your dad?
When I was four years old, I remember getting bit by a horsefly in the backyard and my dad and his friend immediately grabbing a cold Labatt 50 can out of the ice chest to cool the welt down. So, I learned at a young age that beer is obviously good for you!
I guess you have to improvise sometimes. Beer certainly does cure all!!
I see you founded the brewery in June 2017. What line of work were you in before that, and what made you decide to switch careers?
I got burnt out working in software, and travelled North America living in an RV for a few years. The exposure to culture, cuisine and craft breweries gave me a lot of inspiration for what a different career might look like.
When I moved back home to Calgary and started home-brewing with the other three founders, it became obvious quite quickly that I was going to pursue craft beer full time.
That's interesting, the Prairie Dog guys were in software/IT as well. It seems to be somewhat of a trend. Certainly standing behind a bar serving your own beer to eager customers is far more satisfying than sitting behind a computer screen.
How about the brewery's name, what's the story behind it?
We choose the name Eighty-Eight since it was such an important year in Calgary’s history and it was the year Calgary was put on the map globally.
We really like that concept of starting something bigger. Eighty-Eight is also a nod to the Olympics which represent an amazingly positive, inclusive and fun time in Calgary’s history, which is something that we are all about.
The founding group were all raised in Calgary so Eighty-Eight made sense to us as a fun name that represents Calgary, and allows us to have fun with the nostalgic elements.
Very cool! We love the Calgary '88 feel you guys have managed to replicate so well at the brewery.
Switching gears a bit, we've seen a lot of interesting beers come to market over the past year, from super hoppy West-coast 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?
The entire team at the brewery have all been on quite a few “research” trips. One thing that we have taken note of is the wave of super flavourful lower ABV beers.
This goes for everything from Berliners, to table Saisons, to Session Ales, to Sours. We feel low ABV is going to be an emerging trend for the Calgary scene. Why have one delicious pint when you can have two?
We couldn't agree more. It's nice to have something super flavourful, yet crushable which won't leave a nasty hangover.
On that note, if someone were to visit Calgary for their first time, has never tried a craft beer, and you know they will always remember the very first craft beer they ever tasted, what would you serve them first, something low ABV?
Pilsner, while watching Fubar?...
But seriously, we love big flavours, whether they are from big bold hops or the wonders of yeast. If we were truly trying to gain traction with someone beginning their craft beer journey I think the play would be to offer something crisp, light and refreshing but still full of flavour – an Eighty-Eight Table Beer maybe?
Ah yes, the Cassette Table Beer, very clean and refreshing!
How about you, do you remember having your first ever craft beer? Was it simply experimental or did someone introduce you to it?
There was a bar called District that was actually the old Brew Brothers, which has since gone on to become Last Best. That was sort of the first foray into craft beer.
District! That takes us back.
How about present-day Alberta, what are your top 3 favourite craft beers in the province right now?
There are so many good beers right now that we couldn’t possibly pick three!
Our neighbours Dandy had an amazing pink guava milkshake sour recently – My Boy Lollipop.
Annex’s Forward Progress is a great easy drinking pale ale. Banded Peak's Dawn Patrol is probably one of the most underrated beers in the city.
Paddy’s is killing the lager and pilsner game, and their BBQ is phenomenal! Also, you'll almost always find something in our fridge from Blindman.
Last Best IPA is a seminal beer for the city – it's flat-out delicious. We’re also super excited for some great new breweries that are opening soon – get excited for Cabin Brewing and the Establishment. Good things are happening!
We can't wait for Cabin and Establishment either, hopefully, we can get them on the blog here soon.
As for Eighty-Eight, is there anything special or unique you’d like people to know about your beers? For example, is there something uncommon you’re doing, or a local ingredient you’re using which no one else is?
Our Tiffany Rosé Saison uses Pinot Noir grape juice from BC.
Wine/beer hybrids have a ton of added flavour complexity from the grape juice while also reaching out to wine drinkers who might not normally consider a craft beer. It also makes the beer bright pink and that’s pretty cool!
That's super cool! For all you wine drinkers out there, take note.
As for the actual buildout of the brewery, what’s one surprising hurdle you overcame of which most visitors don’t realize when they walk through your door?
Get comfortable being uncomfortable!
Breweries aren’t cheap, a suitable location isn’t easy to find, they’re not simple to design or build, finding amazing staff to help you realize your vision takes time, and then you need to create a brand that hopefully resonates. We’ve done so many things for the first time to get to our opening.
It's a quickly emerging trend on this blog – the laundry list of hurdles just getting to opening day.
On that note, if you could give one piece of advice for anyone aspiring to open their own brewery, what would it be?
There are a lot of great breweries in the world and now in Alberta. What are you doing to be truly different? Are you going to put in the hard work to be the best?
There are so many aspects of the business we tend to forget when thinking of a brewery. It's so much more than simply brewing tasty beer.
On a less frustrating topic, what’s the most memorable brewery you’ve ever visited? – it can be anywhere in the world. Who were you with and what made it so special?
One of our founders got married in Portland and during the festivities we managed to get to the Commons Brewery while it was still open (it’s now Modern Times Fermentorium).
The Commons was a super ambitious space and project - a huge warehouse doing farmhouse ales. It was unique, the beers were delicious and the company was great!
We're huge Portland fans. Sounds like an amazing place!
We know you've got your hands full running the brewery, so just one final question...
If you could drink one beer (brand or style) for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
It’s a toss-up between the Hoppy and the Belgian, just like Eighty-Eight!
Well, thanks again for your time Brendan, we're super excited for you guys and can't wait to see what delicious creations you come up with next!
Keep up the great work and we'll see you around the taproom soon!!