Prairie Dog is all about events. Read about our past events and learn about upcoming ones here.

Beerfest 2018 Update

The first batch that we ran through Clifford, our BBQ pit, was the oats that we used in our breakfast pale ale collaboration with Last Best.

You should come to the Calgary International Beerfest this weekend, Friday and Saturday May 4th and 5th! We will be debuting nine casks that feature some of the favourite beer recipes we’ve developed over the past few years, and we are proud to announce that we will be serving kegs of our new collaboration with Last Best Brewing and Distilling and a three-way collaboration with Origin Brewing and Malting and Typeface Coffee Roasters. Not only that, but we’ll be bringing along barbecued meats prepared by Chef Jay in Clifford, the big red Texas BBQ pit!

We will be tapping casks on the following schedule at Beerfest, with special guests doing the honours:

Friday, May 4

4:30 PM – Best Bitter

This traditional English style is a sessionable favourite that elevates traditional English malts to centre stage and balances them out with a blend of Bramling Cross and Lemondrop hops, resulting in a unique mashup between the old and new worlds.

5:30 PM – Oatmeal Stout

A rich, dark stout with a thick, creamy head and full mouthfeel, having notes of coffee, caramel, dark chocolate, ash, and smoke character from our in-house-smoked flaked oats.

7:00 PM – Golden Strong

A surprisingly light and refreshing Belgian-style beer that belies its underlying strength. Yeast contribute a spicy, peppery character with notes of red apple. Biscuit-malt undertones and El Dorado hops give this beer an extra dose of flavour and dimension.

8:00 PM – Oaked Blackberry Porter

Prairie Dog’s favourite porter recipe with an addition of blackberry fruit and aged with French oak, leading to a beer with significant complexity and even wine-like characteristics.

Saturday, May 5

3:00 PM – Cinco de Mayo

This “Taco in a Glass” beer was inspired by the savoury flavours of Mexican food. Based roughly on the brown ale style, this beer has about 15% of its grist replaced with toasted flaked corn. Liberal additions of cumin, black pepper and smoked paprika give the beer flavours reminiscent of taco seasoning, and time spent with heavy-toast oak lends underlying complexity to this unique creation.

4:00 PM – IPA

An edgy, modern example of the American IPA category that bursts with lemon, orange and tangerine fruit character. A generous blend of Amarillo, Lemondrop and Mosaic hops were added at the end of boil and through multiple dry-hop steps, for a total of about 4lb of hops used per hectolitre (100L) of beer. In spite of the amazing hop character, bitterness is kept lower to allow the underlying malt flavour to shine through in the finish.

5:30 PM – Oat Mild

Prairie Dog’s take on a pale form of English Mild beer. Extremely sessionable with plenty of body and flavour from oats and other traditional British ingredients, which give subtle hints of toasted coconut.

7:00 PM – Gose Margarita

A fun take on the Gose style, which is a light, slightly tart and fruity German wheat ale style that incorporates coriander spices. Our version dials back the coriander and brings in freshly zested organic lime peels that have been soaked in tequila for sterilization and flavour reasons. This beer has all the fun of a margarita with less sugar and an easy-drinking character that makes it perfect for the patio!

8:00 PM – Dessert Stout

This easy-drinking beer was inspired by the flavours of waffle-cone ice cream and includes real Madagascar vanilla and a variety of other unique ingredients that make it the perfect after-dinner treat or a fun sipper around the campfire.

General Updates

Laura uses a router to trim the laminate countertop above the pony wall that separates the brewery from the dining room.

It has been many months since we our last update here and some people must be wondering, “what’s going on with those guys?”. The truth is that we’ve been quiet because we’ve been so busy with construction and starting up the business! Now, we’ve claimed time and time again that we would be opening in a short few months, and have repeatedly been disappointed by the reality that things just don’t happen as quickly as we’d like them to, suffering from the planning fallacy. However, every day marks progress and milestones continue to pass, and we are finally very close to gaining our occupancy license, which is the big hurdle that we need to jump over before we can start brewing beer and finally open our doors.

Right now it looks like we are about six weeks away from opening. I say that based on the fact that we are nearing the end of construction and starting to go through final inspections, and although we’ve had a few surprises, nothing major has come up. Here’s a few of the recent milestones:

  • On Tuesday, our kitchen was approved by Alberta Health Services for commercial purposes
  • A couple of weeks ago we fired up our boiler and turned on our brewhouse for the first time, moving around water and testing for leaks
  • Our federal excise tax inspection happened on Monday and all went smoothly
  • We had a progress inspection with our fire inspector and have completed all his recommendations
  • This week our mechanical contractors looked over all the plumbing fixtures that we installed and gave us some minor homework, but they believe everything is set to pass a final
  • Our electrical contractor finished up on Tuesday and will book our final inspection shortly
  • We had some setbacks and time sinks with the city planning office related to our painted signage plan, but that was resolved on Wednesday and our signage permit is now pending approval
  • We now have functioning wifi, an alarm system, payment terminals, refrigeration equipment, milling equipment, water softening and filtration, dishwashers, and lots more

Some of the major things that we still need to complete before we get occupancy (and start brewing beer):

  • The outside of our building has to be pressure washed and painted (by us) before we can get our Development Completion Permit
  • We must finish mounting bathroom doors and trim
  • We will install hardwood on the bar top and install drip trays
  • Our tap towers and draft lines will be set up and installed
  • Final inspections for electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and boiler
  • Assembly and placement of tables and chairs
  • Building and fire inspections

So as you can see, we have a lot of things to push through as soon as Beerfest finishes up, and we still have several tasks that could come up against roadblocks depending on bureaucracy. So wish us luck and please, if you are interested in volunteering to help us get things finished up, please send us an email at!

Hope to see you all at Beerfest!

Off-Flavour Tasting Event December ’16

In early December, we were excited to hold the second round of off-flavour tastings. For details on the first event, see our post here.

For the second round, we used eight more flavours from the same kit as the first. These flavours were less common than the ones used in the first round, though still important. They were: caprylic acid, “earthy”, indole, isovaleric acid, lactic acid, mercaptan, “metallic”, and “papery”.

Like the first event, we used a triangle test method for tasting. Each participant received three samples, one of which contained an off-flavour, and the participants had to guess which one that was. We did make some modifications to our overall procedure based on what we learned last time, but the most significant change was that we used a batch of our homebrew as the base beer rather than a commercial beer. Gerad and Tyler designed a beer specifically for this event, a pleasant, 3% ABV, Kolsch-style ale. In order to avoid competition with the off-flavour taints, the recipe was low in hops and fermented cool for clean flavour.

The other important change we made was to provide each person with a control sample, one that was known to be untainted with an off-flavour. This made it easier for the attendees to try to pick out which cup was tainted in each round.

For our first event, we used standard red Solo cups to hold the samples. This time, we used small, shot-sized cups, which saved us the trouble of measuring every pour, as well as time. We also labeled all the cups in advance, including the participants’ names; this way, the marker had plenty of time to dry before the tasting, avoiding interference with beer aroma.

Interestingly, it seemed like the tainted beers were easier to identify than in the first event. This could be due to the strength of the flavours themselves, or the lighter, cleaner quality of the base beer compared with the pale, American lager used in the first tasting event (or both). This meant that most people were quick to identify the tainted beer, and there was more discussion around how to describe the off-flavour in question. We got some very interesting descriptors; I think “old man’s breath” was my favourite.

By now, our attendees are getting very good at picking out which beers contain off-flavours. We’ll see how they do in round three, which may prove to be trickier…

Prairie Dog Off-Flavour Tasting Event, September 2016

This past Friday, we held our first Prairie Dog event: Off-Flavour Tasting. As you may or may not know, it is possible for beer to have “off-flavours”, due to some incorrect process in the production, or due to contamination. Many of these flavours are known, and it is possible to tell what went wrong based on the off-flavour present.

We bought a kit that includes several off-flavours as well as typical “on-flavours”. For this event, we focused on off-flavours, and chose eight common off-flavours to use this first time. The idea was to add these flavours to beer, and to ask people to guess which were tainted.

We decided to have eight rounds of tasting. In each round, each participant would get three cups of beer. One cup would be tainted. Everyone would have to guess which of the three cups had the off-flavour. At the end of the round, the answer, including what the off-flavour was, would be revealed, and we’d talk about what that flavour smells and tastes like to different people, and what in production can cause that flavour.

img_20160915_185542Logistically, we had to figure out how to do this so that only one person knew which beers were tainted, and how to do it so that the evening flowed without everyone having to wait too long between rounds. We also only had one vial of each off-flavour, so we had to design this procedure carefully.

First of all, we chose to add our off-flavours to a commercial light lager, one which did not have a strong aroma or flavour of its own to mask the flavours we were going to add. According to our flavour kit, each vial contained enough liquid to be detected in one litre of beer. In order to keep this a blind test, we decided that for each round of tasting, we would have three one-litre bottles of beer, where one was tainted. Each participant would receive a shot from each bottle for their tasting. We used plastic, amber bottles: amber to protect the beer from UV, and plastic for its ability to be reused by us. Using bottles for the ‘pristine’ beer as well and the tainted beer would enable us to:20160915_165906

1- Hide the identity of the tainted beer from everyone, including the pourer;

2- Keep track more easily of what to pour in each round;

3- Allow all the beer to have the same amount of carbonation.

Since we were preparing the beer the day before, it was important to us that the loss of carbonation occurred to the same degree for every pour. Ideally, we wanted to buy a keg of beer and fill our one-litre bottles from there. However, we needed 24 litres of beer (8 rounds x 3 litres), and the kegs available were either too small or too large – and we didn’t want to have a lot of wasted beer. So, what did we do? Laura went out and bought 72 cans (two 36-packs) of beer.

20160915_165730The one-litre bottles were not marked for volume, so we filled a one-litre measuring cup with water, and poured it into one of the bottles. One litre was approximately halfway up the neck of the bottle – close enough for our purposes, since this is not a quantitative experiment. So we knew how much to fill each bottle. But how to fill them from 355-millilitre cans? First we tried just pouring the cans straight into the bottles, with and without a funnel. Either way, we got a lot of foam in the bottle, and so we decided it would take way too long to fill all the bottles, having to wait for the foam to die down each time we poured. Plus, we would lose a lot of carbonation. In the end, we decided to use a keg.

While everyone else was busy doing other Prairie Dog-related things, I had the fun task of filling two of our kegs with 72 cans of beer (I got help opening the cans near the end img_20160916_185628because my fingers hurt!). Luckily, the kegs had already been cleaned and sanitized. I tried as much as possible to reduce the foam by pouring down the inner sides of the kegs, but still, there was a lot of foam. Technically we only needed 68 cans (24 L/355 mL = 67.6), but we used them all to compensate for the foam. Once all the cans were emptied into the kegs, Gerad and Tyler filled the kegs with carbon dioxide. We probably lost less carbonation doing this than if we had filled the bottles directly from the cans.

Every bottle was labeled with a number and a letter, in the form of #-A, #-B, and #-C, where # is the round, and A, B and C correspond to the participants’ cups. For every round, I chose either A, B or C to contain the off-flavour. I used the Tracking Sheet to randomly assign each off-flavour to a round, and within that round, which bottle would contain that off-flavour.

img_20160915_185502 img_20160915_190034 img_20160915_185600

We filled the bottles as an assembly line: Gerad filled a bottle from the keg, I took it behind a wall of boxes (so that the Tracking Sheet was hidden from the others) and either did or did not add an off-flavour, according to the Tracking Sheet, and Tyler screwed on the cap then inverted the bottle a few times to mix the beer with the off-flavour. The off-flavours came in liquid form in glass vials. The type of vials they were in are called ‘ampoules’. Ampoules are fully sealed, and to open them you actually break the top off, with it breaking along a line etched in the glass.

img_20160916_185645The final materials preparation we did was to label cups. We were planning on up to 15 participants, so each participant was to receive two-ounce pours per tasting using a standard shot glass (1 L/15 = 67 mL = 2.3 oz). We sorted the cups into two sets of three cups per person, and labeled each set A, B, C. The idea was to be pouring the next round into the participants’ spare sets of cups while they were still tasting in the current round.

The bottles of beer were refrigerated overnight and until the event the following day!img_20160916_185736

Before we started the tasting, we asked everyone to label their cups with their names, using a Sharpie. Unfortunately, Sharpie has a strong smell and for some people it overwhelmed the smell from the beer in the first couple of rounds. Next time, we will either ask people to write near the bottom of the cups rather than the mouth, or to write with pen on a label that can be stuck to the cups.

We poured the first round and the tasting began! Gerad explained techniques for smelling and tasting the beer. We kept each tasting round to five minutes. At the end of each round, there was discussion among everyone about which cup they thought was off, and what flavour they smelled. I then revealed which of their cups had been tainted, and with what compound. Gerad further explained what types of aromas the compound can cause, and what in the beer production process could cause this compound to be present. During his explanation, Tyler and I filled the spare sets of cups for the next round.20160916_195101

20160916_195316Off it went like that for the eight rounds. It was fun to learn about these off-flavours with a group of homebrewers and craft beer fans. We’ve heard about these flavours before, but being able to be exposed to them in a controlled way enabled us to be more confident about detecting these in the future, which will be particularly helpful for tasting our own beer – a good start for quality control!

It was also interesting that for the most part, flavours were detected much more strongly by smell than by taste. Also, not everyone could detect each flavour, and further, some people detected off-flavours that were not offensive to them at all.

We did receive suggestions for how to improve the event in the future. Firstly, we can start by giving everyone a cup of the beer that we used for this event in a separate cup for participants to use as a reference either before, or throughout the tasting, because not everyone is familiar with the beer we chose. We could also start with a strong flavour that everyone should be able to detect, again so that they have a chance to get used to what the beer smells and tastes like without the off-flavour present and are able to learn what to look for to make the comparison. For this event, we only had one vial of each flavour, but eventually, we might be able to have enough of these on hand to add them to water, or just have them in their pure form, for people to smell without interference from the beer. We would let them smell the flavour for interest’s sake, after they’ve tried to smell it in beer.

20160916_192047Overall, it was a successful event. We met some great people, both homebrewers and craft beer drinkers. We had fun tasting tainted beer, had fun drinking good beer afterwards, and it was generally a great time. We look forward to doing more of these types of events!

For the step-wise procedure, click here: Sensory Off-Flavour Tasting Event General Procedure

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