Taproom Toys: Cool devices at Calgary craft breweries enhance your beer-drinking experience

As broadening vaccination has allowed Calgary’s taprooms to reopen, breweries are anxious to welcome back their loyal patrons. Is there anything better than a perfect pint at the brewery tap? Well … yes, actually.

Several Calgary breweries feature cool taproom toys to enhance your beer-drinking experience. Next time you’re visiting these taprooms, enjoy a super-perfect pint!

Beer straight from the barrel: Tool Shed Brewing (801 30 St. N.E.; has the most innocuous, yet amazing piece of beer serving technology in Alberta. What they have dubbed the “Barrelonator” draws beer straight from an oak barrel and filters, chills and carbonates it on the way to the tap where you can enjoy rare, one-off enhancements to their regular beers. People Skills Cream Ale aged in a Chardonnay barrel was a recent offering, for example. “There’s endless possibilities to get cool barrels and put cool beer through it!” says Co-Founder Graham Sherman. 

Slushee beer: One of the surprising (but Instagram-worthy) trends in beer today is slushee beer. Outcast Brewing (607 Manitou Rd. S.E.; has earned an international reputation for heavily-fruited, sour, smoothie beers. They taste just like what you would get from a juice bar. And if they’re frozen, they become slushee beers. The Outcast taproom now features a slushee machine so you can enjoy the experience fresh! The machine has two chambers, so in addition to their regular slushee beers, they can create taproom-exclusive experimental flavours.

The Tool Shed Brewing taproom also has a two-chamber slushee machine, but they don’t put beer in it. Instead, they use it to enhance existing beers. A lime slush, for example, can float atop a glass of People Skills Cream Ale, or a slush made with Irish whiskey can float atop their Flat Cap Stout. At least one slushee will be non-alcoholic at all times, so there’s something icy for little ones to enjoy – sans beer, of course.

Infused beer: Each Friday and Saturday at Inner City Brewing (820 11 Ave. S.W.;, they serve a couple of their beers through in-line infusers. You can see the fresh ingredients through sight glasses built into the infusers at the back bar. Fruits are an obvious ingredient to use, as well as coffee and vanilla beans, but the possibilities are limited only by the imagination.

Keep your beer cold: Both OT Brewing (1155E 44 Ave. S.E.; and Elite Brewing & Cidery (1319 Edmonton Tr. N.E.; have something cool built into their bars (pun intended). It’s a cold strip of metal called a frost rail. You put your glass of beer on the frost rail to keep it cool. Elite’s is 50 feet long and was the first in western Canada.

Cask-conditioned beer: “It’s the way beer should be drunk,” says Ben Leon, Co-Founder of Dandy Brewing (2003 11 St. S.E.; He’s talking about cask-conditioned beer drawn by a traditional British handpump. Dandy makes cask-conditioned versions of their regular beers, but no artificial carbonation is added and the handpump pulls beer from the cask without additional gas. The result is a classically British cask beer experience.

Don Tse has sampled almost 24,000 different beers. He is the Official Beer Taster for Craft Beer Importers Canada Inc. and Far Out Exporters Inc. which work with many of Alberta’s breweries. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.