“If I put a brewery in rural Alberta, in the middle of the woods, would people come to it?” That’s the question Andrew Kulynych asked himself just before he started Apex Predator Brewing back in 2015.
Today, he has his answer. Kulynych’s brewery is now one of three craft beer or spirits destinations along the Yellowhead Highway. Each one has become a popular, off-the-path patio stop for visitors heading to and from Jasper National Park.
Here’s why these taprooms are worth the detour on your next trip to Jasper.
APEX PREDATOR BREWING
About 10 kilometers north of Edson, Apex Predator Brewing (formerly Bench Creek Brewing) is right in Kulynych’s backyard (literally). Quaint, quiet and tucked in acres of trees, the brewery appeals to locals and guests with a sense of adventure. “If you’re looking for an out-of-the-way experience, it’s a great destination,” Kulynych says. “We are about ‘survival of the fittest’. If you’re an outdoor adventurer, if you’ve been out hiking or mountain biking, this is a great rest stop. And we make great beer.”
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Apex Predator’s taproom offers flights, pints and growlers, and has a small snack menu. Tours are available, but the taproom overlooks the brewery, so you can still glimpse the full operation if you stop in on the fly.
Must try: White Raven IPA, an award-winning India Pale Ale with hints of tangerine, passion fruit, mango and pine and a complex malt base.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIG HORN DISTILLERY
Family-owned and -operated, Rocky Mountain Big Horn Distillery offers its own brand of “rustic comfort” to those who stop in to sample its spirits or liqueurs. “I would equate our taproom to the TV show Cheers,” says co-owner Christal Yacke. “It’s a fun place to visit, we have regulars and it’s just a great, laid-back atmosphere.”
Yacke says her husband, Brian, is a self-professed vodka snob, who “set out to make one of the best vodkas he could” when they opened the distillery back in December. So naturally, quality control is a top priority: The Yackes are hands-on with everything—from filtering to bottling to labelling their six unique beverages.
Guests who make the trek to the taproom, about three kilometers outside Edson, are rewarded with four complimentary samples, which could include a taste of the award-winning vodka or “corn shine,” a gluten-free twist on whisky. Handcrafted cocktails and concession-like munchies, enjoyed in the lounge or on the patio, likewise draw in discerning imbibers.
Must try: Alpine Cream Liqueur, a creamy, just-sweet-enough liqueur with hints of caramel, chocolate, espresso and honey.
FOLDING MOUNTAIN BREWING
Just outside the Jasper National Park gates, Folding Mountain Brewing is a quick stop off the highway—“A nice, open taproom with a cabin-in-the-mountains kind of feel,” according to co-owner Aric Johnson. “And people can see the inner workings of the brewery from the restaurant.”
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Embark on a craft beer tour of Alberta
That restaurant—an airy, cabin-chic space—serves up a range of gastropub-style sandwiches, burgers and other bites, while a dozen brews rotate on the taps, including a refreshing honey wheat beer, unique alpine cranberry sour and a handful of pale ales. (Cider and wines from outside purveyors are also on offer.)
Johnson says the brewery sees a good mix of locals and tourists. “There are quite a few campgrounds and seasonal cabins in the area. It’s a great meeting point for friends to come together.”
Must try: Wild Mountain Hefe, a fruity beer with hints of banana made from Canadian wheat and Pilsner malt, plus German hops and Hefenwiezen yeast.
ALWAYS DRINK RESPONSIBLY
Bring a designated driver when touring craft breweries anywhere in Alberta—and know your own limit when sampling.