Social media was abuzz this week in Edmonton with a swath of important guests and industry peeps getting a sneak peek of the new Craft Beer Market in Edmonton. Opening December 19, this is Craft’s third location (Calgary & Vancouver) and it is taking up residence at 10013 – 101A Ave (Off Rice Howard Way). This area of downtown is quickly becoming a hot mecca of beards, cocktails, rolled up skinny jeans and beautiful locals.
December 18 was the soft opening with local foodies and fellow hob-knobbers invited down for a 3 hour soirée. Arriving just after the 5 PM opening, it was obvious from the line-up outside that Craft invited more people than they should have. Adding to the wait outside, we faced a 45 minute wait for a table once inside. This left us wandering around the massive 17,000 square foot space in hopes of resting our behinds.
Strikingly beautiful, the open main floor is filled with all the warmth one comes to expect in a hip post-2012 restaurant renovation. The second floor is roughly half the size of the first, providing you the same great feel as well as the ability to spy on those below. The kitchen is placed behind glass windows on the second floor, so the wait staff should get plenty of exercise running up and down the steps. The third floor (yes third) is a roof top patio. Unfortunately it was not open in -20 degree weather for a tour. I think this space may become one of the hottest tickets in town come summer. I have yet to meet someone who hates a roof top patio. The basement has a large space for keg storage (behind glass) as well as the washrooms. Even though they are located in the bowels of the building, they didn’t skimp on the thrones.
After finding a strange place to park our behinds, we borrowed a stool for our table and set about checking things out. With two free drink tickets in hand, we were told we could combine the two tickets for a flight of 6 beers samplers or two pints. Sadly, the biggest disappointment for me around the flights is that with 104 beers on tap (YES 104!!), you cannot personalize your flights. So, you leave the daily flight options in the decision making hands of the staff. Of course, we got the flight. For ease, beers are broken down into categories. This should help those with some sense of beer knowledge to focus on what they do or don’t like. Enjoy wheat beers, well look there. Enjoy specialty fruit beers, well look there. What seems like a lot of beers at first is actually quite easy to comprehend based on their menu breakdown. Sadly, I was surprised to see a good portion of everyday beers. I would have hoped Craft could have kicked off the ‘safe’ beer selections and force people to try something different from the get-go. Adding to my point, the gentleman beside me was happily drinking a Stella.
We both found the flight of beer anything but spectacular on this night. With a huge focus on chocolate notes, a ‘hip sourness’ and something that reminded me more of ginger ale than beer, it left something to be desired. Thankfully the flight selections will be changing all the time. After attempting to order a beer that wasn’t in stock, I was happy to learn Craft promises to have all of their beer lined up before the weekend. Hopefully the staff will have a better understanding as well, as many questions were unanswerable.
With more and more beer-centric places opening in Edmonton, Craft adds their voice to the pile and says; Featuring Canada’s largest selection of draft beer, the stunning central island bar has 104 tap lines housed in 2 towers. The steel draft lines rise up from the towers to adorn the ceiling and cascade down into our custom built glass enclosed keg room. The beer lines maintain a constant temperature and correct carbonation keeping your beer consistently fresh for the perfectly chilled pint every time. You can sip your favourite beer from the traditional glass or six pack sampler. We’re a draft house so we don’t carry any bottles. CRAFT Beer Market – Where Everything’s on Tap!
Where ever you serve beer you’ll need to serve some food and they seem to take this serious as well. In their words; We call our style of food “New North American Classic Cuisine” (think an elevated and sophisticated twist on traditional comfort foods!) All of our menu items are handcrafted from scratch in house on a daily basis. This includes all of our breads, sauces, dressings and more. Our menu features everything from appetizers and salads to sandwiches, burgers and flatbreads, and our house favourite entrées. Our philosophy of “Think global, support local” is reflected in our commitment to using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. Sadly, the food on opening night was rather underwhelming. Greasy, lacking flavor, and just blah, I find many soft openings suffer from a similar situation. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and make sure I order some food in a regular setting. Oh and check out the 20 napkin burger. That’s a first date kind of meal if I’ve ever heard of one.
The space at Craft is truly stunning. Honestly, the interior alone has me hoping that more than enough locals head through the doors and keep this place humming. I’d hate to see the 104 beers shrink to 80 to 60 and so on. I can’t imagine what the rent is like, or the cost of heating and cooling this beast, the amount of staff you need to cover our beer swigging desires and so on. I’m no restaurateur, but I think Craft certainly bit off a lot. Let us all hope they can chew! With an average food experience and a solid beer menu, I hope they can steal some of those short-skirt loving money spenders from the bigger chains in town. After all, the busy intersection of 100 and 100 can only supply so much hipster money.