Dandy brings 'fine dining drinking food' to Ramsay with new brewery and tasting room

One of Calgary’s first nano-breweries, the Dandy Brewing Company, has outgrown its tiny industrial taproom and has made the move to Ramsay, taking over a space on 11th Street that was previously a motorcycle shop and garage.

Nano-brewery a welcome addition to the neighbourhood's burgeoning beer scene

From the daikon-topped Dandy hot dog to spaghetti alla vodka and chicken liver toast, Dandy is pushing the boundaries of typical brewery fare. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

One of Calgary's first nano-breweries (even smaller than a microbrewery) opened its doors in August of 2014.

Since then, the Dandy Brewing Company has outgrown its tiny, industrial taproom on 25th Avenue N.E. and has opened up in Ramsay, taking over a space on 11th Street S.E. that was previously a motorcycle shop and garage.

The space is more than just a brewery and tasting room, even if it's still referred to by that name.

Dandy Brewing Company co-founder Ben Leon, with head brewer Dylan Nosal and chef Merritt Gordon, celebrate the opening of their new tasting room in Ramsay. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

"We still call it a tasting room," said managing director Ben Leon, one of four co-founders along with head brewer Dylan Nosal, Matt Gaetz and Derek Waghray.

"But it's classified as a restaurant, which mainly means we can serve other people's booze. We can bring in guest taps and serve cocktails and wine for those coming in with friends who might not like beer. It's a little more flexible with patio extensions and events too."

Brewery scene is booming

Dandy adds to a growing community of craft breweries in the area. Further north, Cold Garden has been a popular rec room-style hangout since opening a couple years ago, and High Line is tucked away in a parking lot on Ninth Avenue S.E. in Inglewood.

Coming soon, Ol' Beautiful Brewery plans to open in the old Smithbilt Hats building beside Cold Garden, Revival Brewcade is opening in the space that was previously the Gummi Boutique on Ninth Avenue, and '88 Brewing plans to open its doors this summer on Portland Street, across from the Crossroads Market.

The converted motorcycle garage is airy and open, featuring work from local artists, including painted cut-outs by Kelsey Fraser, who also designed a number of Dandy's beer labels. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Historically, nearby Inglewood was known as the brewery district. The Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, now known as the old Molson site, was founded in 1893 and shut down in 1994.

Further south, the Manchester/Highfield industrial area is being rebranded as the Barley Belt due to their high density of craft breweries, including Banded Peak, the Annex Ale Project, Paddy's Barbecue & Brewery and Village Brewery just off Highfield Road.

Calgary's first craft cider company, the Uncommon Cider Co., is looking at a space in the area as well.

"The city was great about developing the tasting room licence for breweries," said Leon. "They made it so much easier for breweries to have a tasting room — it automatically came with the brewery designation. But we were really set on having a restaurant here, to be able to provide more of an experience."

In the kitchen, Chef Merritt Gordon has cooked in kitchens of well-known restaurants across Canada, including Rouge, Park and Au Pied de Cochon in Montreal, and the Eden in the Rimrock Hotel (the only AAA/CAA Five-Diamond designated restaurant in western Canada) in Banff. He jumped at the opportunity to have his own kitchen and free rein with a brand new menu.

Dandy's unique brews are served in 5 oz or 12 oz pours to retain their quality to the bottom of the glass. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Beyond the usual bar nibbles, which are anything but the usual — think chicken liver toast, pickled eggs, sweet potato ceviche and Welsh rarebit — they do a fantastic Dandy hot dog dressed with daikon slaw and crispy shallots. Platters of spaghetti alla vodka, roasted lamb shoulder, homemade pineapple molasses cake and warm maple pouding chômeur for dessert are also on the menu. (Pastry is one of Gordon's specialties.)

They plan to launch a brunch menu on the weekend of April 21.

Room with a view

One side of the L-shaped building houses their new tanks (they've kept their old brewery space as well), and the room is open and modern.

Work from local artists decks the walls, including painted cut-outs by Kelsey Fraser, who has also designed a number of their beer labels.

Sunlight streams in from the repair shop's floor-to-ceiling garage doors, illuminating the movable tables, chairs and benches along one wall hand-built by Leon's father-in-law.

They serve their unique brews in five- or 12-ounce pours to retain their quality to the bottom of the glass.

"Our head brewer Dylan comes from fine dining as well, so he approaches beer from a different angle than a lot of brewers," said Leon.

"He comes at it from a flavour profile first."

'We still call it a tasting room. But it’s classified as a restaurant, which mainly means we can serve other peoples’ booze. We can bring in guest taps and serve cocktails and wine for those coming in with friends who might not like beer." (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

The Uncontrollable Urge has soft coriander and sea salt, and the Pink Boots Brew #2 is a bold Belgian with a pink tinge from being brewed with hibiscus.

This summer, they hope to find a way to start a bike-powered growler delivery service for people in the community, reminiscent of milkman-style deliveries or vintage ice cream trucks.

"Everything is meant to be eaten with every beer — it's fine dining drinking food," said Leon. "That's the idea of the space in general. We're a beer company, but it's really about having a great overall experience."


Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.