“It’s still a new thing to Medicine Hat. The whole province was exploding with craft beers,” says Brennan Vancuren, who is part of the MH Brew Co team along with his brother and his parents. “Our brewmaster [Mitch Dalrymple] has close to 20 years of craft brewing experience and 11 of that was as a head brewmaster. So I think that kind of sets us apart, he’s just really good at making smooth, clean beers that people enjoy.”
Many of MH Brew Co’s beers are named after places and people with historical significance. That Medicine Hat pride has also made its mark on the city’s other craft brewery, Hell’s Basement, named for Rudyard Kipling’s famous quote about Medicine Hat’s natural gas reserves. Founded by six beer-loving friends, Hell’s Basement’s brewmaster is a self-described “hop freak” from the world’s craft beer capital, Oregon, so unsurprisingly, the IPA reigns supreme at Hell’s Basement. That said, the brewery’s pilsners, lagers, and other ales all hold their own, as do seasonals like the Ryes Against the Machine rye ale and the juicy Fruit Bat Blueberry.
Part of the charm of visiting a working brewery is peeking into the brew house and learning how the beer is made. Both MH Brew Co and Hell’s Basement offer brewery tours, but for those who want to make a day out of exploring the breweries, Tourism Medicine Hat also offers a Medicine Hat Brewery Tour, which includes beer flights and tours of both breweries. Visitors can learn how grains are magically transformed into tasty beer, get a look at professional brewing equipment, and ask brewmasters how variations in the process change the flavour of the beer. You might even get a peek at some of the seasonal brews that are in the works.
After visiting the breweries, the tour ends at the local Industry Pub, which carries beers from both breweries on tap so that guests can revisit their favourite brew. Both large and small groups can be accommodated and tours can be set up by calling 1-800-481-2822.
Elizabeth Chorney-Booth’s top Medicine Hat must see and dos
Medicine Hat is a fun to visit — whether you’re coming east from Calgary, south from Edmonton, north from Lethbridge, west from Regina, or even from further afield. It’s a reasonable and relaxing drive and there’s plenty to see and do. The locals are friendly, and there’s loads of natural sunshine.
Here are my tips to get the most out of Medicine Hat, especially if you’re travelling with the family:
- Medicine Hat is famous for its sunshine, so be sure to get out and enjoy the weather at one of the City’s parks, whether it’s just throwing a Frisbee around at the downtown Riverside Veterans’ Memorial Park or a trail walk along the river at Police Point Park.
- Medicine Hat is a caffeine-addict’s paradise, with six independently owned coffee shops in town. If ice cream is more enticing, don’t miss the classic Swirls ice cream stand on the corner of Division Avenue and 4th Street.
- Downtown is where it’s at in the Hat. Medicine Hat has a beautifully preserved historic downtown full of brick buildings (some still painted with advertisements from days gone by) that are now home to local shops, cafés, and other services.
- No trip to Medicine Hat is complete without a stop at Medalta Potteries. This beautiful old factory now operates as a museum, a public gathering space, and a contemporary art gallery.
- Be sure to catch some of Medicine Hat’s food trucks, either on the street or at a special event. During the summer, there’s a running Food Truck Festival on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Medicine Hat Visitors Centre (near the giant tepee).
For more information about Medicine Hat, check out their official website.