If there’s one thing this city’s food scene excels in, compared to other major centres in this country, it’s doing gastropubs well. Blending craft beers and elevated pub fare is something that some other cities (I’m looking at you, Vancouver) can’t seem to master. That being said, we certainly have a lot of them and probably don’t need another one popping up. Lucky for us, Last Best Brewery isn’t a gastropub. It’s a brewpub.
So, what’s the difference?A gastropub places an emphasis on elevated pub fare while offering a good selection of craft beers on tap or in bottles. A brewpub, on the other hand, is a pub that brews the beers they are serving on the premises and may or may not include a restaurant component. So basically, the drinks are meant to be the limelight while the food becomes more of a supporting character.
The interior of Last Best Brewery features rustic elements like exposed brick with glamorous finishing touches.
Last Best Brewery is the fourth brewpub concept from Bear Hill Brewing Co., which operates properties in Jasper (the original spot), Banff and Fort McMurray. You’ll find Calgary’s Last Best on 11th Avenue S.W., in the former locations of District and Amsterdam Rhino. Now, the two spaces have been fused into one and designed by RAD (Pigeonhole, National Beer Halls). The room retains the exposed brick walls from its predecessor, but is big and splashy when it comes to the finishings that include circular bulb chandeliers, a long central bar and deep blue bar stools with gold studding.
The menu features some contemporary offerings plus some pub classics like chicken wings.
When you open up the menu here, you’ll find that the dishes are a mix of contemporary offerings that include roasted bone marrow and a grilled romaine and beet salad, as well as more classic pub items (that have received subtle upgrades) like chicken wings with a root beer barbecue sauce, cast iron nachos, burgers and sandwiches like the “knuckle sandwich,” which is essentially a grilled cheese with slow-roasted pork, gouda and beer mustard.
There’s also a small list of summer-friendly desserts to try after your meal. Lemon ricotta cheesecake, a strawberry rhubarb crisp, chocolate mousse with stout ganache and carrot cake with maple cream-cheese icing.
The best part about Last Best Brewery isn’t the vibe or look of the room, nor is it the courtyard patio – though I’m sure a seat on there on a sunny day is worth fighting for – or even the food. It’s the microbrews.
Since it’s been brewing and supplying draft beer to other restaurants and bars around the city for about a year and a half, some people will already be familiar with the Show Pony pale ale, Last Best IPA and the Dirty Bird black lager. But having 11 taps means there’s room for a whole line-up of new brews to try (as well as one guest tap, currently occupied by Toolshed Brewing).
If you prefer a lighter, crisp beer, then try the Olsch Golsch B’Golsch or The Afternoon Show With Kelly Wipa (the beer titles are a little eclectic), a white IPA that has big citrus notes and a nice sweet finish. Both are very suitable for sipping while you’re enjoying a seat in the sun.
Moving along to slightly heavier options, there’s an imperial stout and a unique nitro-injected Caramel Latte beer. Infused with Fratello coffee beans, this beer has the smooth mouth feel of a Guinness, but a lighter, caramel-y flavour that makes for a local beer your taste buds have never seen the likes of before.
With the brewing happening just feet away from your table, expect the draft line-up to change often, so find a favourite and sip it while it’s still around. Last Best is also in the process of launching a line of spirits, so look for those to debut some time later this year.