It has been just over a year since BEER QUEST WEST went to press and since then there have been many changes in the British Columbia and Alberta beer scene — new brew pubs, brewers moving to new jobs, and — most important — some very good new beers. Periodically, we’ll be offering brief updates for chapters from the book, starting with this posting on Chapter One, which focusses on Central Alberta.

ALLEY KAT: Following up on the success of the limited edition brews Neil Herbst and crew created to celebrate the brewery’s 15th anniversary, Alley Kat has launched a Big Bottle series. Every six to eight weeks, they’ll be issuing a new brew in 650 millilitre bottles. “It gives our brewing crew a chance to be creative and our customers the opportunity to enjoy some styles they don’t usually find,” Herbst explained. “White Tail” a hefeweizen and “Red Dragon” a double IPA made exclusively with Simcoe Hops have been two of the early offerings. In addition, they’ll be issuing seasonal six packs, this fall’s being “Ein Prosit!” — a six per cent Oktoberfest. (It’s a delicious beer — but I confess that I’ll miss “Pumpkin Pi.”)

AMBER’S: The big news is that Terry Cameron, the founder of Roughneck, took over, this summer, as the full-time brewer at Amber’s. He’s involved with the production of Amber’s three new beers: “Zombie Apocalypse,” a red Vienna Lager, “Amber’s Smoothe” — a light ale, and “Cinnamon and Cardamon Beer” — which adds these interesting and unusual flavours to the light ale base. These new beers are only available in draft — although Jim Gibbons hopes to make them available soon in growlers) available at the brewery only).The brewery’s other two flavoured lagers “Sap Vampire Maple Lager” and ” Australian Pepper Berry,” are still around. The maple flavour of the former has been considerably diminished. It no longer tastes like a pancake breakfast. “Lunch Pail Ale” is now sold without Bub Slug’s name being attached.

BREWSTERS: Gunther Trageser, the chain’s Edmonton Brewer,  reports that “Lanigan’s Red Ale” has been dropped from the list of regulars and replaced by “Fruit Hog,” in which an ever-changing variety of fruid essences and extracts are added to the “Wild West Wheat Base,” and “Curly Horse IPA,” a west coast version of the style.

ROUGHNECK: Terry Cameron has scaled back production at his small Calmar facility. He sold his canning line because, he said, there just weren’t enough orders from the chain liquor stores to warrant continued production. He still has some bar and restaruant accounts for his lager and ale. He plans continued production, on a limited basis, of his two bottled products. “Brewmaster’s Choice India Pale Ale” he describes as not as crazy as the West Coast style. “Brewmaster’s Choice Brown Ale” is full-bodied, but drier and less sweet that the best -known version of the style “Newcastle Brown.”

YELLOWHEAD: Edmonton’s newest brewery continues to produce only one beer: a German style lager. The focus has been on building restaurant and bar accounts, although there are plans to package in six-packs in the not too distant future.

DRUMMOND: Down in Red Deer, Drummond’s main product continues to be the premium lager. An all-grain beer, it is budget priced, and designed for the “regular” Joe who is ready to try an American style lager that isn’t produced by the internationals. Late in the summer, Dave Neilly, who had worked for over four years at Calgary’s Wild Rose and before that at Bushwakker Brewpub in Saskatoon, took over as head brwer.