Unfortunate Incident, Great Beer Story

Written for Co-op Wine Spirits Beer's blog and website

Unfortunate Incident, Great Beer Story

When you come across a beer called Hijacked IPA, you might assume it gets its name from market research, or the future ability to craft some puns out of the name for ads. In this case, Citizen Brewing Company’s Hijacked IPA got its name from an unbelievably poorly timed yet brazen overnight theft, and the subsequent fallout.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Citizen Brewing Company opened its doors with a brewing facility and tap room in a small northeast Calgary industrial area last September. Because space was at a premium, there wasn’t much room to install a kitchen, so the Citizen team got creative. They bought a food truck, and readied it to act as the hearth of their fledgeling operation. Until it disappeared hours before Alberta Health was coming to inspect it so they could open for business.

Canada, freelance, writer, freelance writing services in canada, calgary, samples, vancouver, toronto, business writing services“It was awful,” remembers Ryan Hampton, Head Brewer at Citizen Brewing Company. “We had been getting hammered with some other delays and inspections and all the headaches that come with starting a small business. This was just one more thing. We refer to it as a ‘bitter time’ so when we designed or first IPA we decided to dub it the bitter beer after the bitter time.”

Hampton laughs when he tells the story today; a classic case of something not being funny at the time, and only being able to find humour in it later on.

With a background in home brewing, Ryan realized he loved making beer and experimenting with ingredients. He shopped his skills around and went to work for Brewsters. Eventually he knew he wanted to be out on his own.

“I really enjoy the community that builds around craft beer. It becomes a gathering place, an art space, a community place,” says Hampton. “It’s an extension of the brewer and the staff and people respond and I love that. People want to try new things and it becomes a community hub.”

Citizen Brewing Company is working to create a Portland-style, west coast-centric beer culture in its northeast space. Live music is regularly on the menu. So too is the now-infamous Hijacked IPA, which is available at Co-op Wine Spirits Beer.

“It’s a bold take on a IPA, showcasing two rare flavourful hop varietals, Loral and El Dorado. You’re going to taste complex yet gentle layers of tropical fruit, citrus, and floral spice tones but it’s still got a balanced bitter finish,” explains Hampton.

While the brewery is still growing, Hampton says having support from a retailer like Co-op this early in the game is heartening.

“Most people in Calgary really think of Co-op Wine Spirits Beer as one of the best places to try new craft beer. Recently there’s been a lot more local brands available there. Being stocked in Co-op Wine Spirits Beer is exposure we don’t think we could have organically grown without a lot more effort on our part. Instead we have Co-op supporting us and we love it.”

After the ‘hijacking’ of Citizen’s food truck, and the ensuing chaos, the team was able to borrow a second food truck in time to get their approvals to open. The old food truck was never recovered; perhaps it’s churning out churros on a Pacific Coast boardwalk somewhere with a new paint job, tourists blissfully unaware of its nefarious Calgary past.

Citizen Brewing Company’s kitchen now lives in a sturdy-sided former shipping container, located just outside the building.

“Now if you’re going to try to steal it, you need a crane. If you’re able to steal it now, you definitely deserve it more than we do.”