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Best of Airdrie: Balzac Craft Brewing truly believes fine ales make friends

The Balzac Craft Brewing Company in Airdrie began in 2017 as a small-scale interest project in a barn on Stewart Ward’s farm in Balzac – hence the brewery’s name. Now, more than four years later, the craft beer company has a full-fledged micro-brewery in Cooper’s Crossing, where patrons can sit and enjoy a cold one on draft, (or buy some cans to take home), on top of deals with local restaurants and liquor stores for distribution.
BoA-Stew-Ward
Stewart Ward began making beer in his barn near Balzac, and is now the proud owner of a successful micro-brewery.

The Balzac Craft Brewing Company in Airdrie began in 2017 as a small-scale interest project in a barn on Stewart Ward’s farm in Balzac – hence the brewery’s name.

Now, more than four years later, the craft beer company has a full-fledged micro-brewery in Cooper’s Crossing, where patrons can sit and enjoy a cold one on draft, (or buy some cans to take home), on top of deals with local restaurants and liquor stores for distribution.

Balzac Craft Brewing can now add “Best Place for a Pint” to their resumé, as Airdronians awarded the business Gold in that category in the Best of Airdrie Readers' Choice Awards.

“We think it’s just absolutely wonderful – we had no pre-conceived notion that that was going to be the case,” said Ward – Balzac Craft Brewing's president and CEO, who owns the business along with his wife and one other business partner.

“All we want to do is have people come in, have fun, and relax.”

Ward explained the idea for his brewery arose during a conversation with his son over a bottle of scotch about six years ago. The initial concept was to have a local place where high-quality, craft beer could be brewed, canned and served directly to the consumer.

The business owner said the brewery was initially intended to be in Balzac, but the logistics of being a ‘destination’ type venue and unintentionally causing customers to drive impaired from the hamlet was a significant deterrent.

Instead, Ward has created his own version of an English-style pub and brewery, right off of Airdrie’s Coopers Boulevard. 

“While we can’t create the building, it’s about the characters that come into the building,” he said.

The long-time Balzac resident, who worked in the oil and gas sector for nearly four decades before transitioning to the brewing business, provided a bit of insight into the tedious beer-making process. He explained the process begins with the grinding of grain, which is done off-site, to create a malt. The grain is then brought to the brewery where it is added to a large amount of water. This develops into what is called a wort – the liquid extracted during the mashing part of the process.

The wort is then boiled, followed by the addition of hops at various times. When the boiling is finished, the liquid is cooled and is combined with yeast, at which point the fermentation process begins.

Ward said the entire brewing process takes anywhere from six to eight hours to complete. After that, the beer will be ready to serve and can in about two weeks.

Despite the tedious process, he said the results are always worth the wait.

“We have a lot of fun doing what we do here,” he said.

He added the on-and-off hospitality industry shutdowns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic pushed him to accelerate the addition of certain elements to his company, in order to serve the needs of customers who were no longer able to come in and sit down for a beer.

“We always thought we’d get into the canning, and so [the pandemic] forced our hand to bring it forward by at least a year,” Ward said.

He explained feedback from patrons before the pandemic helped them to decide which beers to put on the canning market once they had labels designed and printed. In the end, taking the chance was well worth it and ultimately, successful.

“We didn’t miss a beat,” Ward said. 

At the end of the day, Ward said the goal of Balzac Craft Brewing is to create a welcoming environment where customers can have fun and relax while enjoying a premium, house-made beer.

“I’m trying to wake up the tastebuds of the rural community,” he said.

The Balzac Craft Brewing Company is housed at 305, 401 Coopers Blvd in Airdrie.

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