It appears Saskatchewan is on the verge of getting its second craft microbrewery. In a press release this week Clayton and Kari Stenson announced that Black Bridge Brewery will be opening in the spring of 2014. Construction on a brand new 20-hectolitre brewhouse is slated to begin shortly. In the release they state they will be producing four as of yet unannounced beer along with occasional seasonals for sale in Saskatchewan and Alberta. It will be Swift Current’s first brewery (there is one of those “stir and serve” extract “brewpubs” that proliferate in Saskatchewan for the off-sale rights, but that doesn’t count).
I called Kari Stenson to get a bit more background on the project. She calls it a natural evolution of Clayton’s ever-growing 10-year-old homebrewing hobby. Clayton, who is a self-taught brewer, has been talking about opening a brewery for a number of years, and Kari said they felt like the timing was right. “We are ready for something new. It is a good time in our lives for a big change”. Clayton currently works as a production manager for an agricultural equipment manufacturer.
They plan to start small and grow slowly over time. They will start off as a two-person operation. “Clayton will be the brewer, and I will do everything else,” Kari laughs.
The Stensons think the time is right for a new brewery in Saskatchewan. “We’re hoping that Saskatchewan is following the trend to focus on local and small business, wich has always been very big in Swift Current” says Kari. “Craft beer can play a huge role in festivals and fundraising, we are hoping community rallies around us and if we give them a quality product they will keep coming back.”
The Stensons are not yet ready to announce what their four flagship beer will be, but promise to tell the world before too long. For now they would say they are “influenced by the Northwest U.S. and Belgian styles”, which might give us a pretty good idea where they are going with the beer.
As for the name of the brewery, Kari says that long-time residents will immediately know that it refers to a local landmark, a black bridge a few kilometres south of Swift Current that offers a stark appearance amidst rolling prairie fields. “It has a strong local connection. I went fishing there with my grandfather as a kid. There are local legends of someone being murdered on the bridge and that if you drive there at night and turn off your headlights you can see ghosts. If you lived here 20 years or more, you know all about the black bridge”.
Stay tuned for more information on Black Bridge.