In what has unintentionally become a series on new Saskatchewan-based breweries (see other profiles here and here), I today profile Regina’s new entrant in what is Saskatchewan’s microbrewery mini-boom. District Brewing is Regina’s first non-brewpub microbrewery in the modern era. And they launch on the scene this fall high in confidence and with a savvy marketing strategy.
Three years ago Byron Wiebe was finishing business school, with a major in marketing, when he starting working on an idea to open a brewery in Regina. “I saw there was an opportunity in Regina,” says Wiebe. “There are no other breweries. It is taking off elsewhere but not in Saskatchewan. That makes Regina a great place to open a craft brewery.” Alas, he had the business and marketing smarts, but little knowledge of how to make beer. By pure happenstance through a mutual friend, he learned about Jay Cook who at the time was working for Labatt in London and was hankering to return to his roots in Saskatchewan. The two talked and District Brewing was borne.
District Brewing’s business model is simple and straightforward. “One beer,” says Wiebe. For the moment they are brewing only one beer. “Because craft is new in the public mindset here we want a “transitional beer” as our first. 100% malt, fuller than Coors and Canadian but it won’t scare those customers away”.
The result is Müs Knuckle Lager, a pale lager that Wiebe describes as similar to a Munich Helles. The plan is to establish the brand with the lager, promoting it as “Saskatchewan’s beer” to introduce mainstream beer drinkers, in particular younger drinkers, to the concept of craft beer. “Later we will start experimenting more”, offering more assertive styles.
Müs Knuckle is packaged in green bottles, “to set ourselves apart” says Wiebe. He isn’t concerned about potential skunking. He says the box will be light impermeable and they will encourage consumers to drink while fresh. Plus, at first, they are placing a lot of emphasis on keg sales, which eliminates that problem.
“Regina is our primary market now, but we will be in SLGA stores soon” says Wiebe. Expansion to Alberta is in their more medium range plans, likely once they have developed other beer styles. “The Alberta market is pretty crowded. Once we have something unique to offer is when we move into Alberta”.
Wiebe suggests their model is not unlike Steam Whistle in Toronto. While the style is different the focus and approach is quite similar, he says.
District predicts the first batch will roll off the bottling line in the last week of September.