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Random Acts of Beerness: Rumours Edition

An Oilers Nation branded beer is coming to Edmonton

It has been a while since I have attempted a Random Acts post (they are turning out to be ALMOST as time consuming to prepare as my previous news roundups). Life has been busy.

This post I don’t want to focus so much on the actual real news as on rumours and buzz (maybe I should have named it the “Donald Trump False News Edition”). There is a lot of talk around the prairies these days regarding all things beer. It has caught my attention – and things that catch my attention is the focus of this feature.

The biggest rumour story out there is Edmonton. While the Alberta beer scene exploded in 2016, with an doubling of the number of breweries operating, Edmonton was relatively quiet. Yes, Situation and Bent Stick opened their doors, but that is dwarfed by the 7 breweries in Calgary that opened their doors. The past year saw as many breweries open in Grande Prairie (GP Brewing and Grain Bin) and Medicine Hat (Hell’s Basement and Medicine Hat Brewing), as the province’s capital city. It is noteworthy.

Near the end of the year, some flickers appeared. Blind Enthusiasm officially announced its planned mid-2017 opening, and Edmonton-based brewer Bruce Sample launched Elbeck Brews – at first as a gypsy/contract operation. We also heard that long anticipated Polar Park (read my profile here) will be releasing its first beer – contract brewed at Two Sergeants – later in January. The beer, a blonde ale called Oilers Nation, is done in partnership with the hockey blog, will be available exclusively at The Pint locations (with whom Oilers Nation has a partnership).

So, this was a modest start. But over the past 3-4 weeks, the rumours have picked up steam. I have now heard of four in the Edmonton-area with definitive plans and vaguer indications of at least three or four more possibilities. I won’t name the four definitive projects for the moment (but hope to have a profile or two for you soon) out of respect for business plans (not everyone likes to be public early on), but it increases my hopes that maybe, just maybe, Edmonton might finally catch up with its sister city/rival to the south.

  • Of course, my database of breweries in Alberta also says there are 15 other breweries in various stages of planning in Calgary, so maybe Edmonton isn’t going to catch up after all. In a future post I will pontificate on what Calgary’s ceiling/critical mass might be, as I get asked that question a lot.
  • Since I am referring to my database, I currently have a list of 35 planned/projected breweries of which I have heard something substantial. This ranges from those quite close to opening, such as Folding Mountain and Annex Ales and the contract breweries still seeking capital (e.g., Six Corners, Goat Locker) to those that are not much more than a name and a dream at this point. How many of those 35 make it to fruition, especially if the economy continues to lag, is an open question.
  • Look! Foeders!

    It isn’t a rumour, being actually happening and all, but Blindman has dipped into the crowdfunding well with a call for support to buy some foeders – large oak vessels used in traditional Cognac production in France. They are looking for $20,000 to finance the purchase and shipment of two used foeders from France. Their Indiegogo appeal (found here) runs to February 5.

  • Just before Christmas, the new Conservative Manitoba government of Brian Pallister decided to play Grinch and cancelled a small brewer loan program launched just a year earlier by the previous NDP government. The Manitoba Brewers’ Association were diplomatic in their response but allow me, as an outside observer, to suggest that this might be a classic example of biting off your nose to spite your face. The program was slated to cost only $5 million and the loans would have gone a long way to help burgeoning and small breweries in the province. Manitoba has one of the lowest brewery per capita rates in the country. This decision will not help them fix that.
  • Finally, there are plans afoot  – so past a rumour but not yet reality – to launch an Edmonton Brewery Tour similar to that running in Calgary for the last year or so. The idea is a small-capacity tour to many of Edmonton’s brewing spots. Things are still being finalized, but I will update you when things get closer.

Of course, if any of you have a rumour you want me to know about, I am all ears. Drop me an email or DM on Twitter (@ABBeerguy) and I will do my best to follow up on it.


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