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Oldman the New Kid on the Beer Block

If I were to ask you where Lundbreck was, I am pretty confident you wouldn’t really know. As it works out it is a small hamlet on the Crowsnest Highway between Pincher Creek and the towns that make up the Crowsnest Pass.

If you didn’t know, be sure to mark it on your Google Maps as soon you are going to want to make sure you stop there if in the area. Lundbreck is soon to be home to Oldman River Brewing (no website yet, link is to their Twitter page). They are currently assembling their brewery and tap room and hope to have beer for sale sometime in May.

I recently spoke with the three partners involved in the project, husband and wife Brittney and Adam Wilgosh and longtime friend Dan Christensen. All have lived in the Lundbreck area for years. Dan runs the town tire shop (located across the street from the brewery – have a pint while waiting for your tire rotation!). Brittany works for an accounting firm in town while Adam is a fly fishing guide who runs a small construction company outside fishing season.

The idea for the brewery started at the same time many of Alberta’s new breweries got off the ground – when the government eliminated the production capacity minimums. “I was away at work and Dan texts me. The government had just changed the law”, says Adam Wilgosh. At that point Adam had been a homebrewer for about 10 years and he and Dan had many beer-filled conversations about opening a brewery, but nothing serious. “From that moment discussion got more focused and we started wondering if we could put it together”. Adam adds that, as beer lovers, he and Brittany had long talked about opening a pub or some other beer-related venture.

Shortly after, Brittany found a job posting online for an assistant brewer at the Olds College Brewery, associated with their brewmaster diploma program. “I said to him, why not apply? You have nothing to lose,” says Brittany. “He got the job”.

Adam lasted for a school term. He considered it a “feeling out period” to decide if opening a brewery was feasible. It was enough time for them to make the decision, and the brewery was born.

They are currently in construction on the brewery and tap room. “We are right downtown Lundbreck. You can’t miss us”, says Christensen. Unlike many of the new breweries opening up in the region, Oldman hasn’t opted for “a shiny, attractive new brewhouse”, as Adam puts it. Instead they have cobbled their brewery together with a lot of second hand equipment and some new pieces. Their brewhouse is sourced from a closed brewery in Edmonton. They also picked up a variety of tanks from various sources. The only new equipment are their hot liquor tank and a new mash tun. “We are just putting things together to make it work”, says Adam. When finished they will have a 20hl brewing capacity with 3 fermenters, 2 bright tanks and 4 conditioning tanks.

In a move that quickly wins over my heart (read here to see why), they say the plan to bottle in stubbies. The classic Canadian beer bottle may make its return with this intrepid trio. Kegs and growler fills will also be on offer.

The group knows they are opening up in somewhat uncharted territory by being in the Crowsnest Pass area. “Our vision is to be local to our area”, says Adam. “There is nobody else in our area. This is a place that appreciates good, honest beer”. The three owners also want to anchor around their passions, which include outdoor activities. “We are outdoors people, we try to get out an recreate in our different ways. We are close to the mountains here and want to push that angle”, says Adam. “We want to appeal to that rural, down home feel. People from the city come here because of clean air and the outdoors. That is why they are leaving the city. We are trying to appeal to that”, adds Christensen.

To that end they envision their flagship to be “an approachable lager to start”, says Adam. “A beer not just for craft beer aficionados but a beer for what people around here are drinking”. They see it as a pale golden lager “shooting for some melanoidin character and a more traditional German style flavour”.

In addition to that they see two other year-round beer plus regular seasonals. The line-up is not finalized but will definitely include some Belgian styles. “I am into Belgian beer”, says Adam. “So we will have a few of them on offer.” Right now they see, in addition to the lager, a pale ale, a Belgian Blonde, a Belgian IPA and them some other ideas including a Dubbel, a Bock and other styles.

The name was a natural. “The town is right beside the Oldman river, coming straight down from the eastern slopes”, says Christensen. “It is a regional name that isn’t too specific compared to, say, Lundbreck Brewing”.

The name and branding is designed to appeal to people in the area “It appeals to our demographic. This is ranching, western country”, says Adam. “We all appreciate the old west look. That is where we are going, including the look of the tap room. We want it relaxed and approachable. We want local people to feel some connection to what we are doing”.

The initial plan is to self-distribute to the surrounding area and anchor themselves as the local beer. “We will dabble with the bigger craft-focused place in Calgary and get to Lethbridge, but for now the focus is on Pincher Creek, the Crowsnest and Waterton. Mostly our area”, says Brittany. “We do hope to eventually work our way up the province”, she adds.

Not surprisingly, they had trouble answering where they see themselves in five years. “Making money, that’s every business’ goal”, suggests Christensen. More seriously they suggest they hope to have a broader reach across Alberta and mostly just want to be making some good beer.

 

 

4 comments to Oldman the New Kid on the Beer Block

  • This is getting to be a bit much. I fully support new ventures that always say we have a passion for this and that but the bottom line is Alberta with it’s 4.2 million population can not support 50 new micro breweries and I don’t want to give them tax dollars to create new jobs. They should do that on their own ! Sadly some will fail no matter how much passion they have and why should taxpayers fund this is beyond me. Happy Saint Paddy’s day y’all and don’t drink and drive !!! Thanks

    • beerguy

      By best estimates craft breweries (excluding Big Rock) have about 1-2% of market share in Alberta. There is TONS of room for growth. If that number even just doubles to 3-4%, there will be plenty of room for everybody. Sure not all will make it – that is the nature of any industry – but we are far from having topped out the province’s potential market.

      As for the grant program, reasonable people can have differing views on that, but it does seem to be working. I hope to do a post in the near future laying some evidence out to back that up, but have been too busy with, you know, life.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Yes beerguy I get it. Lets see what happens, but my hunch is, We are from the Government and we are here to help. Like that’s worked in the past ?. Any who their is a need for more comments to know what people think. All I would like is good inexpensive (not cheap) local beer and support the local economy and not piss of the other provinces. We have to all get along. Thanks

  • NH

    It’s true they won’t all survive. But 50 breweries for 4 million people is not crazy. Montana has a quarter of the population of Alberta and almost twice as many breweries. For that matter, look at Oregon.. Look at Nova Scotia! I say the more brewers the better! Alberta may not catch any of those places, but we’ve hardly reached the ceiling.

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