MEDICINE HAT - Craft Beer has been making a splash across Alberta in recent years.
Terry Rock with the Alberta Small Brewers Association said they gave out 18 new licenses to breweries in 2017, bringing the total up to 69 in the province. He expects that number will increase to at least 80 licensed brewers in 2018.
“Breweries act as community hubs,” he said. “They become a community gathering place and everyone has their own brewery in their community."
Lethbridge is home to two breweries - Coulee Brew Company and Theoretically Brewing Company, while Medicine Hat is also home to two craft breweries, Hell’s Basement Brewery and Medicine Hat Brewing Co. There is also a third, Travois Ale Works scheduled to be open in spring of 2018.
Kaiden Vancuren with Medicine Hat Brewing Co. said they’ve had a great response from the community in their first year of operation.
“It's been really overwhelming, we've already expanded twice because the amount of people in Medicine Hat drinking our beer,” he said. “It's way more than we actually thought. We're really happy with the amount of support.”
Mike Patriquin with Hell’s Basement Brewery explained it’s the local approach that draws people into small craft breweries.
“People really appreciate the local nature of the business,” he said. “Craft beer is meant to be served fresh and local.”
Patriquin explained they aren’t in as much competition with other small breweries as they are with larger ones.
“We're trying to steal market share from Molson and Budweiser,” he said. “That’s really who we're targeting and they represent 90% of the market.”
The Alberta Small Craft Brewers Association is aiming to market the provinces craft beer scene on a larger scale in 2018, said Rock.
“An Alberta Beer Tourism focused brand, working on bringing people from outside the province to see what we have to offer and then moving Albertan’s around,” he explained. “Getting them to go and learn not just (about) beer and brewing, but our communities.”
Vancuren said by having two breweries in Medicine Hat, they have already had a number of tourists come down to visit them both.
“A lot of people come down to do bus tours,” he said. “It's working out really good.”
Brewers from Alberta have recognized the quality of barley being grown in our own backyard, said Rock.
“I think the most important thing we are really starting to recognize is Alberta is one of the prime geographic locations in the world for barley growing,” he said.
Both brewers in Medicine Hat said they want to see each other succeed and look forward to cheering on each other in 2018.
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