The ABX Beer Chronicles Vol 5

Welcome back

Welcome back to the ABX Beer Chronicles, straight from the desk of the Beer Baron. Once again thanks for taking the time to stop by and read up on what’s new in the Alberta adult beverage industry.

Compared to last week’s edition, this past week was significantly quieter, the one outlier being the Wild Rose and Sleeman deal, of course. I think everyone’s finally getting out of the fuzzy-headed daze in the days following the Calgary Beerfest and Canadian Beer Awards and are quickly transitioning into patio season now that the weather’s finally back to where we started a couple weeks ago before that Saturday night snowstorm. Buckle up as we’re about to take a dive into punks, pumpkins, Mike Commodore, and malt liquor.

Punk in Drublic

Across Instagram over the last week or so you may have noticed a few breweries posting about a craft beer and music fest coming to Edmonton this summer. It combines everything you’ve ever wanted or didn’t even know you wanted: good beer and punk music. Punk in Drublic takes place July 6th at Edmonton Expo Centre Grounds, named after the NOFX album, the entire tour was the brainchild of NOFX frontman Fat Mike. NOFX headlines the day along with performances from Bad Religion, Less Than Jake, Chixdiggit, and The Last Gang. Pouring pints at the festival are a number of killer Alberta breweries including: Alley Kat, the Albeerta group of breweries, Analog, Annex, Bent Stick, Best of Kin, Blind Enthusiasm, Blindman, Caravel, Citizen, Fitzsimmons, Grizzly Paw, Hawk Tail, Hell’s Basement, High River, Outcast, Sea Change, Town Square, Troubled Monk, Village, and Yellowhead. The beer fest runs from 12-4pm with bands to take the stage at 3pm. Sounds like a great event with all kinds of price ranges for tickets.

The Great Pumpkin

Thank you, Tamarack Jack’s, for the scare. When I first saw this I was scrambling to find my calendar, wondering if I’d missed out on a summer of memories and whether or not I should start breaking out the Uggs (if they’re good enough for Tom Brady, then they’re good enough for me), scarves, pumpkin-spice-lattes, and Halloween candy. Introducing Jack’s Axe Pumpkin Mead, a sparking pumpkin spice mead they introduced via Instagram on Friday. I think it’s smart to get the jump on the pumpkin spice season, I mean why not? Walmart will probably have Halloween decorations up in a few days anyway. All jokes aside, I do love a good mead and I love pumpkin so I’m excited to see how they come together, I can’t wait to pick this up and give it a try!
Rapid Ascent Opens Doors

Rapid Ascent, now Calgary’s most Northeastern brewery (on the opposite side of the airport from Railyard and Caravel), is now open, having gone through a soft opening on Saturday. They opened with 10 different options on draught and even got a ringing endorsement from former Calgary Flame Mike Commodore on Twitter. That’s pretty good advertising going out to 131,000+ of Commie’s followers; some Twitter users confirmed on Commie’s tweet that Rapid Ascent is indeed a good place to get #InOne and #FloorIt.


Edward 40Hands

Craft malt liquor. Bet you never thought you’d read that in a sentence. No, really. As part of Annex Ales two-year anniversary, they’ve created ‘Deuce’ a crafted malt liquor. Stepping out of the comforts of brewing up sours and hazy beers, this is the first lager that Annex has produced. It was cold-fermented for 5 weeks and dry-hopped with a boatload of Galaxy hops. Makes a great substitute for Colt 45. Suggested pairings: two Zig-Zags and a brown paper bag.

Feature Story

Wild Rose Accepts Sleeman Takeover

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Friday morning Wild Rose announced to the public that they were accepting the offer made by Sleeman. Wild Rose’s shareholders met Thursday to vote on the sale; the decision unanimous, with 97 of 99 shareholders voting in favour of the sale, to be finalized May 31. No dollar amount was given; the same day the Boston Beer Company and Dogfish Head Brewery in the U.S. merged to the tune of $300million – while it’s likely that the Wild Rose offer was into the millions, it’s more likely that it was a double-digit, and not a three-digit million sale. It must be noted that the Boston Beer Company is a publicly traded company who must disclose their financials.

This sale means that Wild Rose no longer meets the membership criteria of the Alberta Small Brewers Association, though ASBA Executive Director Mike McNeil had well wishes for the company: “On behalf of our membership, I’d like to congratulate Wild Rose CEO Bill McKenzie and his team on this milestone. Wild Rose brewery began with humble beginnings and has since grown in operations and reputation, making them an attractive strategic partner for growth in the Alberta market.” While Wild Rose is no longer a member of the ASBA, Wild Rose CEO Bill McKenzie is a member of the ASBA board and has no hard feelings about the decision. “Our involvement with the brewers, and the community, and the community of small brewers is not going to change,” said McKenzie. “We will continue to be extremely active with ASBA and the members of the ASBA.”

Sleeman VP of Marketing, Peter Bodenham, and McKenzie both had the same message that neither the beers nor the staff would change at the Wild Rose brewery. I’m inclined to believe it. John Sleeman revived the Sleeman brand in Guelph in 1988, and when Sleeman was acquired by Japan’s Sapporo in 2006, John remained, and still is to this day, Sleeman’s President. I’d often see John grabbing coffee in the lunchroom at the Sleeman warehouse location I used to work at. “Bill will stay on, and his staff will stay on,” assured Bodenham.

“We’re going to grow together, and he’s an important piece of the business. He and his leadership team have created that culture and that mindset at Wild Rose that was consistent with our culture and our beliefs, there’s no plans to change anything.”

There’s been quite a mixed response across social media regarding this deal. There are those that are happy for the folks at Wild Rose, and of course those who are screaming bloody murder about them “selling out.” The ever-optimistic McKenzie was able to even spin that into a positive for Wild Rose: “We appreciate all of the passion that folks have that have started conversations and engaged in conversations about this transaction. It just shows how passionate our customers and fans of our beer are.” Whether you’re a fan of the sale or not I feel there’s something that needs to be addressed here. Wild Rose has been around since 1996, years of hard work have gone into making Wild Rose a successful brand, and they are being rewarded for it now in a big way. Many people start businesses with the hope that one day that big company will come by and buy them out allowing them to retire happily. Not all people start businesses for that reason, but many do. If you spent the better part of almost 25 years building a business and had the opportunity to sell it when the best opportunity came along, wouldn’t you? I ask a rhetorical question, but the answer is; of course you would. There may be that rare instance when someone refuses to sell because it’s a long-time family business, but many would jump at the opportunity to sign on the dotted line and retire happily to the mountains or sandy beaches and sunshine, or even both. As much as you and I may love beer, don’t forget that it’s still a business.


That will do it for this edition of the ABX Beer Chronicles, thanks for reading again and we’ll see you next week!

Cheers,
The Beer Baron

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Want to be added to the ABX Beer Chronicles mailing list? Are you a new brewery? Did I miss you? Have a new release and want to be included in next week’s newsletter? Please send me an email at dane@albertabeerexchange.ca, or sign up using the form below.

WHAT’S NEW…

…in BEER

CALGARY

88 – Will release two barrel-aged beers on May 15, small batch release: ‘Another Dimension’, “created by adding midnight wheat to Hologram to darken things up a bit, swapping out the orange peel for black limes and lemon and then dry hopping with Lemon Drop and Mandarina hops. The result is a super refreshing "Black, White Belgian Ale.”

Annex – New 2nd anniversary beer release: ‘Deuce’ Malt Liquor, “It’s our first ever lager, which is brewed with Bohemian Pilsner malt, Munich, and Vienna.  Cold fermented over about 5 weeks, then dry hopped with a pile of Galaxy hops.”

Banded Peak – New beer alert: ‘Gate Razer’ Blonde Ale (4.1% ABV), “Start with a simple grain bill to showcase the flavour of Alberta’s world class malted barley, hop it exclusively with Canada’s first and only trademarked varietal Sasquatch” Summer seasonals ‘Mount Crushmore’ Pilsner (4.4% ABV), and ‘Microburst’ Hazy IPA (6.1% ABV) have returned.

Citizen – New beer alert: ‘Nitro IPA’ (6.3% ABV, 80 IBU), “all the bark you’d expect from a hoppy IPA, but with a creamy undertone unusual for this type of beer. This beer is balanced with the creamy mouthfeel Citizen Nitro beers are known for. The hop cocktail is made up of Cascade, Idaho 7, Amarillo and Citra hops gives the beer a fruity west coast profile, full of citrus elements, tropical notes and a touch of pine.”

Heathen’s – Have now received an Excise License

Inner City – New beer release: ‘Fixie City’ Kombucha Radler, “We’ve combined one of our classic German lager beers with a gut healthy Kombucha to create this one-of-a-kind beer perfect for those early spring bike trips.”

New Level – New small batch release: ‘A Haze in the Northern Sky’ Hazy (5.2% ABV, 60 IBU), “Fermented with true Norwegian Kveik yeast and conditioned on tangerine puree.”

Rapid Ascent – Held soft opening Saturday

Revival Brewcade – New beer release: ‘Peachy Keen’ Wheat Ale, “A delicious Peach and Apricot Wheat Ale that is creamy, sweet, and has a beautiful Stone Fruit aroma.”

The Establishment – New beer alert on the brewer’s tap: ‘Catharina Sour with Pink Guava’ (5% ABV), “Catharina Sour is a style of beer gaining recent popularity in South America, you can think of it like a 5% kettle soured Berliner Weisse, but re-fermented with tropical fruit!” Also new: ‘Sky Rockey II’ New England IPA, “We’re turning Sky Rocket into an experimental hop project beer. Each time we brew Sky Rocket we’ll either use different sexy hop combinations or try new and exciting hopping methods.”

EDMONTON

Analog – New beer release: ‘Poppin Pilz’ Pilsner

Bent Stick – New beer release: ‘Mellöw Times’ Kölsch

Sea Change – Travelled to Phillips Brewing (BC) for a collab

The Growlery – Granted a license by the AGLC

Town Square – New beer alert: ‘Gigawatt’ New England IPA, “Megawatt brings his older brother to the party! Hazy and juicy but amped up in both alcohol and hops. A mixture of Bru-1, Arianna and Mosaic kick the fruit flavour up in this double dry hopped New England Style IPA. Notes of red berries, pineapple and stone fruit with a full body and mouthfeel.”

Two Sergeants – New beer release: ‘Poncho Villa’ Tequila Lime Barrel-Aged Belgian Wit, “We are very proud to present this incredibly unique version of our Award-Winning Passion D’Ale Belgian Wit. Aged in Tequila barrels for 3 months and blended with fresh lime peel, this is sure to be a summer hit.”

Yellowhead – Will release canned product soon

EVERYWHERE ELSE

Banff Ave – Banff Ave Wit has been canned

Coulee – New seasonal beer release: ‘Dry Island’ Brut IPA, “This mouth-watering IPA is light-bodied with a slight haze, greeted by aromas of floral notes & citrus with a dry finish and delightfully bitter aftertaste.”

Hawk Tail – New small batch release: ‘Lady Grey’, “A light beer steeped with Earl Grey tea bringing forth floral notes, a crisp body and a hint of lemon. Perfect for any afternoon par-tea.”

Medicine Hat – New patio series release: ‘Grapefruit Radler’

Olds College – New student craft beer series release: ‘UFO Takeoff’ Limbo Pale Ale (5.3% ABV)

Rocky View – Beers now available in cans

Township 24 – Core lineup slowly rolling out in cans, ‘Range 28’ Blonde Ale and ‘Dominion’ Kolsch currently available

Two Pillars – New beer: ‘Golden Strong’ now available

Undercurrent – New Mother’s Day brunch release: ‘Row Boat’ Raspberry Wheat Ale (4% ABV)

…in MEAD

Tamarack Jack’s – New mead release: ‘Jack’s Axe’ Pumpkin Mead

…in SPIRITS

Burwood – Returning product: ‘Cherry Liqueur’, “made with freshly picked 2018 harvest B.C. black cherries combined with our smooth sweet Honey Eau De Vie and a splash of unpasteurised, unprocessed natural honey straight from the hive.”

Confluence – New collab release: ‘Confluence Kolsch’ collab with Legend 7, are also releasing a Gin collaboration with Legend 7

Hansen – New product alert: ‘Raspberry Moonshine’, “Packed with REAL raspberries, this limited edition, seasonal spirit is great as a smooth sipper, or mixed into a beautiful spring cocktail.”

Events

May 16 – Spring Brewmaster Dinner, “This unique experience includes a 5-course meal created by our Executive Chef and Brewmaster paired with Barrel Aged Beers, Seasonals and a special conditioned cask made just for that evening!”

May 26 – Time for Kindness Summer Fundraiser at Arcadia (Edmonton) featuring food from Biera and casks from Town Square, Sea Change, Bent Stick, Blind Enthusiasm, and SYC, tickets $40/ea

June 6 – Juicy Fruit Tap Takeover at Last Best, 18 Alberta breweries, 18 Alberta fruit beers

July 6 – Punk in Drublic Craft Beer & Music Festival (Edmonton)

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