Edmonton’s craft breweries have chugged full steam ahead on marketing and outreach this week at the Calgary Stampede.
For the first time, brewers from the capital city are serving their products on the fairgrounds following a decades-long exclusivity agreement with Labatt Brewing Company.
“To finally be part of a signature event in Alberta that we’ve been hearing about for our whole lives, it’s exciting,” said Alyson Herbst, marketing manager with Edmonton’s Alley Kat Brewery. “We just launched a major rebrand for the first time in a couple of years, so we have a wide market seeing our new bottles, logo and we are showcasing the fantastic beer we make in Alberta.”
Craft brewers have already tapped into the Taste of Edmonton, where 14 beers from six local breweries will be on the menu. They haven’t been able to serve their products during K-Days at Northlands Park, however, because of an exclusive partnership between Labatt and Northlands.
K-Days festival organizers said they would consider welcoming craft brewers and the Alberta Small Brewers Association said it would love the opportunity to broker a similar deal as it did at the Calgary Stampede, which was fuelled by popular demand.
“In the long run, we are determined to work with anyone. We know consumers want locally made craft beer,” executive director Terry Rock said. “We have the potential to be a signature Alberta industry because brewing tells a much bigger picture of not just our entrepreneurship, but our agriculture and natural environment.”
The first experiment in Calgary appears to be a bubbling success, with 22 Alberta brewers offering free tastings, education and pints of cold beer.
“People right now are more often craving authentic experiences, and what is more authentic than ordering (Calgary-made) Tool Shed Star Cheek and meeting the founder Jeff Orr, whose face is on the label,” said Rock. “We have had countless conversations with people from all over the world who seek out local beers and are pleased to have this opportunity.”
Ian McIntosh, director of operations for Edmonton-based Yellowhead Brewery, said the education aspect has been popular with guests from home and abroad.
“A lot of people want to support local, and they become engaged when we say we use barley from Rahr Malting in central Alberta and have access to the best fresh water in the world,” McIntosh said. “Quality ingredients make quality beer, and Alberta breweries can offer fresher ingredients.”
Rock said the value for local brewers at the Calgary Stampede is in collaborative marketing opportunities. K-Days, which attracts more than 700,000 people per year, presents a similar opportunity to unite brewers in promoting Alberta’s growing beer industry.
“Stampede’s market is not a massive sales opportunity since 11 different breweries are selling in one place, but we have tried to make it a destination and attraction,” he said. “We want Alberta to be a destination for beer, and getting exposure at flagship events like the Stampede is a great first step.”