Craft beers in Sask. getting more popular, says industry leader

Craft beer is becoming more popular in the province and many brewers say it isn’t slowing down any time soon.

According to the president of the Saskatchewan Craft Brewers Association (SCBA), Mark Heise, craft beer sales in the province have doubled since 2014.

Heise, who is also the president of Rebellion Brewing, said many of the province’s craft brewers are home grown.

“We’re all local folks born and raised here and you know that really means something to people,” Heise said. “We’re just genuine, hardworking Saskatchewan people and you know we are still a small enough province that that really resonates with people.”

Heise said one of the obstacles for craft breweries is provincial regulations.

“The government is usually not great at being ahead of the curve when it comes to change,” Heise said. “Change is difficult and cumbersome, there’s a lot of bureaucracy and there’s lots of regulation.”

Heise said he expects the popularity of Saskatchewan craft beer to grow.

“I feel very very strongly that we’re going to double in the next five years,” Heise said. “We’re really scratching the surface of what we can do with this industry.”

Heise said he’s currently in discussions with the Ministry of Advanced Education on creating a brewing school in the province as well as creating a lab that can do testing for beers, wines and spirits.

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Jeff Allport, the owner of Nokomis Craft Ales, said small scale brewing was once the norm prior to the mid century and once bigger breweries started gaining traction, the craft beer breweries became less popular.

“When [people] ask about the so-called craft beer trend, I usually correct them and say it’s not a trend, it’s a return to normalcy.” Allport said.

He said small scale breweries offer a diversity of different beer styles which is something larger breweries don’t do.

“I think consumers want diversity in their selection and so I think that’s been a big part of the growth in the industry,” Allport said.

Brennan Lampit, owner of Armoury Brewing in North Battleford, said he also sees the industry growing in Saskatchewan.

“Even people in North Battlefield, we seem to have this stigma of what beer really should taste like and it’s been fun to be a part of the growth with the community here,” Lampit said, “So I do feel that, yes, it’s just going to get bigger and better.”

Quality and community

Heise said Saskatchewan only has about 20 breweries while Alberta has around 120, but that doesn’t affect the quality of the brew.

“The beer in Saskatchewan is phenomenal and a lot of us who [are] beer aficionados we used to always look forward to traveling to get our hands on really good beer,” Heise said. “And we all talk now and we actually look forward to getting back to Saskatchewan so we can drink that good beer.”

Allport said around the time he got into the brewing business it already had an active community.

“I think all of us saw there was an opportunity here in Saskatchewan.” Allport said.

Lampit said there are a lot of great people involved in the brewing community in the province and they create a sportsmanlike environment for fellow brewers.

“It has been eye opening and overwhelming at how welcoming the Saskatchewan group has been in this industry,” Lampit said. “It’s just been so welcoming, I can’t praise the Saskatchewan breweries enough.”