Paradise in the Prairies?

Saskatchewan Puts Itself on the Map

Rob Symes

 

Most craft beer drinkers won’t know much about Saskatchewan because so little beer makes itself elsewhere, and that’s a shame. It’s a province that punches above its weight in the craft beer world. With only a little over 1.1 million people, spread over 650,000 square kilometres, the ground may not seem as fertile for craft beer as it is for the province’s crops. Yet, not only does Saskatchewan have an increasing number of breweries, it is also able to produce everything in-house because of its field to glass capability. We spoke to Shawn Moen of 9 Mile Legacy to get the lowdown.

 

He told us that like other Canadians, Saskatchewanians are into the flavours of the moment, including hazy IPAs and sours, but because of a gradual regulatory evolution there’s also a strong base of consumers who are educating themselves in a wide range of beer styles. This makes a great playground for brewers to experiment across styles and bring people into the fold – something they have responded to with passion.

 

Not only are local brewers challenged with delivering great beer – they are also exploring new ways to get beer in the hands of customers. Keep in mind that previous laws meant that the growler and keg model ruled supreme, and that only recent relaxation of control has opened things up. Not only has canning and bottling taken off, but direct distribution channels are also putting high quality, local and fresh beer in the hands of people throughout the province.

 

Obviously this means that traditional growler sales will soften as a result, but Moen sees an upside with “more places outside of our urban cores of Saskatoon and Regina regularly stocking and speaking about Saskatchewan craft beer in an informed and enthusiastic way.”

 

His brewery plans to contribute to that growth, but in its own little way. “We’ve always been the small brewer on the block,” says Moen, referencing the fact that the brewery is still only brewing a 600 litres per brew cycle.  “As a result, the nano ethos is embedded in our DNA.  We have plans to provide some scaled up opportunities, but we will only do so if it enables us to hold tight to our values and foster even greater innovation.” This dedication to quality was recognized at the 2019 Canadian Craft Brewing Awards, where the brewery brought home gold in the English Pale Ale category.

 

Running a tight ship and focusing on doing a job well seems to be a theme amongst all aspect of the local industry. “The most awesome thing about Saskatchewan,” says Moen, “is that we can now enjoy high quality beer that is wholly produced within the four corners of this province.” Saskatchewan now has two maltsters, and the addition of a commercial hopyard means that hops can also be sourced directly from the field. 9 Mile Legacy has even begun to play around with local yeasts, which means that every ingredient in the glass could be sourced within provincial boundaries. As Moen says, “Combine all of that with a craft brewing industry punching above its weight and you have serious liquid joy in a glass.”

 

This is obviously a source of great joy to the brewers and their consumers.

“People around here take a lot of pride in things that are uniquely Saskatchewan”, says Moen “and our beer is no different.  We’ve known for a long time that you can be simultaneously Saskatchewanian and world class.  It’s no surprise that we have award-winning breweries producing amazing and unique beer.”

 

Now it’s finally time for the rest of Canada to sit up and take notice.