June 13, 2019
You know you’re in for something different when the conversation turns from beer to something called a ‘reverse mullet’.
“You know how with the old mullet haircut it’s ‘business up front, party in the back’? With us we prefer ‘party up front and business in the back’,” laughs Bill McKenzie, CEO of Calgary’s iconic Wild Rose Brewery, “Customers need to know they can rely on us and trust our beer to be great. Even so, we like to have a lot of fun. Isn’t that what beer should be all about?”
Wild Rose is a Calgary institution, established in 1996. Since 2006 the brewery has occupied space in an old Air Force hangar on the site of the former Currie Barracks in the city’s southwest. But from small beginnings, the brand has grown in popularity and renown and now also has a much larger production facility in the southeast.
“We have our 40,000 square foot brewery here in the southeast plus our offices and about 95% of the brewery’s volume comes from here. Our Taproom now serves as our innovation centre,” shares McKenzie, “So in the Taproom we have a 30 hectolitre brew house. Both breweries also have and a one hectolitre brew house where our brewers do a lot of one-off batches, tonnes of innovation, and collaborations. They do some funky stuff there.”
Experimentation and innovation is another aspect of Wild Rose that sets them apart from other local breweries. McKenzie says that while some breweries focus on only their core offerings, the brewers have the green light to innovate whenever they want.
“The customers that we have—as with many craft brewers— are always looking for something new, so this is how we're going to learn to make new types of beer. Today customers love our Velvet Fog and the WRaspberry Ale, but five years from now, who knows? I think it’s a pretty cool part of our culture. And that’s—I believe—one of the main reasons why we've been growing so quickly over the last five or six years.”
McKenzie points to Wild Rose’s Ponderosa Gose as just one of their current offerings that was born out of the creativity of the innovation centres.
The ideas at Wild Rose often start to flow from inspiration. Sometimes a staff member tries a new beer and falls in love with the style. In other cases, someone has tried something truly unique while travelling.
“Very often staff and friends will come in with a six pack of different types of beers because they travelled somewhere. They say, ‘let me know what you think,’ and then we'll sit down with the brewing team, and the sales and the marketing team and we'll talk about what might be coming up for our seasonal category. Everybody gets a seat at the table when it comes to ideas.”
Wild Rose has been available at Calgary Co-op Wine Spirits Beer for years and the brewery says it’s thrilled that the longstanding relationship is ongoing.
“Wild Rose and Co-op are very similar in the fact that we are local companies that promote and support premium local brands and local products,” says Lyndsay Chant, Provincial Retail Sales Manager at Wild Rose Brewery, “Co-op really jumped on board with us right at the beginning when we started packaging product. And Co-op still supports us 100% to this day, which is really cool.”
Find Wild Rose Velvet Fog Canadian Wheat Ale, IPA, WRaspberry Ale, Barracks Brown, Ponderosa Gose (Summer and Winter versions), High Harvest Hemp IPA and Anthology Sampler Packs at Calgary area Co-op Wine Spirits Beer stores.
Canmore's Grizzly Paw Brewing Company is one of the original breweries that sprung up in the heart of Alberta.
Everyone assumes the bright lights and allure of Hollywood would be a major draw and an enticing career.
It’s not unusual for home brewing to become a gateway into owning and operating a brewery.