Above: Keltie Brisson stocks the cooler at Legendary Liquor’s Westwinds location.
by Stephen Dafoe
If you like beer but don’t know a pale ale from a stout, you don’t have to be bitter or sour about it. There’s a local club just for you.
Morinville beer aficionado Scott Richardson started the Morinville Craft Beer Club this past spring during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
“I started it because I like to support local businesses and love Alberta craft beer,” Richardson said. “Walking into a liquor store and trying to select the perfect Alberta beer can be a bit intimidating due to the number of different beers and beer styles.”
Richardson’s initial idea was that five members could buy different styles and exchange a beer or two. That craft beer exchange would allow everyone a chance to experience different breweries and beers without having to buy a six-pack of any one style.
The group took off quicker than expected. The first buy-in had 24 people, and the group’s Facebook page now has 137 members. The group’s most recent buy, a beer Advent calendar, had 72 people purchasing $6,000 of Alberta craft beer.
Marc Meunier of Legendary Liquor said the Facebook group has become a real community of beer lovers. “We get on there and rate beers, joke around a little bit,” Meunier said.
Alberta Beer Offers Big Variety
Craft beer in Alberta has grown considerably from 13 micro-breweries in 2013 to approximately 125 as of January 2020. The Morinville Craft Beer Club recently surpassed 100 different craft beers from those craft breweries.
“I knew there were a lot of breweries, but it’s challenging to make sure we even get beer from all of them,” Meunier said. “Some of them, unfortunately, are direct delivery in the south of Alberta. So we can’t get those beers without placing a very large order.”
Richardson said despite the growth in craft breweries, Alberta beer is actually still in its infancy.
“For years, Alberta had laws in place that made it tougher for small breweries to compete against the large [macro] breweries,” Richardson explained. “In around 2016 the NDP placed a tax on beer to allow smaller breweries to compete in the market. During this time, there was a large increase in Alberta breweries. Even though that tax was later found unconstitutional in court, it allowed the small breweries to emerge. There are now about 125 Alberta breweries. I think that the market for beer has shifted in Alberta, and people like to be able to go to the brewery and try different beers, beers with flavour and aroma. The beers are as unique as the people who drink them.”
When he is not enjoying craft beer from Alberta’s micro-breweries, Richardson enjoys beer he brews at home.
“When I was a kid, my dad and a few of his friends would get together and brew beer. I fondly remember those days because his friends had kids that were around my age, and that meant you could have them over for late night fun,” Richardson recalled. “I started brewing on my own when I was about 18 and continue to brew. My brewing set up and beer definitely improved over the years.”
Richardson is not alone in the love of great beer or the love of brewing great beer. One of Alberta’s new craft breweries is Sturgeon Brewing Company, located in Morinville.
Co-owner Josh Watson said there are multiple reasons people are making the switch to craft beer from the big brands.
“People want to support local, [and it] helps the local economy,” Watson said. “Most of all local craft breweries are active members of their community. Fresh ingredients without preservatives, a wide array of styles to choose from to find your go-to beer or change it up with so many different options, and because @#$% macro [breweries].”
Sturgeon’s beer is now on tap at Coach’s Corner and has been an occasional addition to the Morinville Craft Beer Club buys.
Above: Keltie Brisson with one of the Craft Beer Advent Calendars.
The Advent of Beer
Typically the club does two beer buys per month. December was one buy, a Beer Advent Calendar of 24 craft beers from 23 breweries that Legendary Liquor staff individually wrapped and numbered for 72 beer club members.
“Some are new releases. Some are seasonal releases that come out in the fall and wintertime,” Meunier said. “It’s really cool that we’re all going to try the same beer the same day for 24 days.”
Meunier hopes there is club support to go back to two buys per month in the new year.
“I’ve been trying to get craft beer going in Morinville for six years since I started at the old store, and with the new Sturgeon Brewery opening in Morinville, and now this club—it’s really put Morinville on the map as far as craft beer goes in the province. Suppliers have noticed. Brewers have noticed. I think the support we’ve been able to give brewers, especially when they need it the most, is probably one of the best parts about it.”
Legendary’s Keltie Brisson said the club is helping members and their store simultaneously through developing friendships and helping to narrow the wide selection of beers on the market.
“With COVID, it’s been a way for people to connect,” she said, adding that the club lets members try a beer to decide if they like it. “The variety and selection of craft beer is so big. This way, we can bring in what they like.”
Those wanting to join the Morinville Craft Beer Club can do so by visiting the group’s page and asking to join. One of the moderators will process that request. Members then have access to participate in the group buys.
Disclosure Note: The author of this article is a member of the Morinville Craft Beer Club and a lover of good beer.