Wild Rose Brewery looks to bloom under new CEO

- September 25th, 2012

Calgary-based Wild Rose Brewery is set to grow. Bloom. Blossom. And so on.

While I do my best not to fill this piece with flower cliches, the announcement last week of a new CEO at the craft brewery, plus plans to expand into a new and larger facility, while keeping the current Currie Barracks location, is good news.

It’s good news for the company obviously, but it’s also good news for the craft beer scene in Alberta and for the consumer.

Bill McKenzie, formerly of crosstown rival Big Rock, brewing giant Molson-Coors and booze mega-company Diageo (Google them. They’re into everything), signed up with Wild Rose last week, and on his first day on the job had the pleasure of announcing plans to start up operations in the city’s southeast.

“Wild Rose is respected for making fantastic craft beer, the employees are all known to be passionate craft beer enthusiasts and the ownership group is committed to investing into the future. It’ll be fun working with a company with such a rich history within the Alberta marketplace,” McKenzie said in a company release. “This definitely is a company positioned for a very long and positive future.”

In the release, the brewery said the new brewing facility will allow them to accommodate “increasing market demand.”

“Wild Rose Brewery will continue to support the local Alberta community and economy, with our significant brewery expansion to be completed in 2013. We will soon be able to delight even more Albertan’s with high quality, great tasting and innovative product offerings like WRaspberry Ale and Velvet Fog”, said, Michael Watt, a Wild Rose representative.

As I said earlier, this is obviously good for the brewery. Expansion equals success in the tough craft beer market.

But it is also great for the consumer and the industry.

Increased production means increased competition, and a brewery that is successful may find itself willing to take more risks on interesting products, knowing its brand is a trusted one. Based on some great seasonal releases from Wild Rose, I am always interested in what they have to offer, and excited to try new varieties produced right here in Calgary.

And increased profile of craft breweries means beer drinkers pay more attention to other craft breweries. I’m speaking from my own experience, mind you, but people who have tried something interesting and different from one brewery are willing to branch out and try similar beers from other breweries. This serves everyone well, and also forces the larger players to get creative to stay competitive.

But one has to be wary of too much growth. There are more than a few people I know who don’t look at Big Rock as a “craft brewery.”

They are a pretty big player (at least in Alberta), and up until recently I didn’t pay them much mind. I had drank plenty of Trad and Grasshopper in my early 20s. But a focus on new approaches, smaller batches and interesting offerings has made me pay attention again. And go back to enjoying some old favourites.

I may not always like what a brewery has to offer. But I am pleased to see growth in Alberta’s beer industry. We need local players to succeed, and we need to see new ones crop up.

There’s no doubt the beer scene is strong in Alberta right now, but what’s wrong with wanting to see it really thrive?

Categories: Drinking

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