Faithful readers may recall that Calgary-based Wild Rose Brewery was acquired by megabrewer Sleeman Brewing last summer, and that I had made a prediction that they were but the first of many Alberta craft brewers to be acquired by a giant multinational.
My prediction from last summer was that the Edmonton-based Alley Kat Brewing would be the next to be acquired, as both Wild Rose and Alley Kat opened their doors in 1996, and were of similar size.
It turns out that my prediction was not correct, as Calgary-based Banded Peak Brewing was acquired by Labatt last week, giving Calgary brewers a 2-0 score over their Edmonton counterparts, in a booze-related battle of Alberta.
I can still remember my first sip of the Banded Peak Plainsbreaker Pale Ale in the summer of 2016, while the tap room was still under construction in a tiny and cramped corner of the brewery, with just a few beat up old picnic tables available for seating.
Since those early days, the brewery has expanded into a larger space, and the tap room is much larger and luxuriously furnished, now able to serve up to 122 thirsty beer fans.
It is hard to believe that the brewery is still less than four years old, and already snapped up by Labatt, which is owned Belgium-based AB InBev, one of the largest booze conglomerates in the world, and the home of such famous brands as Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona, and many others.
This is not Labatt’s first acquisition of crafty brewers, with Toronto’s Mill Street Brewing, Vancouver’s Stanley Park Brweing, and Montreal’s Microbrasserie Archibald all joining the Labatt family over the past few years.
Fortunately, there are no plans to change the recipes or staff at Banded Peak, so we can expect their delicious brews to continue gracing the shelves of your friendly neighbourhood bottle shop or drinking establishment.
The typical strategy of the megabrewers when acquiring a small craft brewer is to let them continue what they are doing, but leverage the buying power and worldwide distribution channels of the parent company. In this case, it will now be easier to get Banded Peak products into liquor retailers that already have an account with Labatt or their multinational conglomerate AB InBev.
The Saddledome arena in Calgary has an exclusive draught beer contract with Labatt, so this might even mean you will find pints of Banded Peak available at hockey games or on the Stampede midway.
Banded Peak currently produces 3000 hectolitres of beer annually, so they have plenty of room to grow. For comparison, Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing produces about 200,000 hectolitres annually. Fortunately, the existing Banded Peak brewing facility has plenty of room to ramp up production, so I fully expect the added marketing muscle of Labatt to see Banded Peak growing by leaps and bounds over the next few years.
My plan is to continue patronizing their delightful taproom whenever I am in Calgary. Located in the so-called Barley Belt district, Banded Peak has more than a dozen craft brewers in the same neighbourhood, making it popular for the summer bicycle tours of assorted breweries.
The brewery is named after Banded Peak, the distinctive mountain in Kananaskis with a band of steep cliffs circling the top of the mountain, giving it a visible band of black rock just below the snow-covered summit.
Most of their brews are made in the styles of the Pacific Northwest, taking inspiration from the pioneering beer fiends of Portland and Seattle to produce beer that bursts with floral hops and flavourful yeasts.
The Plainsbreaker Hopped Wheat Ale is an unfiltered brew with tropical notes on the tongue from the exotic yeasts, and late-addition hops providing aromatics without too much bitterness. This is their most popular brew, and is appreciated by beer nerds and macrobrew drinkers alike.
The Summit Seeker IPA is a quintessential North American IPA, with hints of fresh pine on the nose, and robust hop bitterness for the IPA fans. While most IPA is pale yellow, the Summit Seeker is a deep amber from a unique strain of local barley, which provides a solid malt backbone to balance the Oregon hops.
The Chinook Saison is perhaps the most interesting, made in the style of a Belgian Farmhouse Ale, with spicy yeasts and an earthy finish, and is my personal favourite. Look for them at your friendly neighbourhood booze merchant, or check out their taproom on your next visit to Calgary.