Craft beer is usually associated with the west coast, but Regina’s brewing scene continues to hop into the national spotlight. Now, Expedia has ranked the Queen City the fourth best beer town in Canada.
For members of the local brewer community, like District Brewing Company’s assistant brewer Walter Martin, it’s a major feather in the cap.
“Regina’s beer scene is very vibrant. We have a lot of really great brewers here at District, but also Bushwakker, Malty National, Rebellion, Pile O’Bones. There are lots of great venues in Regina that carry great beers,” Martin said.
Martin believes that the growth of the craft beer in Regina and in general can be attributed to changing tastes.
“I think people are really looking for alternatives to the mass market sort of almost bland type of beers that have been the staple for going on 30, 40, 50 years,” he said.
“Now beers are becoming available that have real quality ingredients and real flavor, and a lot of people are looking for that.”
That’s not just Martin talking either. District brews one to two 10,000 litre batches each week. Martin estimates that equals about 24,000 cans a week.
Economist Jason Childs has taught a class on the economics of beer at the University of Regina for the past six years. He says some of this growth can be attributed to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) changing laws that previously got in the way establishing a craft size brewery in the province.
Now, Childs says the Saskatchewan industry has caught up. He’s not surprised at all by the Expedia ranking.
“We’re getting recognized internationally now. We’re making some of the international lists as places to go and have really good locally brewed beer,” Childs said.
Much of Regina’s brewing scene flows from a Dewdeny Avenue staple, Bushwakker Brew Pub. Opening its doors over 27 years ago, Bushwakker is still going srong and creating new brews.
“I think the late Bushwakker co-founder Bev Robertson would be very pleased to see the Queen City faired so well,” Bushwakker bar manager Grant Frew said.
In addition to helping popularize craft beer in Regina, Bushwakker and Robertson helped get many brewers started through the Ale & Lager Enthusiast of Saskatchewan (ALES) club.
“They got a leg up on everybody else. They were introduced to really high quality craft brewing techniques and they were brewing at home for many, many years before they decided to make that jump to the commercial level,” Frew said.
The ALES Club hosts the annual ALES Open homebrewer competition. This sees thousands of bottles of beers submitted from across Canada, and judged by a team of club members in Regina.