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Wild Rose Brewing to be acquired by Sleeman

Click to play video: 'Wild Rose Brewery acquired by Sleeman Breweries Ltd.' Wild Rose Brewery acquired by Sleeman Breweries Ltd.
WATCH: Shareholders of Wild Rose Brewery voted on Thursday to approve the sale of the company to the large Canadian beer entity, Sleeman. As Adam MacVicar reports, it’s the first sale of its kind for Alberta’s craft beer industry – May 10, 2019

A staple of Alberta’s beer industry is soon to be acquired by one of the largest brewers in the country.

Shareholders of Wild Rose Brewing, based in Calgary, voted on Thursday to approve a sale to Sleeman Breweries Ltd.

READ MORE: Alberta’s craft beer market growing despite trade challenges

The deal was announced on Friday and will be final at the end of May.

“We know that this partnership will bring a wealth of opportunities for us to succeed together as we move forward with the support of Sleeman’s resources and industry insights,” Bill McKenzie, CEO at Wild Rose Brewery, said in a statement.

“We feel there is a strong connection between the way we’ve crafted our culture and the way Sleeman does business, and we are excited about our new joint vision for taking the growth of the Wild Rose brand to the next level.”

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Beer writer Don Tse told Rob Breakenridge on 770 CHQR this gives the local brewer access to greater resources and distribution.

“I think that this gives Wild Rose a little bit of an opportunity with Sapporo and Sleeman’s supply chain to achieve economies of scale in terms of their raw materials acquisition and maybe get their beer in to some venues that they haven’t been able to in the past.”

Wild Rose CEO Bill McKenzie told Calgary Today that growing in Alberta is the first priority for the southern Alberta brewer.

“Distribution opportunities will be dealt with when we get there,” McKenzie said. “The immediate opportunity right now is to continue growing here in Alberta. There’s a ton of opportunity.

“This is a province that loves beer and and we’re just a small, small part of that right now.”

LISTEN BELOW: Wild Rose Brewery CEO Bill McKenzie joins Calgary Today to discuss the company’s next chapter under Sleeman

Wild Rose was established in a garage by two local entrepreneurs in 1996, and has since moved to a 40,000 square foot facility at a former military base in the city.

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Sleeman Breweries re-entered craft brewing in 1988 after prohibition-related charges shut down the family operation, and has since grown to become the third largest beer producer in Canada.

“We recognize that Alberta is a province with high growth potential and see a number of synergies between Wild Rose and Sleeman that make this partnership extremely exciting for both organizations,” Jesse Hanazawa, president and CEO of Sleeman Breweries, said in a statement.

READ MORE: Beer battle brewing: Alberta launches trade challenge against Ontario over access to liquor stores

“Not only do our businesses share a passion for craft beer, but we also share the drive to achieve industry excellence while maintaining a winning organizational culture. We look forward to working closely with the Wild Rose team to ensure both they and Sleeman are able to reap the many benefits of this strategic partnership.”

Not their first acquisition, Sleeman acquired Okanagan Spring Brewery in 1996, Upper Canada Brewing in 1998, and Quebec’s Unibroue in 2004.

Japan’s Sapporo Breweries then acquired Sleeman in 2006.

READ MORE: Alberta spas, salons and barbershops can now apply for liquor licences: AGLC

Tse said it was only a matter of time until an Albertan brewer was bought up.

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“The multinational breweries have been on a bit of an acquisition streak these last few years. Alberta has been untouched to date. So I think it was inevitable.”

LISTEN BELOW: Bill McKenzie on the Ryan Jespersen Show on 630 CHED

McKenzie has been amazed at how much the industry has changed in the company’s 22-year history.

“And then here in Alberta, so much more in the last five years, when we’ve gone from opening up our 72nd Avenue brewery with 12 breweries in the province to over 100,” McKenzie said.

“For the beer consumer in Alberta, I don’t think it’s ever been better as far as the beers being offered and the quality of beer coming out of this province right now. It’s never been this good and it just doesn’t seem to be letting up at all.”

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LISTEN BELOW: Don Tse on the Rob Breakenridge Show on April 30

For Tse, Wild Rose’s beloved beers are in good hands with Sleeman and Sapporo as parent companies.

“The history of Sleeman’s acquisitions and Sapporo’s acquisitions is that they haven’t really changed the beers. If you love Wild Rose beer, I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that it’s going to all of a sudden change.”

Wild Rose’s recipes aren’t due to change under new ownership, as McKenzie is aware of the following Wild Rose has among Alberta beer enthusiasts.

“I appreciate that and know those aren’t going to see changes, and why would we?,” McKenzie said. “And my brewers will kill me.”

 

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