Edmonton’s Alley Kat Brewing sold, but ownership to remain local

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After 25 years in business, the owners of one of Edmonton’s first craft breweries have sold Alley Kat to a new ownership team.

Husband and wife team Neil and Lavonne Herbst announced Tuesday that they’ve sold the independent brewery to Zane Christensen and Cameron French — two fans of the business from St. Albert.

“At a time when we are seeing some craft breweries being absorbed by large multinationals, keeping Alley Kat in independent hands was extremely important to us,” said Neil Herbst, who was one of Alley Kat’s original founders back in 1994.

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He started the brewery with his then-business partner Richard Cholon. A couple of years later, Lavonne Herbst purchased Cholon’s share of Alley Kat, and it became a family business.

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Alley Kat, which says it’s the fourth-longest operating brewery in Alberta, launched at a time when craft beer wasn’t really a thing in Edmonton. The owners pushed for years to change Alberta’s liquor laws to make them more friendly to small brewers like themselves.

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The craft brew scene has exploded in the past decade, and today, Edmonton alone is home to more than a dozen different independent beer makers.

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The Herbsts said they were pleased to be handing Alley Kat and its legacy as a craft beer pioneer over to a new generation of local entrepreneurs who share their passion for premium-quality, Alberta-made beer.

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“This sale will ensure Alley Kat continues to remain locally owned and operated,” Neil Herbst said, adding that he will remain involved full time in day-to-day operations at Alley Kat.

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The brewery’s new owners, Christensen and French, were both raised in St. Albert.

“Passionate about beer and the craft beer industry, opening a brewery was a dream the two friends have discussed for a number of years,” a news release said.

Christensen is a University of Alberta graduate who has worked in accounting for the past decade, most recently as controller at Edmonton-based Covenant Care.

French, also a U of A graduate, comes to Alley Kat after serving in his previous role as CFO for Acheson-based construction company Paradox Access Solutions.

“Originally, the plan was to start a new brewery from scratch,” French said in a statement. “When the prospect to take the reins of such a successful and well-respected brand presented itself, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”

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The new partners said they are committed to a business-as-usual approach while also continuing to grow the business.

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“Alley Kat is a brand with a great deal of integrity. That isn’t going to change,” Christensen said.

“Alley Kat will continue to produce well-loved, award-winning beers. We are looking forward to immersing ourselves in this amazing brand and culture.”

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Last year, out of 76 breweries from across the province, Alley Kat was named Brewery of the Year at the 2019 Alberta Beer Awards.

The brewery, which will celebrate 25 years in 2020, recently opened a taproom at its 99 Street location in south Edmonton and continues to expand its product offering.

Alley Kat’s core brews include Aprikat, Full Moon, Scona Gold, Main Squeeze, Fish Bone and Buena Vista, and it also makes rotating seasonal brews.

The sale amount was not disclosed.

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