For Andrew Kulynych, the best feedback from customers isn’t compliments – it’s an empty keg. Kulynych is the owner of Bench Creek Brewing, based in Yellowhead County near Edson, which launched its first three products – White Raven India Pale Ale (IPA), Naked Woodsman Pale Ale and Black Spruce Porter – in early October. Around that same time, a keg of White Raven was tapped at Beer Revolution in Edmonton’s Oliver Square. Within 24 hours, it was all gone.
“We were extremely pleased. A lot of hard work went into that,” Kulynych says. “I would say that’s the crowning jewel for Warren [Misik], our brewmaster. He’s a big hophead.”
Bench Creek also brews one-off casks for special occasions and festivals, giving Kulynych and Misik a chance to flex their creative muscles.
But Bench Creek’s aren’t the only new local brews to hit shelves lately. In late September, they were joined by Aurora, a beer brewed by Provincial Brand Ltd., which is based in Edmonton, and one that principal Don Eglinski describes as an “anti-IPA” designed to cut down on bloat and hangovers.
“To actually see it manifested out there in reality, it feels pretty special,” he says.
Eglinski – who has experience in the bar and design industries – was inspired to get into the beer market after touring western Canada for eight months and realizing that many big beer brands were owned by international conglomerates.
“[We wanted to] create a beer that could become iconic of a new Canada, something people could rally behind,” he says.
Meanwhile, Kulynych was an avid home brewer for about seven years before deciding to do it full-time. He took the plunge after the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission dropped its 5,000-hectolitre production minimum for commercial brewers in 2014. Since the minimum was dropped, the AGLC says 10 new breweries have been granted licences, and 13 more are going through licensing processes.
“That was kind of the kick in the pants to get that dream going,” he says.
But his sights are set on bigger things than just beer. Being about halfway between Edmonton and Jasper, he is hoping to make Bench Creek into a destination for tourists looking for a place to stretch their legs.
“All these people from all over the world, that would be a fantastic thing to enjoy with them,” Kulynych says.
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