Brewery selling at U of A campus as farmer's markets open up to beer sales
Bent Stick Brewing is one of the local brewers capitalizing on provincial rule change
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School is usually not where you go to grab a six-pack for the weekend.
Bent Stick Brewing has changed that for University of Alberta students, however, by setting up once a week at the farmer’s market in the Students’ Union building.
The small local brewery did a four-week run starting in November, and is set to return Thursday when the market runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It’s been really successful for us,” said Bent Stick co-founder Scott Kendall.
“For us because we’re so small, it’s actually a fairly large portion (of our sales). Our retail at the brewery is only open a couple of days a week right now, so that adds a full third retail day for us.”
The Alberta government made changes in August allowing local breweries and dispensaries to sell their beverages at farmer’s markets approved by the Agriculture and Forestry ministry.
Wineries have been able to sell at farmer’s markets since 2008.
Bent Stick first dipped into the St. Albert Farmer’s Market in September, where they sold out everything they brought before the day was over.
At the U of A, Bent Stick is the lone alcohol vendor selling its products next to local food, coffee and crafts.
“Farmer’s markets in general have been very positive for us. And from what I can tell from our other industry partners, it’s been very successful for all of us,” Kendall said.
“The main things are being able to meet face to face with our customers and be able to talk about our products, to people that are looking for stuff that’s locally made and handcrafted."
Blindman Brewing returned to the popular Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market Saturday, where they will be set up until Feb. 17, offering free samples on site.
The Lacombe-based brewery sold outside of the market for a few weeks in the fall, and was pleasantly surprised by its sales.
Getting inside the building on Saturday was Blindman’s “best market yet,” according to co-owner Hans Doef.
Doef said he had long lobbied for beer to be sold at farmer’s markets, and even had it as part of his business plan when he started up three years ago.
“Farmer’s markets in general in Alberta, there’s such a strong following and the infrastructure is so rooted. People think of farmer’s markets way more here than other provinces," he said.
"I would say that getting a locally brewed product where all the other local stuff is grown and made, it just fits so naturally together.”
Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market Manager Susan Currie said breweries are itching to take part, but they all have to go through the same vendor application process as everyone else – which includes a jury process and a waiting list.
“They all want to get in,” Currie said.
“It’s a positive thing. It’s a fun thing for the market, that’s for sure.”
Alley Kat, one of Edmonton’s biggest craft brewers, has not waded into the farmer’s market scene yet but is considering the move for summer, according to general manager Kent Kirkland.
“We think the farmer’s market is a great opportunity for small breweries to get out in front of the consumer and have them try our product and to try craft, and hopefully get more people drinking local beer,” he said.