Small town suds soak up praise, out-of-town traffic

Ribstone Creek Brewery | Craft brewery energizes local economy in Edgerton, Alta.

EDGERTON, Alta. — Edgerton isn’t on everyone’s driving destination yet, but at least 150 pins are stuck into a map indicating the home towns of visitors who stopped at the brewery.

The original owners of Ribstone Creek Brewery didn’t set out to make the brewery into one of their village’s tourist destinations, but it has become a driving destination.

“It’s created lots of traffic,” said Al Gordon, village administrator and one of the founding owners of Ribstone Creek Brewery.

When visitors drop in to taste the brew from one of Alberta’s newest craft breweries, they often stop for lunch at the local restaurant as well or shop in the village’s stores.

“It’s helping all of the other businesses to some degree,” said Gordon.

The village has hired a student this summer to look at economic development opportunities. She will talk to villagers about what they would like their community to look like in 10 years.

Gordon said the investors who started the brewery could see no red lights that would stop them from setting up shop in this village of 400 people.

“We wanted to put something back into the community,” said Gordon.

“I thought it was a great idea.”

Three of the four original investors went to school together in Edgerton, starting in Grade 1.

While they had a good sense of community, they didn’t know how to make beer. They hired British Columbia brew master Dave Beardsell, who had just sold his Bear Brewing brewery to Calgary’s Big Rock, to teach them about the beer business and be their master brew master.

This year is the second full year of production, and Ribstone Creek won a gold medal at the Calgary BeerFest in the light lager category with its Ribstone Creek Lager. It also won silver in the same competition in 2012.

“We were fortunate to get a recipe that was acceptable to everyone,” said Gordon.

Despite the awards, Alberta is a tough market for emerging breweries. More than 2,500 beers are sold in Alberta.

Local hotels and restaurants within a couple hundred kilometres sell the Ribstone Creek Brewery beer, but the craft brewery will never be in the same league as Molson’s or Labatt’s with their massive facilities and marketing budgets.

“Our goal is to be in a solid profitable situation for our investors, and we are on target.”