International Insights: Alley Kat Brewing — Canada

International Insights is a continuing series of Q&As with brewing members, but this time branching outside of the US and into the rest of the world.
In this series, Brewer will share personal insights from international breweries each week about the craft beer market in other countries, where those brewers get their inspiration, and how the market compares to craft beer in the US.

Michael Fulton, Marketing Manager, Alley Kat Brewing Company — Alberta, Canada

BREWER: What can you tell me about the history of Alley Kat and the most popular beers at your brewery?
FULTON: Alley Kat Brewing Company was Edmonton’s first craft brewery, and the fourth in Alberta. We’ve always been locally and independently owned and believe in supporting other local producers of high-quality products. We brew the way beer was meant to be brewed, using four main ingredients — water, malt, hops, and yeast — to produce exceptional, flavourful, high-quality craft beer. Our most popular beer is Aprikat Apricot Ale. In fact it’s one of the top selling craft beers in all of Alberta. Main Squeeze Grapefruit Ale is also extremely popular, as are our ever-changing seasonal releases. Our current summer seasonal, RazzyKat Raspberry Sour (a throwback to one of our original summer beers), is extremely popular right now.

BREWER: What are the popular styles in Alberta? How does that compare to the rest of Canada?
FULTON: Alberta’s craft beer scene is relatively young compared to other parts of the country. Although Alley Kat has been around since 1995, most craft breweries in the province are relatively new. As such, consumers love to try different styles and explore new releases. Fruit beers are very popular in Alberta, as are softer IPAs and Pale Ales. 

BREWER: Where do you/does the brewery get inspiration for new beers?
FULTON: We’re always communicating with and listening to our customer base. We want to know what they want to drink. We also trust our brewers and staff a lot. Everybody at Alley Kat is a craft beer fan, so we make beers that we know we’ll like. Often we’ll make a particular style of beer, but put our own spin on it to make it uniquely Alley Kat. The main things we focus on are balance and drinkability. We don’t generally make one-noted beers or beers that have one really aggressive flavour. Instead we make beers with flavours that balance and/or complement each other. 

BREWER: How has COVID-19 affected your country and your brewery? What restrictions have been put in place by the government, and how are you adapting?
FULTON: Canada as a whole, and Alberta in particular, has done a very good job managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The provincial government closed down taprooms when they closed down restaurants and pubs early on. Obviously losing those three distribution points for kegged beer hurt every brewery significantly, but it was important to help prevent spread. To compensate, the government loosened restrictions on alcohol delivery. Pubs and restaurants were allowed to deliver beer, wine, and spirits with food orders, and breweries were allowed to do home deliveries. The entire Alley Kat team stepped up to take on unfamiliar roles and ensure we were able to get beer to our customers safely and efficiently. Currently pubs, restaurants, and taprooms are open with government mandated precautions being taken. Tables must be at least two meters (six feet) apart, hand washing/sanitizing is practiced thoroughly and often, and masks are worn by any staff interacting with customers. The pandemic has been very hard on the craft beer industry in Canada, as it has been on most industries. An increase in packaged beer sales through liquor stores and brewery deliveries helped offset the loss of keg sales, but not entirely. Even more impactful to our team, however, was the lost connection with our customers. With no taproom traffic, no events to attend, no tasting opportunities, etc., the craft beer community has never been so disconnected. We’re really looking forward to a return to normalcy and an opportunity to raise a glass with other craft beer lovers once again.

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