New brewery drafts into Edmonton beer scene
'We want people to look in and see beer being made right in front of them'
Wayne Sheridan was in Portland enjoying beer from more than 60 local breweries when he imagined being part of a similar scene in Edmonton.
After a whole year's work converting an old book store into his own brewery, it's about to happen.
"It's really like living out a dream," said Sheridan.
His business, Situation Brewing, is getting ready to open May 25.
Edmontonians walking by the location at 81st Avenue and 103rd Street can already look into the brewhouse to see suds being made through the big glass windows that wrap around the building.
"We want people to look in and see beer being made right in front of them on a small scale," he said.
Rule changes lead to more craft breweries
Sheridan's dream is coming to life in part because of a change in regulations that relaxed rules on the minimum amounts of beer companies have to be produced in Alberta.
In 2013, the province dropped a regulation that required brewers to be able to make 500,000 litres of beer each year.
"With minimum production being half a million litres, it just meant larger scale equipment, more staff and more capital going in," said Sheridan.
The old rules, he said, simply meant it was too costly for him to get started.
Now he's confident his small-scale operation can be a success in a location he feels is key to the business.
"The selection of the location and the business name, Situation Brewing, was about situating a brewery close to where people are already seeking and enjoying great craft beer," said Sheridan.
Now 40, Sheridan has worked in engineering for the past 20 years. A field he enjoyed but one he said just isn't as much fun as brewing beer.
He said the reaction he got after handing clients engineering projects was always a grateful one, but not the same as presenting someone with a beautiful pint of beer.
"You won't see their face light up the same as when you slide a seven-dollar glass of beer across the table," he laughed.
Between the brewery and an attached beer-themed restaurant and bar, Sheridan is employing about 30 full-time and part-time staff.
Head brewer Matthew Cockle took his position with Situation after he graduated from the Brewmaster and brewery operations management program at Olds College.
"It's really exciting, we have a great location here just off Whyte Avenue and it's been exciting to see people walking by all the windows and everyone seems really excited to come in," said Cockle, 27.
He's been working on recipes for the past year and said six beers of various styles will be on tap for the opening, but will rotate frequently.
Edmonton beer writer and columnist with CBC Radio's Radioactive, Jason Foster, said the opening of a new brewery is just the beginning of an expanding craft brew scene in Alberta's capital.
"I think what we're seeing is the early stages of a fairly quick expansion in terms of the number of craft breweries, especially sort of smaller locally oriented breweries in town," said Foster.
He said six more breweries have plans to set up in Edmonton, with three already under construction.
Edmonton catching up to Calgary
With Alley Kat, Yellowhead, Two Sergeants, Brewsters and now Situation, the Edmonton area is still behind Calgary for craft breweries but is catching up, Foster said.
"I'm quite looking forward to the coming months, because I think it's going to be fun," he said. "We're going to see a whole diversity of beer."
It's the variety of the beers available that Sheridan said will be the signature of Situation.
"We're not constrained by having to put beer on to retail shelves, so we could literally make every batch into a different beer," he said.
Sheridan hopes the situation will end up being a good one for his business and for beer drinkers in Edmonton.