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Meet Watershed Brewing Co.: Alberta's most real fake brewery

A Westaskiwin-area man has created a fake brewery that gained the attention of former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and a Lacombe-based restaurant.

'Watershed has some of the best marketing, even better than some of the legit breweries out there'

An empty growler with the Watershed Brewing Co. sticker sits on the bar at Cilantro and Chive restaurant in Lacombe. (Rieley Kay)

The Watershed Brewing Co. brand has attracted the attention of Alberta businesses and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley.

But Kurt Pearson doesn't sell the beer he makes at his home near Wetaskiwin. 

Kurt Pearson created the Watershed Brewing Co. brand for his homemade beer. He doesn’t sell it, but some say his branding is so good, it’s often mistaken as a real brewery. 2:30
The shed where Watershed Brewing Co. got its name. (Kurt Pearson)

The air traffic controller started making enough beer for himself and some friends in a backyard shed.

While people can purchase T-shirts from his website with the Watershed Brewing Co. label, he's never sold a beer, though some people believe it is a real brewery, he said.

"I've always had a thing about branding and it's not the first time I've sold T-shirts, so that's why I started a brewery that wasn't a brewery," Pearson said.

It started as a joke between Pearson and some of his friends in the Alberta craft beer industry.

The brand caught on quickly, and Pearson spotted people wearing his T-shirts at beer festivals across the province.

"I think it's probably because of my continued involvement [in the Alberta craft beer industry]. I'm a big Alberta craft beer fanboy. I wave the flag high," he said. 

It just became a better way for me to embrace and pursue community in Alberta.- Kurt Pearson, Watershed Brewing Co.

"These people are all really tightly knit. For a bunch of competitors, they're buddies, they're friends. It just became a better way for me to embrace and pursue community in Alberta." 

It quickly became more than an inside joke.

Notley included his "brewery" in a Twitter thread celebrating Alberta breweries in August 2018. 

"I think it's pretty funny," Pearson said.

His brand has now trickled down into the food industry. 

Cilantro and Chive, a Lacombe-based restaurant, has a secret menu item in honour of the wannabe brewery.

"A few industry folks have come in, asked for a Watershed and we give them a glass of water," said Rieley Kay, co-owner of the restaurant.

Cilantro and Chive have a sign advertising Watershed Brewing's tap takeover in 2035. (Rieley Kay)

The restaurant has helped promote the Watershed brand. Staff have posted stickers throughout the restaurant along with a sign advertising Watershed's future tap takeover.

A tap takeover is when a brewery has their beers exclusively on tap at a specific establishment.

Kurt Pearson with the Alberta Craft Beer Guide with the ad for Watershed Brewing Co.'s tap takeover. (Kurt Pearson/Instagram)

"We kept asking him when he's going to do a tap takeover and he said in 2035. It was a running joke and now it's no longer a running joke," said Kay.

Kay added that the most impressive thing about the Watershed label is its reach across the province.

"Watershed has some of the best marketing, even better than some of the legit breweries out there."

The restaurant's owners believe in the homebrewer so much they paid $1,000 for an advertisement in the 2019 summer edition of Alberta Craft Beer Guide.

"I have not had a sip of Watershed beer but if it lives up to the legend, it's going to be one heck of an event," said Kay.

Pearson has no plans to give up his day job anytime soon, but if he does, it'll be to create a beer for the masses.

"I'll do whatever is the super, most trendy beer of the day and everyone will be happy," he said.

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