At Prairie Sun Brewery, the movement towards alcohol of a more diverse nature is exemplified in their ever-expanding number of different beer varieties. In a given year, the people at Prairie Sun will brew up to 20 different types of beer including a staple menu as well as monthly or seasonal features.
Last week I took a look at Paddock Wood — Saskatoon’s first micro-brewery — and it only seems fitting that Prairie Sun Brewery got its start from the offices of Paddock Wood. Like so many entrepreneurial stories, Prairie Sun seemed to begin by accident but has progressively solidified into what it is today.
The owner of Paddock Wood, Steve Cavan, was being contacted by a man wanting to start a brewery in Swift Current, Sask. Steve was not interested but two employees were. Heather Williams and Cameron Ewen moved to Swift Current where they developed the skill set required to begin a business in beer production. After deciding they wanted to make their own beer, Williams and Ewen moved back to Saskatoon to begin the process of starting their own company. Six months of business models, funding, research and acquiring equipment passed and the first batch of beer was made on Aug. 28, 2013.
The slogan of Prairie Sun Brewery is “Because good beer is worth it,” and brewmaster Ewen stands by this statement.
When asked what types of ingredients go into Prairie Sun’s various beer, he advocates first getting the basics right.
“Simple ingredients, as few as possible: city water, barley, wheat or oats, grain and hops, yeast and yeast nutrient. Depending on the beer I may use various spices,” Ewen said. “Our fall feature beer, Harvest Moonkin, will have a lot of spices but all the flavours are natural.”
Chemicals can simplify and speed up the brewing process but Ewen firmly believes in an organic method.
“There’s all sorts of stuff people put in beer, but I just don’t like to. Things have less shelf life and take more time but I’m okay with that,” Ewen said.
In regards to finding out which craft beer you like best, Ewen suggests being adventurous and open to new flavours. Many micro-breweries offer free samples of their beer and affordable flights and pints. Different bars and pubs are also becoming more affluent in advising and suggesting new types of beer to customers. Winston’s English Pub offers beer workshops for small groups led by a beer specialist at affordable prices. In regards to pure sales, Crazy Farm has had the best sales and would be an excellent place to start for someone new to craft beer.
Prairie Sun beer is available throughout Saskatoon at over 15 different pubs, bars and restaurants but is not yet available in Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority stores yet. Therefore the only place to purchase and take home Prairie Sun beer is from the brewery itself — located at 2020 Quebec Avenue.
From the brewery you are able to purchase refillable growlers of beer. Growlers are 1.69 litre jugs that are filled directly from tapped kegs and can be sealed and refrigerated. Once you have finished the jug it can be rinsed with water and refilled with a new kind of beer. A growler is often the first step in sales for a micro-brewery as the canning or bottling process requires specialized equipment that can be extremely expensive. The next big plan is to purchase a canning machine and sell cases from the brewery alongside the distinguished growler.
Due to the difficulties in becoming known and established in a new market the people at Prairie Sun Brewery have been hosting many events to garner attention and interest — the next of which is Oktoberfest on Oct. 4.
Oktoberfest will take place in the parking lot beside the brewery and will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The capacity of this event will be 1,000 people, which is double the size of last year’s event. There will be three food trucks parked in the area and live music will be playing all day. Bands that will be playing throughout the day include German Concordia Club Brass Band, The Barrelmen, Tim Vaughn, Shred Kelly, 36?, League of Wolves, Twin Voices, Little Criminals, Zerbin, New Born and Library Voices.