Getting good beer to the good people takes a community and there may be no better community than Lacombe to do just that as evidenced by the 2019 Alberta Beer Awards.
On Wednesday night, Blindman Brewing and Cilantro & Chive walked away with awards, including the prestigious industry-voted awards of Community Builder of the Year and Pub/Restaurant of the Year, respectively.
“It means a lot,” said Hans Doef, Blindman co-owner. “It shows how we’re perceived in the industry as industry builders and supporters and we’re really grateful people see that because it’s one of our big things in our brewery to lift the industry up.”
The awards are put on by the Alberta Small Breweries Association (ASBA), which is a not-for-profit organization aimed at promoting craft beer and supporting the industry. The Community Builder of the Year is one of three awards that are based on input from the industry, rather than the judging process, and specifically to a brewery that exhibits collaboration, generosity and enthusiasm.
Blindman, which was just the 20th brewery in the province to open back in October 2015, clearly demonstrated all three to an industry that now features more than 100 breweries across the province. One example included their hosting of the annual Unity Brew, where 50 different breweries got together to create a whole new product together. Just a few weeks ago, they also hosting the judging process for the awards, which included the blinding tasting of over 350 beers from 76 different breweries.
In addition to the Community Builder award, the local brewery was also took home Silver in the Belgian Ales category for their Anniversary #3: Belgian Tripel, as well as Bronze in the All-Alberta Malt Beer category for their 24-2 Stock Ale.
Doef says their success is attributed to their entire team and the support from the community, which naturally includes the now two-time Pub/Restaurant of the Year in Cilantro & Chive.
“It’s crazy – we just do what we do and have some fun doing it,” said owner Rieley Kay. “There’s just an awesome plethora of products out there so it’s nice we can showcase what they do.”
Their objective from the start of opening the restaurant, he said, was supporting local farmers and the craft beer industry where they could. When they first opened, about seven years ago, they had just three breweries in the establishment, but as the industry bloomed, they kept adding and there are now over 150 craft beers available and not a single domestic beer at the establishment.
While there are the Bud and Kokanee faithful serving only craft beer allows them the opportunity to chat with customers about supporting craft brewers, and their effect and impact on the local communities. Nine times out of ten, Kay says, they come back looking to try something else.
“The smaller breweries are the ones that are in our community,” he said. “They’re the ones giving back, their kids are going to the same schools, we’re supporting the same sports…..They’re a hub of our community, the people we see every day. It’s huge for us to support those who are supporting our community.”
The support and gratefulness is mutual.
“You can think of a lot of restaurants that support craft beer, but it’s hard to think of any restaurant that supports craft beer as much as Rieley and Kim (Kay), and Jason (Burns),” said Doef. “We are really happy they won that again and really proud they’re pumping tires hard in town.”
Lacombe is already recognized as being one of the most giving communities in the province, but now it’s also being lauded for the camaraderie between local businesses, and as a destination for the craft beer and foodie types.
“Lacombe needs to know that in the industry, (the community) is seen in a very high regard. That’s one of the big takeaways I got from the awards,” said Doef. “Lacombe is a little force to be reckoned with and I think that’s really cool.
“I hope people in Lacombe take pride in what’s happening here in the craft beverage and restaurant scene.”
For more information on the 2019 Alberta Beer Awards or to check out other winners, visit www.albertabeerawards.ca.