Lacombe’s microbrewery has officially been brewing up success for four years.
Blindman Brewing marked it’s fourth anniversary Saturday, celebrating with a party, new brews, and the community that’s given them the support since they opened their doors in 2015.
“It’s been a crazy whirlwind,” said Hans Doef, Blindman co-owner. “The first four years has been awesome. We’ve seen a lot of positivity in our business and a lot of community support. We’re really thankful we can have this.”
The idea for Blindman Brewing took root in 2013, when Doef and fellow co-owner Dave Vander Plaat started talking about turning their home brewing into a business. The same year, the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission put an end to production quotas, which would make microbreweries a viable business option.
By 2015, they’d acquired a team of experienced partners, turned an industrial bay into a space better suiting their vision for a brewery,. They released their first three core beers – Blindman River Session Ale, Longshadows IPA, and Saison Lacombe – and officially became the 20th brewery to open in the province, which now has about 130.
Soon, expansion was in the works, and over the past four years Blindman has taken over several more industrial bays, added more tanks, more staff (they’re now up to 30), a taproom, and began moving into new markets with more beers.
They now have about seven core beers, and released four more on Saturday, including the Year 4 Nordic Quad. As it’s name suggests, it commemorates their fourth anniversary and is a blend of the Norwegian Hornindal kveik and the Belgian quadruple which they say “should be as rich as the history of those two great beer styles and as vast as the ocean that separates them from us.”
Another release is the the Batch 500 Traditional Kveik – commemorating their 500th batch – which uses the same yeast as their Year 4, but is made traditionally “with the brewing water filtered over freshcut juniper bows, using barley, oats and rye and with a long rolling boil. It fermented fast and hot and is best enjoyed slow and cool.”
Seasonals and one-offs are rotated into their lineup throughout the year.
Shane Groendahl, another co-founder, echoed Doef’s ‘whirlwind’ sentiments about the past four years.
“It seems like such a long time ago that we started and we’ve seemingly done nothing but grow. It’s both a privilege and an honour to see everyone come out and help us celebrate,” he said. “It’s pretty darn cool – it solidifies that we’ve become a standard in the community, a place people can come to celebrate and enjoy their time with us.”
As for what it is exactly that’s made the brewery successful, neither could really pin it down, but with hundreds of people stopping by their east Lacombe facility throughout the day and either enjoying a plethora of different beers on site or grabbing cans to take home, it’s in the brews themselves, whether it be their passion or creativity in developing their product.
It’s also in the unique culture of the craft beer industry.
“One major thing for me is it’s unlike any other major industry in that there’s more camaraderie in craft beer. Look at oilfield, which Lacombe is familiar with. There’s a competitive nature there that doesn’t exist in craft beer,” Groendahl said. “One thing that’s helped out industry is we’re building it – we’re actually growing it at a strong and fast pace, but we’re all building it together.”
Blindman has been integral in building the industry, and were recognized as such with a Community Builder Award at the 2019 Alberta Beer Awards earlier this year.
The challenge now, however, is addressing a greater need to grow and meet increasing demands for production, all the while balancing that with staying at the forefront of the more unique products coming out.
“It’s a matter of us making sure our team is as strong as possible, in terms of our brewers, production staff, and our taproom staff, making sure everyone is as dedicated and passionate as we are,” he said. “That’s going to ensure we’re on that forefront.”