Great Western Brewery
There is a well-known slogan that says “I loved the product so much, I bought the company.” Think if that were you for a moment. The personal and financial risk involved in such an undertaking would be a reasonable obstacle unless one’s belief in the product.
Founded in 1927, Saskatoon-based Great Western Brewery’s employees were faced with such a dilemma when, in 1989, their storied and beloved brewery was facing closure after being amalgamated under brewing monolith Molson Brewing Company.
Put in the position of David trying to defeat Goliath, 16 employees of Great Western Brewery decided they could not lose this historic brewery and instead pooled their resources to buy it back from Molson.
“It really has a very unique and fascinating history,” says Michael Micovcin, CEO. “A group of 16 employees got together and formed an employee association to discuss an employee buyout of the facility. Eventually their discussions took them to the Government of Saskatchewan who were willing to back the employees and they successfully convinced Molson to sell them the brewery. Sixteen front-line production employees. when you think about it is it a courageous and brave move to collect their life savings and save the brewery from closure.
The rest, as they say, is history. With a management-led employee group, Great Western Brewery has gone on to be one of Canada’s most successful regional brewers and an internationally recognized producer of world class beer.
In March of this year, Great Western Brewery released a brew to commemorate and celebrate those employees and the risk they took with a crisp, refreshing Canadian Pale Ale called Original 16.
“In 1990, we were striving to keep a great Western Canadian brewing tradition alive. All 16 of us embarked on a single-minded journey to make the highest quality beer available, right here in Western Canada,” said Don Ebelher, one of the original Great Western Brewing Company founders and current Director of Operations. “Original 16 Canadian Pale Ale celebrates that legacy and honours the spirit of the company’s founding.”
Recent gold medals at Belgium’s Monde Selection awards for Great Western Light, Great Western Pilsner and Great Western Premium all confirm the brewery’s commitment to making the best beer right here on the Prairies. In fact, Great Western Light won the designation as Best Standard Lager in the world at the World Beer Awards.
Great Western Brewery’s beers are characterized by high quality and refreshing beers made with premium prairie barley, spring water and the highest-standard hops. There are no cutting corners here. The brewery produces three core brand families of beer that have been the first choice of discerning beer drinkers in western Canada for years, Great Western Brands, Brewhouse Brand and the Olympia Brand.
The brewery launched a new Pilsner Light brew last summer that has proven to be a favourite among beer drinkers. The first new varietal in years to the Great Western family, Great Western Pilsner Light is delivering exactly what plenty of Saskatchewan beer drinkers have been asking for in a beer—smoother, more refreshing taste.
Viv Jones, Brew Master at Great Western Brewing, adds, “Like every Great Western beer we brew, we can take the time to extra-age our beers, making them smoother, more refreshing, and ultimately more drinkable than anyone imagined possible. What makes the new Great Western Pilsner Light so special is that it offers the light and crisp taste that light beer drinkers seek, with the added plus that this beer also has a true pilsner character.”
With a stalwart dedication to making the finest beers, the company has been the recipient of many international awards for its brews, and has been selected as one of the 50 Best Managed Companies in Canada for the last seven years.
“The fact that the brewery has succeed over the past 21 years in a very competitive market, has survived and has grown as a proudly independent company, to me, is a success in itself,” says Micovcin.
The next three to five years will see Great Western Brewery extending its footprint across all of western Canada. “Right now we are Saskatoon centric company that does 60 per cent of its sales in Alberta, so there is obviously a lot of room to grow and to ensure that we have a portfolio of brands that can successfully compete in all major segments in the industry.”
“Our vision is to become the most recognized and respected regional brewery in Canada,” says Micovcin. Great Western Brewery celebrates its independent roots, and is proud that Great Western Brewery is one of the most recognized and respected breweries based on product, quality, brand, organization, culture and values.