I ventured deep into Edmonton’s south industrial area to find the home of Alley Kat beers. Alley Kat was founded in 1995 and is the longest-running microbrewery in Edmonton.
Their first beer, Aprikat, remains their most popular and reminded me of a fruit cooler. They add apricot extract to the conditioning tanks, and it is sweet with lots of fruit flavour. They also make Alley Kat Amber brown ale, Charlie Flint’s organic lager and Full Moon pale ale (double the hops – oof!) on an ongoing basis.
Alley Kat produces approximately one million bottles of beer annually. They sell primarily to Alberta as well as a little to Saskatchewan, but they also send 300-400 kegs of Full Moon to a bar in Seoul, Korea, each month.
An Edmonton teacher working in Seoul recommended the beer. The Korean bar owner came to Edmonton, tried the beer and liked it, and now stocks it in his bar.
Small = Flexible
This example illustrates how flexible small businesses can be.
As a consumer, I like buying from small, independent businesses. I know who I’m dealing with, and that gives me a greater sense of trust for the product they are selling.
There are several additional advantages from a business perspective. Small businesses can offer personalized service and pay attention to even the smallest details.
Alley Kat not only makes a special shipment to Korea, they also produce specialty beers for individual restaurants and liquor stores. Their chilli beer is only available at Dadeo, a Cajun restaurant on Whyte Avenue in Edmonton. They are also thinking about producing a mead (fermented honey drink) that would only be available from the Sherbrooke Liquor Store, Edmonton’s biggest beer store.
Alley Kat is celebrating its 15th anniversary by producing 5 limited-edition beers. Employees have had an opportunity to experiment with different types of beer or different processes that might not be productive on an ongoing basis. I really enjoyed the Apple Wit, which tasted much like dry English cider. They also made a Smoked Porter, a Cascadian dark ale and a Ginger Beer (not the sweet variety, but a genuine beer made with juiced ginger root).
Quality before Quantity
Alley Kat beer is not pasteurized, so it only stays fresh for about six months. They personally visit the local liquor stores and trade out expired product.
Reuse and Recycle
Alley Kat, like most breweries uses recycled bottles. They also recycle the yeast, harvesting it and using it for 20-25 generations. They reuse some of the water for two different parts of the brewing process.
The leftover wort is scooped into big barrels, and farmers come and pick it up to feed their cows. One of the teachers in NAIT’s culinary program picked up 10 pounds to make bread with his students.
Visiting Alley Kat
Alley Kat is located at 9929 60 Avenue, Edmonton. They offer free walk-in tours on Thursdays and Fridays between 2 and 4 pm, and the tours include a small taste of about five of their beers.