© Submitted photo
Farmery Estate Brewery owners Lawrence (left) and Chris Warwaruk hold up their flagship product while standing in a field near the farm-based brewery. The Manitoba-based company began selling its Farmery Premium Lager in Saskatchewan this summer.
A Manitoba-based farmhouse brewery is set to make the leap into the Saskatchewan beer market.
For the last five years, the Farmery Estate Brewery has steadily built a name for itself with its unique line of craft beer.
Now, owners Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk are making their first moves towards expansion with the announcement that the company will begin selling its flagship beer, Farmery Premium Lager, in Saskatchewan.
“We first pitched it to the SLGA in the springtime, and we definitely wanted to be part of launching a beer throughout the summer months,” Chris Warwaruk said.
“As far as testing the waters … we did as much as we could to jump in with both feet, not only in Manitoba, but into Saskatchewan,” he added.
“We definitely want to launch our product and make it available in Alberta. But we want to be progressive in the fact that if we’re not going to be successful in Saskatchewan, then there’s no point in even going further west -- because the people of Saskatchewan should relate to our product the most, I think.”
For Warwaruk, part of that appeal lies in the close ties of his company to agricultural life through their farm-grown hops and barley.
The origins of the Farmery Estate Brewery lie in Lawrence’s decision to move out to the farm with his family five years ago.
At the time, he and his brother Chris owned Luxalune, the first gastropub in Winnipeg -- an establishment they continue to preside over today.
Selling more than 150 brands of beer in their pub, the brothers began to ponder what they would have to do to be successful if they chose to jump into the craft beer business.
“We grew up on a family farm, so we weren’t scared of hard work and understanding how to grow barley and grains and stuff,” Chris said. “So that’s what kind of prompted (Lawrence) to move his family out to a small quarter section of farm and start the process of growing ingredients on just 160 acres.
“But in order to be viable we had to actually add value to that -- which made the concept or vision of an estate brewery take hold.”
Estate breweries differ from traditional breweries in that all ingredients in the beer are grown on the company estate or farm.
“Anyone that buys a Farmery beer, it actually has barley from our farm in the beer,” Chris noted.
He described Farmery Premium Lager as a Czech or European-style pilsener lager, where most craft brewers tend to prefer seasonal or stout beers.
If we’re not going to be successful in Saskatchewan, then there’s no point in even going further west -- because the people of Saskatchewan should relate to our product the most, I think. Chris Warwaruk
After the Warwaruk brothers decided to enter the brewing business, they took their recipe and ingredients to the Muskoka Brewery in Ontario, which agreed to brew the beer and thus allowed Farmery to gain a foothold in the Manitoba market.
Farmery gained a significant boost after Chris and Lawrence appeared on the television program Dragons Den, where they picked up business partners in the forms of hosts Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton.
Still, Chris noted, “I think that even with the experience and the help that we got from the Dragons, it didn’t really help us get into the marketplace as much as the consumers in Saskatchewan and Alberta and Manitoba.
“A lot of the population (there) understands what farming is about, and I think that relationship between the consumer and our product is very easily to capture and inspire consumers to support our brand, because we are from the farm. We’re not a multi-national, multi-billion dollar community.”
Where the Prince Albert area is concerned, Chamber of Commerce CEO Merle Lacert noted that the city has long had a close relationship with beer, pointing to one five –year period in which all Bohemian beer was brewed in P.A.
In recent years, he added, Prince Albert has seen a growing interest in the products of local micro-breweries.
Meanwhile, evidence suggests beer remains one of the more popular beverages in the city.
“My understanding, of course, is that I think we have higher beer sales overall over any other alcohol -- over wine or spirits,” Lacert said.
Besides major cities such as Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, Chris Warwaruk said that Farmery beer has found a significant consumer base in smaller centres such as Waskesiu.
He noted the potential of estate breweries to serve as a source of agri-tourism in Saskatchewan, comparing them to bourbon trails in Tennessee.
“There are no other estate breweries on the Prairies,” Warwaruk said. “We want to be the first ones. We want to be the best that we can be.
“But by no means do we feel that there’s no room for other estate breweries … If we can, (we want to) encourage other progressive farmers that want to add value to their barley that there’s no reason why they can’t.”