Columbia Brewery employees learned on Monday that they will now be producing Bud Light, the world’s second most popular beer brand (a Chinese beer holds the top spot). And, they were also told, the Labatt brewery in Edmonton will soon be making Kokanee, which until now has only been produced in Creston.
The changes are part of a continuing effort to reduce shipping costs and make each Labatt brewery in Canada more efficient and flexible.
“Flexibility is at the heart of this expansion — adding another brewery to the Kokanee family will make it easier for us to serve our consumers more efficiently,” Columbia Brewery manager Murray Oswald said on Monday. “And, because of the production flexibility we’ve developed at Creston, there will be no immediate impact on employment at Columbia Brewery and, in fact, one of our objectives is to minimize any impact at all.
“We continue to be committed to getting additional brands at the Columbia Brewery to help offset the impact of normal seasonality.”
While there is obviously a local emotional attachment to the Kokanee brand, beer consumers will remember that only two years ago Creston became the first brewery outside of Halifax to produce another iconic Canadian brand, Alexander Keith’s. Subsequently, the local brewery has also added Keith’s Red, Busch and Brava to its production capabilities.
Columbia Brewery, which began brewing Kokanee lager in 1960, became part of the Labatt company in 1974. Initially, Columbia primarily brewed Kokanee but the brand portfolio grew over the years, as Labatt Genuine Lager, Wildcat Strong, Winchester, Labatt Light, Lucky and Blue were added to the Kokanee family, which includes Kokanee, Kokanee Gold, Kokanee Light and Kootenay True Ale.
Arduous standards must be met before a brewery can start production of a beer that has been traditionally made elsewhere. Creston brewmaster Scott Stokes, who oversaw Columbia Brewery’s certification to make Alexander Keith’s, has now added the famed Bud Light brand to his portfolio. And his work is far from over. He will be working closely with former Creston brewmaster Graham Kendall, who now oversees production in Edmonton, to supervise the Alberta brewery’s certification to make Kokanee.
“Today, while we are very proud of our heritage as the birthplace of Kokanee, we’re just as proud that Creston is capable of brewing multiple brands,” Oswald said. “The growth in our production portfolio over the past few years is really a testament to the adaptability and capabilities of our employees.
“Kokanee continues to be a priority brand in Western Canada and our investment plans for 2012, as well as the expansion, reflect its importance in our brand portfolio.”