January on the prairies. It’s bitterly cold, and the wind cuts razor sharp across long-frozen ridges of snow. The windows of the brewery, perpetually steamed, look down on an announcement even colder than the winter air outside. Operator Carling O’Keefe has decided to amalgamate with Molson Brewing Company.
The 50 year old brewery was about to close its doors for good, spelling the end of an era, and the end of beer in Saskatchewan.
Not willing to give up and accept defeat, a group of 16 employees stood up, pooled their resources and decided to buy the brewery themselves.
One year after the closure was announced, the founding group signed a seven-figure mortgage and with it, revived 50 years of Saskatchewan brewing. The Great Western Brewing Company was born offering world-class beer, right here on the prairies.
One of the original founders and current plant supervisor at the brewery, Greg Kitz, recounts his favourite moment from the whole deal. “It was supposed to officially go on sale March 26, 1990, on a Monday, but because of the way liquor stores ordered it actually went on sale on the Friday. We were all sitting in our vehicles outside the liquor store, watching people walk out with cases of Great Western and Great Western Light. It was such a feeling to see people walking out the door with your product.”
2014 was a record year for the brewery and the founders, employees and management group see only good things on the horizon. With a dedication to 100% Saskatchewan owned, grown and brewed beer, the company enters its 25th year with a lot of history and hard work to look back on.