A familiar label returned to local liquor stores a year ago.
Kevin Wood and Cody Geddes-Backman had adopted the Drummond name for their microbrewery and even brought Wolfgang Hoess, the brewmaster at the former Red Deer brewery, back to town.
Their first shipments of lagger went out in mid-October, with the partners optimistic they would capture a good share of their hometown market.
Twelve months and hundreds of thousands of beers later, the new Drummond Brewing Co. Ltd. is operating at capacity.
“We’re now the third biggest brewery in the province,” said Wood, listing Labatt Brewing Company in Edmonton and Big Rock Brewery in Calgary as the only ones with greater volumes of suds.
However, it’s been a struggle to gain a foothold in Red Deer.
Drummond can be found in most liquor stores here, but with only one product — Drummond Premium — it’s in tough against the myriad of competing beers on cooler shelves, said Wood. Another problem is that many of the retailers are owned by large chains, which exercise complete control over price.
Drummond Premium sells for $8.50 a six-pack at the brewery’s 6610 71st St. taproom, but costs much more in most liquor stores.
It’s also been an uphill battle convincing bars and restaurants to carry Drummond draft, said Wood.
“Out of over 50 draft accounts in town, we have one,” he said, identifying the Red Deer Legion as their only customer in the city.
Fortunately, a lot of Drummond’s product is flowing up and down Hwy 2. Both its Premium and a generic beer produced by Drummond are being sold in Calgary and Edmonton.
“The majority of our sales come from outside Red Deer, believe it or not,” said Wood.
Surrounding communities like Rocky Mountain House, Stettler and Lacombe also consume Drummond draft and cans, he pointed out. And the brewery’s taproom has proven to be a big hit with local beer drinkers.
And why not? A 20-ounce pint — available in Premium or Gold — sells for $3.25. For those with greater drinking aspirations, 50-litre kegs can be purchased for $105.
“We sell a ton of kegs” confirmed Wood.
In addition to the strong sales outside Central Alberta, he thinks there’s good potential out of the province as well.
“We’ve had interest from Manitoba and B.C. for agents carrying our product, but we haven’t jumped on anything yet.”
The brewery’s current output, which is equal to a quarter million cans a month, is all it can produce despite equipment upgrades during the past year.
Wood said changes are planned for the future.
“We’re going to come back with a new product launch in the spring here in the Red Deer area.”
After the original Drummond brewery closed in 1995, Sleeman Breweries Ltd. bought its assets — including the name. But they allowed the trademark to lapse, allowing Wood and Geddes-Backman to claim it for their own product.
Wood still believes the Drummond name, which was derived from a glacier at the head of the Red Deer River, has market value.
“It comes with positives and negatives, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.”