Calgary breweries hopping on craft soda bandwagon

Calgary’s craft breweries are bubbling up something other than their typical concoctions.

At Annex Ale Project, in southeast Calgary, soda flavours like root beer, Saskatoon lemonade and craft cola are on the menu alongside the more traditional brews.

The brewery is just one of several in the city that is getting in on the craft soda scene.

“We want to basically take the craft ideals behind craft beer and apply that to sodas,” said Andrew Bullied, director of brewing operations at Annex Ale Project. 

“We’re trying to basically bring sodas back to being this homemade and artisanal thing.”

Annex Ale Project has sold non-alcoholic drinks since 2016.

Andrew Bullied, director of brewing operations at Annex Ale Project, said the brewery is focused on bringing sodas back to being homemade and artisanal. (Axel Tardieu/Radio-Canada)

Beer is still its main business, Bullied said. But the craft sodas — which are handmade and made with whole ingredients whenever possible — now make up a quarter of the brewery’s sales.

It’s caught on at other breweries, too. After a customer survey, the Dandy Brewing Company started making soda this summer and now sells the product at 25 locations.

“People look to craft beers for ingenuity and what’s coming next, and there’s an expectation of quality,” said Ben Leon, Dandy co-owner. 

“That procedure and everything is the best it can be at a craft brewery — but it doesn’t have to just be beer.”

More consumers are looking for alternative options when they go to restaurants, in part because it’s now more socially acceptable to seek non-alcoholic options “for a variety of reasons,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhouse University in Halifax.

Annex Ale Project is one Calgary brewery in the business of selling craft sodas, offering flavours like craft cola, Saskatoon lemonade, ginger beer and root beer. (Axel Tardieu/CBC)

It’s smart for businesses to expand and carry non-alcoholic options so they do not lose the patronage of those who do not consume alcohol, Charlebois said, adding that such options are more common in Europe.

Leopold’s Tavern carries a number of locally-produced craft sodas and regional manager David Sauve has noticed an uptick in interest.

“We’re just a gathering spot — we’re a spot for the community to come together and spend time, hang out and have fun and feel like a part of the mix,” Sauve said.

“Having options for everyone is super important to us.”

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