Something good seems to be brewing in Lacombe with both Blindman Brewing and Cilantro and Chive winning big at the Alberta Beer Awards.
Cilantro and Chive, for the second year in a row, took home the Restaurant/Pub of the Year award and Blindman, right after Cilantro was announced, won the Community Builder of the Year award.
“It was definitely not expected,” Jason Burns, Cilantro and Chive general manager, said. “You want to try to be the best and we are really happy with the connections we have in the craft beer scene.”
Burns said it is a mandate for Cilantro and Chive to continue to support local products, with craft beer being a priority.
“For us it is a no-brainer to support them and we haven’t carried domestic beers for over two years. Our guests love that,” he said.
To date, there are over 110 breweries in Alberta (Blindman was the 20th) and Cilantro and Chive has relationships with most of them — allowing them to stock beer from all over the province.
“We don’t just carry their products — we get to know them,” he said. “We are utilizing beer in different products we create; as an example we have a cheese dip on our menu which is made from Blindman’s Long Shadow IPA.
“It is one thing to just have it, now we are playing around and being creative — using it in every which way.”
Cilantro and Chive’s relationship-building has allowed them to become a beer destination in Alberta.
“We have people in the craft beer scene across the province that make us a destination,” he said. “We have guests come from Red Deer, Blackfalds, Ponoka, Sylvan Lake and even sometimes Edmonton and Calgary.
“That is humbling and fantastic and we don’t take that for granted. We always try to improve what we do and how we doing to live up to people’s expectations.”
Next year’s awards will be in Red Deer and although they don’t go seeking awards, Cilantro and Chive will continue to look to improve on what they do.
“We always want to evolve and invest back in the business. If that means we will be recognized, then awesome. We are going to keep working at establishing strong relationships and of course we will have to expand our team to be able to do that,” he said.
He added that there are no current plans to open another location in central Alberta, although they are open to the right situation if it were to present itself.
“As appealing it is to open up a second or third location, it can’t stray from our Number 1 goal which is Lacombe,” he said.
For Blindman, the Community Builder of the Year Award came as quite a shock.
“It was awesome. We were pretty surprised about that award. It was a real big honour,” Blindman Brewing Co-founder Hans Doef said. “It is a big part of our identity and as well in the whole culture of our brewery. We value that and we hope it shows through our efforts.”
Doef said contributing to both the local and provincial community is important to him and his team.
“We like to think there are layers of community involvement and whether it is local in the City or in the industry in Alberta as a whole — we like to think we value those aspects,” he said, adding it was nice to be able to win alongside Cilantro and Chive.
“It was quite a cool thing when they won and then we won right after that. Lacombe is seen really highly in the industry and this helps solidify that.”
He added that being in Lacombe is important to Blindman Brewing.
“We are pumped to be live in Lacombe and set up here,” he said. “We hope that Lacombe is proud of what we are trying to do, as well as Cilantro. There is a cool thing happening with craft food, drink and breweries. We are being highlighted as a destination.”