Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN — Rebellion Brewing President Mark Heise has thrown down the gauntlet and apparently the gauntlet he has thrown down is filled with lentils.
Not a problem for beer fans in Saskatchewan who couldn’t be happier. Rebellion Brewing is turning heads with exceptional beer that is groundbreaking and unique, including their very popular Lentil Cream Ale. Heise may look like the second coming of Elvis Presley but he ain’t no hound dog – years of hard work, dedication and a passion for beer that began early has led to awards and international recognition.
“I got serious about craft beer in 2004 and started home brewing in 2005. In 2006 I got the courage to enter my first home brewing contest and I took second place overall in that competition so I thought well, geez, maybe I’m not so bad as a home brewer,” said Heise, who won a trip to Chico, California and an opportunity to brew a beer at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Rebellion Brewing rolled out its first beers in November 2014 and has five beers on the menu that it serves year round – Lentil Cream Ale and Amber Ale (tied for most popular brands), Blast Off! Blonde Ale, IPA and an Oatmeal Stout.
Brewed in a 20 hectolitre brewhouse with local ingredients, Rebellion produces the equivalent of 6,000 bottles of beer and self distribute their product across Saskatchewan to over 160 pubs, restaurants, and retail stores in the province. Sadly there are no plans to export, so you’re going to have to visit Saskatchewan to enjoy this product.
Some of my favourites are The Amber beer, a really nice red, hoppy beer and their IPA and Oatmeal Stout earn the highest feedback on rating sites. Rebellion also makes Prairie Cherry Mead which is not a beer but a wine made from Saskatchewan honey and sour cherries.
The Lentil Cream Ale is the most intriguing and unique beer on the menu and also my favourite. Until my visit to Rebellion Brewing I had never even heard of lentil beer but I find it to be a delicious creation with a crisp, lemony taste. Using lentils to make beer is a brilliant move because according to Statistics Canada Saskatchewan was home to the largest pulse area in the country with 1.7 million hectares in 2011. Clearly a marriage made in heaven.
Heise saw an opportunity to “put his marketing hat on and create a bit of a game changer that could have appeal” by using this beautiful yet underestimated ingredient to make great beer and it has worked spectacularly. Heise has been canning his lentil beer for only five months but already it has garnered respect. To date Heise has sold between 50 and 60 thousand cans, pretty significant for a small brewery.
“There was a pulse conference in Vancouver in June of last year, and (former Saskatchewan Premier) Brad Wall was talking about our lentil beer,” says Heise. “Next thing I know I received a text message from 12 businessmen from South East Asia who were at the conference and heard Mr. Wall speak. Next thing I know the conference ends and these men immediately book a flight to Regina, land at our airport, jumped in a cab and came right over to Rebellion to meet me and taste the beer. Most of them didn’t speak anyEnglish but they had a smile on their face and they wanted a second glass of beer.”
He says the beer scene is exploding in Saskatchewan and is a big reason why tourists should make a point to visit the province.
“We always had this thing bubbling under the surface, we were this hidden secret, there’s like some really amazing, phenomenal things going on here but nobody knows about it,” says Heise, who gave a nod to Nokomis Craft Ales, Malty National and Black Ridge as other breweries in the province that were raising the bar. “Now, with people like me and the other brewers, we are opening up breweries, getting excellent ratings, excellent reviews. Yeah, it’s getting on more and more peoples radars that there are amazing things happening in Saskatchewan and it’s really high quality. The feedback from people who travel here from BC and Ontario where brewing is really big is that the beer in Saskatchewan is actually better, just a little harder to get.”
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