SASKATOON — ABEX-winning 9 Mile Legacy Brewing Co. is bigger than the business partnership of co-founders Shawn Moen and Garrett Pederson; after all the idea was a century in the making and both had their respective professional careers before taking the leap to open up a small business brewing craft beer almost seven years ago.
“9 Mile Legacy Brewing has been a long-standing project for my co-founder (Pederson) and I, in many ways predating our partnership. We enjoyed homebrewing together for several years prior to launching 9 Mile Legacy Brewing. I was a practising lawyer and Garrett was managing an environmental engineering laboratory,” Moen told SASKTODAY.
“We had certainly been bit by the entrepreneurial bug. We reached the point in our professional careers where we either took a chance on this idea or we continued to pursue traditional and stable careers. We took the former approach and, in 2013, left our secure jobs to chase the dream.”
Their partnership, however, is built behind generations of each of their families working together.
“The idea of 9 Mile Legacy is much bigger than Garrett and me. A century ago, our families settled in the Cabri-Abbey area in Southwestern Saskatchewan. Our farms are located nine miles apart and each generation of Moens and Pedersons have found opportunities to work together.”
And that kind of friendship makes their business connect people, the neighbourhood and the community — a characteristic that might be the reason for 9 Mile earning the Growth and Expansion Award in last month’s 2021 ABEX Awards, which were held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I suspect what made our growth and expansion story unique was the context in which it was executed … 9 Mile Legacy is about connecting with neighbours sharing common values, making a positive contribution to one's community and growing something bigger than the sum of your parts,” said Moen, who added they received the 2018 ABEX New Venture award.
Moen said the award recognizes the resilience of their entire team amidst the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Particularly those [personnel] that were contributing to the expansion plans in 2019 and had the courage to stick with us through the pandemic, to the launch of the expanded facility and beyond.
“We have a really special group of people at 9 Mile Legacy Brewing, and it is wonderful to see our business community celebrate them. So, celebrating was a bit different this time as we were apart from our business community colleagues. But it was great to connect with each of our team members in real time and share the news, while celebrating with our young families.”
He added that their plan to expand further was already in place before the end of 2019.
“Save for a few regulatory approvals, of course we all know what happened in March 2020 — COVID-19 struck and upended much of our existing and well-established sales channels. We had to decide whether to hunker down and abandon our expansion plans or proceed with courage. We chose the latter and launched our expanded facility in November 2020.”
Moen said despite their brewery still being at a young age they had already grown steadily and carved a niche in the local craft beer market.
“We've been operating 9 Mile Legacy Brewing for approximately six and a half years, launching our original location in April 2015. At that time, it was a tiny nanobrewery, brewing 100 (litres) at a time. We've since expanded twice, now operating our flagship taproom on 20th Street West (in the Riversdale neighbourhood of Saskatoon) and our new production facility about three blocks away.
“The reception to our canned beer has been enthusiastic. We've had a lot of fun introducing some of our more popular beer to a broader audience (The Ticket, Hybrid Vigour and Rafiki Moja IPA). We've also had some fun pushing innovative styles that aren't possible until you can breathe a little from a production perspective — thinking particularly of our durum wheat beer brewed in collaboration with SWT (a terminal company in South West Saskatchewan).”
He added 9 Mile had already carved a spot in the local beer industry, and despite having a small market share they more than made it up in other things.
“We are one of about 20 craft brewers in Saskatchewan and were one of the pioneers of the ‘second wave’ of industry development (back in 2014-2017).
“We've always been very small as a brewery, so a fairly small market share from a volume perspective, but have been privileged to punch above our weight in terms of contribution to industry development, regulatory evolution and promotion of our great city and province.”
Moen said earning the award makes them more determined to improve products and services to customers.
"Our feelings were a mix of pride, honour but also resoluteness for the work ahead. In many ways, our economic recovery as a province is only beginning and this is the start of a new chapter for 9 Mile Legacy Brewing and the role it may play in that.”
“I think we are exceptionally good at connecting people in authentic ways and also telling our story in ways that resonate. Everyone in this province has a version of the 9 Mile Legacy story. We know what it is like to rely on neighbours through good times and bad times. We know that we can achieve more than the sum of our parts if we all aspire to excellence and work together. That sort of story is very much needed in our province at this point in history, I think.”