Amber’s Brewing

Overall Superstar

Location Edmonton Owner Owner Jim Gibbon
Employees 4 Founded 2006

★ The Business

Jim Gibbon’s family has been in Edmonton for a long, long time – longer, he says, than Edmonton has even existed as a city. So when he decided to start his own brewery, he thought about naming it the Edmonton Brewing Company. Instead, he settled on Amber’s, which he says represents the accumulated wisdom and experience of all his ancestors. It’s a good thing, too, since thanks to a dispute with a landlord looking to capitalize on rising commercial real estate prices in Edmonton, Gibbon was forced to relocate his brewery to St. Albert. But while his address has changed, the product he makes hasn’t. “Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” he says. “And sometimes that lemonade tastes pretty darn good.”

★ The Case

The idea for Amber’s came to Gibbon while he was sitting in Lloyd Steier’s entrepreneurialism class as a 40-something MBA student. Whether the professor would have shared Gibbon’s enthusiasm for entering a market that includes 800-pound gorillas like Labatt, Molson and Big Rock is an open question, but so far Amber’s is more than holding its own. With its distinct packaging, unusual names (Zombie Apocalypse and Sap Vampire Maple Ale, for example) and unconventional flavours like cardamom and cinnamon beer, it’s showing up in liquor stores and bars all across Alberta.

For Gibbon, it’s all about making that first impression. “Your packaging sells your first six pack,” he says, “and the taste sells the second one.” It’s a strategy that’s working, too – Amber’s recently made its first sale to a bar in New York, and has fielded requests from bars in B.C. and Saskatchewan. “Part of it is that aggressive marketing and those silly names,” Gibbon says. “But we had a choice: tasty and creative, or bland and cheap. And bland and cheap doesn’t pay the bills in an organization like ours.”

 

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