It’s called the Half Hitch Brewing Company and the locals say its not Half Bad.
Cochrane's Heier family opened their microbrewery about 18 months ago after several years of fine-tuning several varieties of craft beer at home.
When some of their suds started winning awards and causing a stir in the craft beer community, the family put their heads together and opened in the Half Hitch in Cochrane mid-2014.
The Heiers had wanted to combine their collective resources and open a business of some description for five years. Family dinners at their Cochrane home were spent throwing ideas around the table but nothing really inspired them to take action.
When one of the Heier brothers mentioned a brewery, ears perked up and the talk began, even though no one in the family knew anything about making beer. It didn’t deter them.
Over the next year, Chris Heier experimented with brew kits just to get familiar with the basics. Not quite an entry-level type of beer, he started off brewing an English all-grain mild. He discovered the differences between a pale ale or a red or brown ale. Finally, he got the confidence to create his own recipes.
In the first few months of 2012, Chris was concocting about 5 gallons every week. He was giving away beer to his friends and other family members to make space for new types of brews coming out of the kitchen every week. His perfectionist attitude was all about being an award-winner. If he was going to do it, he was going to do it right.
When he had about 80 original recipes, Chris entered a competition in 2012 – the Cowtown Yeast Wrangler’s competition which is known as one of the largest contests of it’s kind in Canada for craft brewers. The premier competition Nationally is held in Regina where nearly 500 types of beer are entered for consideration.
Even though he’d been experimenting for a year and even though it was his first kick at the cat, Chris walked away with three bronze medals and amazingly, a gold. Inspired, he entered the same contest the following year and received a Second Best in Show medal for a Belgian Dark Strong beer. There were 314 beers entered in 23 different categories that year. That second year gave Chris and his siblings and step-siblings the push they needed to consider a solid future with Half Hitch.
While Chris was mixing, pouring and tasting, the rest of the family was looking for Cochrane property for their microbrewery. They obtained a development permit, which is a story unto itself, but it finally all came together and the shovels hit the dirt on Griffin Industrial Point off Griffin Road East in August 2014. The Heier family got some direction from David Neilly of Calgary’s Wild Rose Brewery.
The architecture of the building has some western flair and was laid out with a small retail area and space for a future restaurant. The building houses 6 fermenters that produce a million litres of beer annually.
The Heier family is proud to source their ingredients locally, using prairie barley and malt made in Calgary. Some of the more special malts still must come from Europe as our Canadian malt makers aren’t up to speed.
The space they set aside for the restaurant when they first opened will soon be ready to receive customers. Chris said production is humming along so well that it was smooth sailing to open a restaurant, scheduled to be open on January 21, just another phase in the family’s multi-level plan.
The menu is expected to be top notch pub fare with a craft spin.
Chris says that one day, he wants the Half Hitch Brewery to be as much of a Cochrane icon and destination as MacKay’s Ice Cream