Nestled between Alberta’s vast prairies and grand boreal forests, the City of Camrose is not so much a hidden gem as an overlooked jewel in plain sight. For generations, Camrose has been a destination of choice for older Albertans looking to escape the bustle of Edmonton, just an hour’s drive away, and to soak in the natural beauty and community of wild rose country. But a visit to this vibrant small city, with its trendy small shops, world-class microbreweries, and lively patios, reveals anything but a docile retirement community. This is a thriving hub of entrepreneurship and innovation, empowered by a business culture that values cooperation and mutual success. Camrose is truly one of the great and growing cities of Canada’s ambitious youthful spirit.
Setting the stage for success
Of course, there’s far more to the thriving Camrose small business ecosystem than strong beverages. But the success of the local brewing and distilling scene provides a clear, or perhaps amber, window into the ways that a business-friendly community can drive regional innovation and growth. And that, in turn, creates an atmosphere that’s welcoming and appealing to ambitious young Canadians who may then go on to start businesses of their own.
It’s a self-reinforcing cycle of prosperity that should be a reminder to all that a business-friendly community is a people-friendly community. So, whatever you choose to pour into your glass, raise it tonight to Camrose, the little city that’s writing the future of Canadian entrepreneurship.
This is a thriving hub of entrepreneurship and innovation, empowered by a business culture that values cooperation and mutual success
Owner, Battle River Brewery
Battle River Brewery: Community That Supports Each Other
On 37 Street, the entrance to Battle River Brewery is marked by a mighty stone sign, the work of a local Camrose craftsman, financed through a municipal Facade Improvement Grant. Battle River Brewery is a labour of love, the fermented dream of one man, Ryan Pearson. Raised on a farm in Central Alberta, Pearson worked in the steel industry before deciding to go it on his own and dedicate himself to his true passion: good beer. In Camrose, he found the perfect community supports for his entrepreneurial aspirations.
Owner & General Manager, Norsemen Brewing Company
Norsemen Brewing Company: Creating a Destination
On the other side of town, Norsemen Brewing Company sources ingredients from the same local malter to craft an entirely different stable of microbrews in its own unique environment. Located in the landmark Norsemen Inn, the brewing company and its adjacent Tap Room cater to locals and out-of-towners alike.
“Camrose is central to many areas and the perfect distance from Edmonton,” says Owner & General Manager Sean Willms. “We’ve had many people out on an afternoon tour. And the City of Camrose is business-friendly, as it has always looked to bring in new and exciting businesses to keep shopping and dining local.”
Ty de Hoog
Owner, True North Cider
True North Cider: Support from the City
The community spirit that keeps Camrose hopping extends beyond just hops. The city has a diverse palate, and economic development initiatives have provided a fertile ground for new small businesses seeking to slake all types of thirst. Camrose natives Ty and Kate de Hoog fell in love with the apple orchards of Creston Valley while living in the mountains of British Columbia. When life called them back to Camrose, they came joyfully — with 2,000 pounds of apples in tow.
From that bounty, True North Cider was born. “We opened our doors in the middle of the pandemic and the outpouring of support from citizens and other businesses was overwhelming,” says Ty. In recognition of the community that helped them thrive in this difficult time, True North has taken advantage of the city’s patio policy to serve cider outside and recently launched the Rose City Cider series, specifically highlighting local ingredients sourced from the Camrose region.
Co-Owner, Back 40 Distillery Inc.
Back 40 Distillery: A Council That Works With Small Businesses
On chilly winter evenings, it may happen that something with a little more kick than even the craftiest beer or cider is needed to warm up the residents of Camrose. For these occasions, locals turn to Back 40 Distillery. The team at Back 40 makes vodka, flavoured spirits, whiskey, and rum from locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients, all 100 percent gluten free. They sell their products in liquor stores and restaurants across the country, as well as online. And, thanks to local zoning adjustments, they have a bonded warehouse in the city, through which they can sell directly to the public, as well as at local farmer’s markets.
It’s that kind of small town flexibility and understanding that allows entrepreneurs to thrive, and it’s something Back 40 hopes to pay forward to other local business owners. “The city made quick adjustments during COVID to help small businesses stay operational, such as making it easier to set up an outdoor patio,” says co-owner Lorne Haugen. Local is a priority. “We aim to be as local as possible and have sourced as much as we can from within Alberta. We hope to collaborate more with local Camrose producers in developing future products,” says co-owner Steven Zilkie.