What's brewin', Lloyd?

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July 14, 2016 12:00 AM

Brad Hoffman and Helen Ramful of Fourth Meridian Brewing Company cheers to the future of Lloydminster's first ever brewery, which should be licensed to sell its product to local bars, restaurants and liquor stores by the end of the month.

On the southwest edge of town there’s a trio of like-minded people breaking ground and bringing something new to the Border City.
The group is the Fourth Meridian Brewing Company and it recently finished the first test batch of beer from Lloydminster’s first ever brewery.
Why does Lloyd need a brewery?
“Because it doesn’t have one yet,” joked Helen Ramful, copartner of Fourth Meridian.
“I think that Lloyd needs more places that are small businesses and we need more of that support local (mentality).”
Ramful started the brewery early this year with her fiancee, Brad Hoffman, and her brother Edward James, and they’re hoping to be licensed by the end of the month so they can start slinging their suds to local bars, restaurants and liquor stores.
Though the group doesn’t yet have a set date for when it can start selling, they have approached several businesses in town about carrying its product and the responses have been really positive.
According to Ramful, the most common response to the inquiries, in fact, is “Great, when can we try it?”
Those businesses will have to hold on a little while yet for that first taste, however, because Fourth Meridian is still waiting on the licensing and the group doesn’t want to get ahead of itself.
“You don’t want to jump the gun on something like this, promise it (product) to be there, and then get held up by something,” Hoffman said, taking into account any unforeseen circumstances.
Right now Fourth Meridian is just using a startup facility on Hoffman’s parents’ property, operating with a 3.5 bbl brewhouse and 2400 litres worth of fermenting capacity. 
The first test batch, a pale ale, has been brewed and is awaiting carbonation, though the crew carbonated a portion and used its friends as guinea pigs, whom Ramful said savoured the taste of the hand crafted beer.
The group then plan to do a batch of India Pale Ale (IPA), because those are the trio’s two favourite flavours.
“We eventually want to add a porter and a sour, so maybe two to start, then four within the next couple of years,” she said.
So how did the whole idea for Fourth Meridian come about in the first place?
The reply to that question has a double answer.
First off, all three partners are long time craft beer supporters and in the last five years have been frequenting breweries in all the cities they visit from Alberta to B.C. to several in the states.
Ramful said anytime they go travelling, they look for the local brewery in the towns they visit, and after falling in love with the brewery scene, they developed a pipe dream of starting their own.
“Every brewery we’ve gone to has something about it that gives it an awesome vibe, but is totally different from the last one,” she said.
“People always seem to be really chill when you’re at a brewery, or the people serving you have a really trusting environment, so we just always feel so happy and at home when we’re at breweries.”
The second reason, which has influenced a lot of people’s business decisions in the area, is the slowed economy.
Ramful’s day job is an environmental consultant, Hoffman is a field supervisor for an oil well service company, and James is a project manager for oil and gas facility developments, which means all three partners feel the direct impact of low oil and gas prices.
“As things slowed down in the economy, we all had time on our hands to turn it into reality and brainstorm and kind of get serious about it,” she said, of the group’s new business plan.
“So we just decided why not, there’s breweries all over now, so we wanted Lloydminster to have one and we wanted to be the ones to open it.”
Ramful’s brother and the third partner, James, had also been hobby brewing for roughly half a decade and they all said they thought his home brew was just as tasty as the stuff they paid for at the breweries, and thus Fourth Meridian found its brewmaster.
So the Fourth Meridian trio pooled its savings together and purchased the equipment to start its small set up after Hoffman’s parents generously offered their steel shop as a facility.
The group bought some modest equipment, and with the provided start up space, has been able to keep costs relatively low until it comes time to expand, which they definitely hope to do.
The plan for the future is to buy a location in town where they can open up a taproom and serve its product.
“We want to focus on making our beer and taproom awesome,” Ramful said.
“We’ve looked at a few spaces in town and we hope one day we’ll get one of them, and just kind of really make it a cozy, modern and trendy environment where people can come in, hang out and just have a beer and not feel any pressure to do more or drink more.”
This way Fourth Meridian can try and offer the same experiences its founders have at the tap houses around North America they visit, and hopefully, turn others on to craft beer as well.
A lot has to happen before they enter that stage of the game, though, and right now the group is still trying to get some local support on its Kick Starter page.
The goal at the moment is to try and get a canning system, as they can only package into kegs and bottles, because canning is more convenient and lighter for delivery. 
“So that’s our next goal, that was the purpose of that Kick Starter, trying to help us get to that,” Ramful said.
“Hopefully that comes through for us, we still have until the end of the month to achieve that goal, so if we get that, that’s where we’ll go.”
If you want to help out the folks at Fourth Meridian and kick in some funds, visit the Kick Starter page at: www.kickstarter.com/projects/918454646/fourth-meridian-brewing-company.

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