Bushwakker Brewpub

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The Bushwakker Brewpub was developed by Bev Robertson and is operated by him and his family. The Bushwakker and Robertson have been cited at international meetings as pioneers of the North American craft brewing industry.

The Bushwakker has attracted other restaurants to its neighbourhood and the area is becoming a restaurant destination. In 1998 the City of Regina asked Robertson to create a Business improvement District in the area. It has grown and prospered.

Bushwakker and the Robertsons’ donate annually to the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. So far their donation has had a multiplier effect of 18.

Robertson joined with the proprietor of a home-brewing supply store to found the Ale and Lager Enthusiasts of Saskatchewan (ALES) in 1979. However, the club faded away after a few years.
In 1987 the firm’s founder used his position as Chairman of a small crown corporation to convince the provincial cabinet to get ahead of the emerging craft beer sector by enacting provincial brewpub regulations. The government moved quickly but without any understanding of the sector and created an unfortunate provincial regulatory regime. (That regime is now under review.)

In 1990 the provincial government granted an endorsement to the Bushwakker Brewpub and it opened its doors in January 1991. It offered meeting space and in-kind support to a new version of ALES. ALES is now the top Canadian brewing club in terms of awards won and, with the Bushwakker, oversees the main Canadian amateur brewing competition, with over 600 entries per annum, and serves as the Canadian gateway to international competition.

The developers of all serious microbreweries in southern Saskatchewan, Rebellion, Nokomis, Black Bridge and Malti-National, were introduced to craft beer through their participation in ALES.

Given the absence of any advanced cooking school in southern Saskatchewan and the number of head chefs around Regina who started at the Bushwakker, it’s fair to say that its kitchen has become the local school for chefs.

The Robertson’s have been introduced as speakers at International meetings as among the pioneers of the craft beer industry.

The Bushwakker’s head chef and Robertson attended a meeting of the National BBQ Association in Knoxville TN a few years ago. Part of the learning experience was a tour of Knoxville BBQ restaurants. One was also a brewpub.  From the back of the restaurant they heard “Hey Bev, how are yah and how’s the Bushwakker?” from the head brewer. The Bushwakker puts Regina on the map for the beer culture.
Robertson is currently negotiating with a large hotel group in MB to develop a microbrewery in MB under franchise that will brew and distribute Bushwakker beer across the prairie provinces.

The Bushwakker was the first successful restaurant on the Dewdney Strip. The strip now also hosts a Keg, the Rebellion tap room and two other restaurants are under development. Shortly after the Bushwakker opened it hosted a meeting intended as a second attempt to form a BID in the warehouse district. It failed.  In 1998 Regina city planning asked Robertson to make a third attempt. He succeeded.

The Robertsons and the Bushwakker have together committed to donating at least $100,000 to the Johnson Shoyama Graduate school of Public Policy for at least 5 years to establish a Centre for the Study of Science and Public Policy. That Centre has since become the Institute for Science, Technology and Innovation Public, with five centres contained within.  It has been awarded over $2,000,000 in research funds, using the original donation as seed money.

The planning process for the Bushwakker Brewpub began in 1983 and construction began in the year 1990. During that planning time Robertson was Professor of Physics at the University of Regina and the head of a research group. That implied frequent travel to scientific meetings. He used those travel opportunities to visit dozens of successful brewpubs around North America and learn the secrets of their success. Those winning strategies were combined into the corporate strategy of the Bushwakker Brewpub. One of the most important of those strategies was to prove to the local community through its programs and actions, not just its words, that it was a valuable contributor to the social health of the local community. It has pursued that objective throughout its quarter century of operations.

In-kind contributions for 2014 are listed below. (The company’s yearend is August 31. Therefore the portion of expenses assigned to given years has been estimated.) In addition, the Bushwakker advertises in the brochures and programs of various community organizations as the Regina Symphony and small sporting events as a form of support. Other events such as annual appearances of the Regina Male Voice choir and the Symphony Chamber Players and Robertson’s time spent on a half dozen community boards are forms of community support not involving any Bushwakker expenses.

i) Profits from Steak Nights (not including 50/50 draws and silent auctions) $30,000

ii) Donated Steak Night kegs of beer 1,000

iii) Fantasy Food participation, not including volunteer time. 300

iv) Sample Trays for other silent auctions 7,200

v) Glassware donations to charities 400

vi) Meeting space and product for the Queen City Marathon 1500

In 2007 the Bushwakker was the recipient of the Mayor’s Award for Sustained support of the Arts.

In 2004 Robertson was the recipient of the Community Planning Association of Saskatchewan’s Builder’s Award for his work in forming Regina’s second BID.

The Bushwakker has a policy of holding steak-night fundraisers most Tuesday evenings for charitable organizations that request its assistance. Between 40 and 45 events are held per year. The company attempts to break even on these nights. A major example of these events is the Soul Sister’s Night on behalf of women’s shelters. The participants’ meals are cooked and served by paid staff. Paid Bushwakker staff members participate in other charitable events on an ad hoc basis and sometimes as unpaid volunteers, such as our recent support for the Pile o’ Bones BBQ event and the Science Centre’s Fantasy Food event.

The connections between the Robertson Family and the Bushwakker include a management fee, in which case Bev and Elaine Robertson are analogous to employees. Bev Robertson has participated actively on the boards of Saskatchewan-based organizations and dozens of their subcommittees, in part to raise the profile of the Bushwakker. These include The Mayor’s Task Force on Regina’s Future, the Saskatchewan Health Research Board, The Regina Chamber, The Warehouse District BID, the Saskatchewan Chamber, Tourism Regina, and the Saskatchewan Science Centre. He has also been involved in many national and international organizations.

He meets regularly at the Bushwakker with student groups and groups of military veterans associated with the U. of R. Faculty of Business through his membership on the faculty’s Leadership Council to discuss entrepreneurship.

Now on Tap

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From the Kitchen

Before the Bushwakker opened in January 1991 we had already spent several years visiting others brewpubs and unique restaurants and North America, looking the best ideas for what was to be... THE BUSHWAKKER PHILOSOPHY

from the kitchen