Wild Card Brewing Company
This is a Make It. QuinteVation Success Story.
To learn more about Quinte Craft, visit http://quintecraft.ca
Proving for the umpteenth time that being in the right place at the right time with the right plan is often a recipe for business success, Nate Card took advantage of all three to help turn a once struggling craft brewing operation, into one of the most innovative and forward thinking breweries within the Bay of Quinte Region.
When it appeared that the former Gateway Brewing Company in Trenton was about to close down for good, Card, a native of Napanee, now living in the Trenton area, convinced his family to purchase it, with plans on giving it a complete overhaul.
Card had been working for Gateway part time for a number of years and had some solid ideas of how to turn things around. He wanted to take a more assertive, businesslike approach to the rebranded operation and began making changes to the company name, recipes, marketing approach and sales strategies during the ownership transition process.
“I had only been finished university for a few months when we started negotiations to take over. I took over as manager first and started to institute some of the changes I thought could help the business. By the time all the paperwork was signed and the licences transferred and everything, we were off to a pretty good start. I had been working there each summer and for about 20 hours a week during my last two years of university so I had sort of seen the business from the inside a little bit,” Card said.
“I come from a mindset where your brand can still be local but doesn’t need to have a name that directly relates to the area you’re from. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I just wanted a name that was a little more inventive and universal. [Wild Card is the name of the family’s boat, FYI.] After the name change, one of the biggest things for me, and one of the most obvious, was to try making sales to bars and restaurants, which the previous owners had never really done before. Now after two years or so, we have around 40 draft accounts between Ajax and Kingston.”
Working on new recipes for the various beer brands under Wild Card was also an early priority, and one which continues to this day as Card, 27 and his brother Zack, 30, who helps run the business, continue to tweak recipes, beer names and labelling, looking for the perfect fit for the kind of vibe and tone they want for Wild Card’s suite of beer offerings. Initial products such as The Flop 4.7 per cent Blonde Ale, the seven per cent Ride the Brake IPA, Busted Flush Stout, Saved By the Dunk German Red and Blonde Barista are starting to give way to a more focused core offering, one designed to appeal to a younger, hipper crowd than many other craft beers.
“Cali Love is one that we recently introduced. It’s a west coast dry hops blonde ale. At 4.5 per cent alcohol it’s an easy drinking beer, but it has a bit of a citrus note which is a nod to dedicated craft beer drinkers. It’s really something I would drink on a hot day. Saved By the Dunk is going to be renamed and we’re changing up the recipe using some local malt from Barn Owl. It’s going to be marketed as a Canadian Red Ale,” Card explained.
“Antithesis is a beer that we have only released in our tap room so far but each time we put it out, it sells out in less than a week. That one kind of came out of a trip I took to Vermont in August. The beer down there, its flavour and texture is just so different than anything we have in Ontario, so I wanted to try and do something similar here. It’s got big flavour and low alcohol [around four per cent]. And the fourth one is one we came up with this summer. It was a seasonal product that we turned into a year-round beer called Notoriously Juicy, which is a New England Style IPA. It’s got a hip hop branding to it with a picture of Notorious B.I.G. on the label which has got a lot of social media traction.
“We’re focusing a lot more on flavour and in terms of the recipes and branding I don’t want to say that we’re chasing trends but we definitely have our ears to the ground and try to do different stuff that hits all the points that appeal to the demographic we’re shooting for.”
Wild Card Brewing Company is located at 38 Gotha St., in Trenton and, as has been mentioned, has its own tasting room, which often houses a collection of interesting, artistically inclined visitors. The Card brothers have also hosted special events in the brewery or adjacent to it, including performances by local bands, such as the Dead Sparrows, as well as a pro wrestling show that was free for the public.
“For both my brother and I, community involvement is a huge thing. And, to be honest, we probably do a lot of it to the detriment of our bottom line. But for something like the wrestling show, we just wanted to provide some fun family entertainment in our community so people don’t have to always go out of town. And there is also a really strong arts scene and music scene here in Trenton which a lot of people don’t realize and we want to support that sort of stuff in our town,” said Card, adding that it also fits in with their overall marketing approach, which is targeting and audience that is generally more youthful, and with more quirky, creative inclinations.
“And because we’re so heavily supported by CFB Trenton, every Remembrance Day, the first beer for any current or former service personnel is on the house here at Wild Card. It’s something we wanted to do as our way of giving thanks.”
For more information on Wild Card Brewing Company, visit www.wildcardbrewco.com.