Edmonton’s popular craft brewery, Sea Change Brewing Co., has been one of this year’s main hotspots. With two taproom locations — one in Beaumont (5302 50 St.) and one in South Edmonton (9850 62 Ave. NW) — Sea Change is nothing if not a growing establishment for bites, pints, and good vibes.
Since its opening in 2017, the brewery has spent the past five years being turned into a place that feels like home; but owner and founder Ian McIntosh’s story started long before then. He began working at the age of 12, and later began building aluminum boats in high school. When he was a teenager, McIntosh says, “(I) always thought that it would be great to go in after hours, build a boat, sell it, and then have the money to build my own boat. The owner of the place didn’t go for that.”
It may have taken a long time, but McIntosh kept his eye on the prize. “When I got into the beer business, I was working at this place, and I always just thought ‘man, we should buy this place’…. At the time, the owner of the brewery had thought I was going to stay there,” says McIntosh. But instead, he left and did his own thing. “I went and signed a lease and put some people together in a space on the south side, not really quite knowing what we were getting into,” he adds. “Everyone was really passionate about it.”
The story behind the brewery’s name, according to McIntosh, stems from this strong work ethic and connection to the ocean. When McIntosh was a teenager, his father, who was a dentist at the time, would take their boat — the “Aqua Villa” — around Vancouver Island and the neighbouring islands, offering services to places that didn’t have dental offices. “He created what we believe to be the world’s first mobile dental practice,” McIntosh explains, noting that the boat was later renamed the “Tooth Ferry.”
“That didn’t quite work out,” shares McIntosh, “It was a pretty eccentric idea — maybe a little bit ahead of its time.” But the journey didn’t stop there. His father ended up opening a dental practice in Nanaimo, B.C., and the boat was later converted into a liveaboard, where the offices became bedrooms, and the boat itself underwent a “sea change” — a term coined by Shakespeare to describe a notable transformation.
Spending every weekend on the boat as he grew up, McIntosh learned to look at things “laterally and differently,” he says, and his transition many years later from brewery worker to brewery owner reminded him of his dad’s transformation. McIntosh, himself, went through a form of a sea change, and so the name of his company was born.
“It was a nod to my upbringing, to my dad, and my earlier life,” he says. “It’s something we use (now) to try to be a north star for how we operate the business. We really put an emphasis on people coming into the brewery and having a good time right on site and experiencing the beer.” There are so many breweries in Edmonton, but the years of hard work, reliance on community, and the family connections make this one special. Like his father’s dentistry business — and most other things in life — Sea Change Brewing Co. had to be worked hard for.
McIntosh, along with co-owners Taylor Falk, Jay Sparrow, and Pete Nguyen, built Sea Change from almost nothing, turning it into one of the most successful breweries that Edmonton has ever seen. “We had no money, no plan, and no experience,” McIntosh says.
But he knew where to look for inspiration. “Because I didn’t have money to do everything, I looked around and looked at some of the best people I knew in their industries,” he says. Bringing in local individuals and businesses, such as Edmonton artists and brewers, played a huge part in the formation of the brewery. Creating Sea Change Brewing Co. really did take a village, but what a place it made.
Sea Change offers many different menu items, catering to everyone who visits. Both brewery locations carry different menus, with Mexican cuisine in Beaumont, and Vietnamese in Edmonton. But, of course, they also have the bar basics. Nachos, sandwiches, tacos — you name it!
One of their head chefs, Josee Gagnon, is always creating new feature sandwiches and skillet cookies for dessert, as well as serving up their extremely popular tacos, which range from basic to eccentric. The simpler ones, which their menu refers to as “basic ass tacos,” can be served along with a choice of “basic ass salsa,” and are two dollars each, every Thursday in Beaumont. Their more advanced items, including the famous Sea Change nachos, are always a fan favourite to pair with a sleeve of beer. Taproom manager Sean Comeau even told me that they serve the best ones in all of Edmonton (a big claim!).
For their drink menu, the options are endless. “All of our beers are must-try beers,” Comeau says. “But the Prairie Fairy — a blackberry and raspberry wheat ale — is one of our biggest sellers.” Other popular beers such as The Wolf, and Death Wave for the lighter beer drinkers, are also great choices. These beers have won awards in their respective categories on both provincial and national levels, with Death Wave taking home a gold for the best light and calorie-reduced lager at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2020, and The Wolf thriving as a back-to- back gold-winner for the best Sessionable Hoppy Beer in the 2018 and 2019 Alberta Beer Awards.
Some of their other beer options include the Tiger Bomb, Gold Knuckle, and Turbo Stout. If that isn’t enough to convince you, all of their cans also have amazing artwork on the front, ranging from a skeleton surfing on a beer can to a drawn face done up in drag makeup. The artist-owned brewery creates the coolest designs for their products, courtesy of co-owner, designer, and brand director, Pete Nguyen. His work can be viewed online via his Twitter (@ThumbskullPete).
If you’re wondering how their beer is made, both taprooms have their brewing system and tanks visible to customers, reveals McIntosh, which makes it easy to check out the behind-the-scenes equipment that creates the beers that we know and love. The tanks themselves are made in Victoria, B.C. by Specific Mechanical Systems — a Canadian manufacturer of brewing and distilling equipment, he adds. Once again, Sea Change proves its love for supporting fellow Canadian businesses.
Another great feature? Sea Change has a big focus on community giveback. Last year, almost $100,000 was donated to different organizations across the province, according to McIntosh. More specifically, a portion of the revenue from every four-pack of Prairie Fairy purchased is donated to the non-profit LGBTQ2S+ group, Fruit Loop Society. In addition to not-for-profits, they also work in collaboration with, and support local businesses. “Sea Change is very, very keen on trying to support small businesses,” Comeau says, “We (also) try to do events.” Working with locally owned businesses and collaborating with public figures is just another reason why Sea Change stands out amongst the many other breweries in not only Edmonton, but all of Alberta.
One of Sea Change’s most notable collaborations over the past year was their collaboration with Edmonton’s own SONiC 102.9 radio station. The Atomic Sonic Lager, which Sea Change created for SONiC back in the summer of 2021, brings together a perfect mix. “The Atomic SONiC Lager is a unique blend of Albertan and German pilsner malts, a healthy dose of rice and a subtle, herbaceous European hop character. Clean, crushable, and perfect for summertime,” writes Chantal Dunn on the SONiC website. In return, Dunn writes, Sea Change also carried some merch and donated a portion of the proceeds to The Alberta Music Industry Association — a non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing peoples’ careers in the music industry.
As far as keeping things fresh, Sea Change Brewing Co. is all about the element of not only surprise, but also excitement. “We’re constantly growing,” says Comeau, “and we want to continue to grow.”
When it comes to breweries, the industry is spiking right now. There will always be new recipes to try, eclectic food to make, and more beers to create; personally, I don’t think you can ever really have too much beer. Who knows what the future has in store for this brewing company: another location? More food items? New lagers and ales? I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to find out.
Next time you’re in Beaumont or South Edmonton with an empty stomach and a yearning for a good pint of beer (or a cocktail, if that’s more your vibe), head over to Sea Change and try them out! In the meantime, you can pick up their canned beers at most liquor stores around the city. Follow their Instagram
(@seachangebrewingco) for post updates and check out their website (seachangebeer.com) for more information.