The Manitoba Junior Hockey League has quickly become the recipient of some added exposure this hockey season. This week, Manitoba’s own Farmery Estate Brewery launched its ‘MJHL Farmery Light 12-Pack’.
Brewed in Neepawa, Farmery has quickly shot up the rankings as one of Manitoba’s favourite beers. Now, coming together in partnership with one of the country’s top Junior ‘A’ hockey leagues, fans from across Manitoba can gather together and responsibly enjoy Farmery’s light lager while supporting local MJHL communities in the process.
“We want to be part of the rural fabric because we are based in rural, small-town Manitoba,” Farmery Co-owner Chris Warwaruk told Game On. “We believe in having a vibrant rural community, and as all Manitobans know, the heart of the community is the hockey arena. The caliber and the talent of the hockey played within the MJHL is extraordinary. The expansion definitely helped with the exposure of many rural communities, which we need to foster. Farmery is very proud to help educate people that might not be very aware of all these teams; the best way of doing that is by putting their logos on our cans.”
Emblazoned with the crests of the 12 MJHL clubs, 13 different styles of cans have been produced. One of the 355 ML cans features all 12 MJHL teams, while there are also individual cans for each of the member clubs.
“Teaming up with Farmery on this project is very exciting for the MJHL,” said league commissioner Kevin Saurette. “We cannot thank them enough for their commitment to support our athletes and Junior ‘A’ Hockey throughout the province.”
Now available for purchase across the province, Farmery’s MJHL Light 12-Packs retail for $22.95 plus a two-dollar fee which goes directly back to hockey within Manitoba and the communities of the MJHL.
“The foundation of this endeavour is to give money back to the MJHL and to each town,” Warwaruk said. “We have made a commitment to the MJHL to donate two dollars from every case sold, with one dollar going towards a scholarship with the MJHL and Farmery and the other dollar being split up evenly between each host town, so there is actually money physically going back to each league team.”
Available from Churchill to Virden, to Winkler, to Winnipeg, Warwaruk says that these 12-packs can be found in all MLCC stores, hotel beer vendors, as well as restaurants such as Boston Pizza and Smitty’s until the end of the MJHL postseason in late-March.
“With universal pricing in Manitoba, $22.95 is a fantastic price for a 12-pack of light lager,” he said. “Our hope is to raise as much money for the league and the teams as we can, while bringing awareness to the rural communities within the MJHL. Now being offered as pay-per-view livestreams, people who don’t have an MJHL team in their community can even tune in to watch from home, and hopefully Farmery can help them do that.”
The only brewery situated in rural Manitoba, Farmery grows its own barley and hops through its family owned and operated farm. Beginning its business in Ontario within the Muskoka region, brothers Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk returned to their home province and put up shop in Neepawa in 2011. With an utmost faith in the family business, the brothers actually began growing their barley and expanding the hop yard before the brewery was even built.
“Everything we brew comes from within our own farm,” Warwaruk said. “Whether it’s barley or wheat or rye or the hops, we have one of the largest hop yards in western Canada, so we supply, grow and process our own hops, and the grain too. That really allows us to have something that’s unique to the landscape. It would be far easier and much cheaper for us to phone up the suppliers and ask for barley and hops, but we are up for the challenge, because everything we produce locally is truly investing in rural Manitoba.”
Showing support for the local hockey communities is nothing new for the Farmery Estate Brewery, which has often helped assist parents and billets, while teaming up as sponsors within the Neepawa and Portage organizations. Farmery has also helping out the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings in past years.
“We are trying to carve out our own niche, being local, and supplying and supporting jobs here,” Warwaruk said. “Giving back to the hockey community and the individual communities is the biggest thing for us. Kevin Saurette has done a phenomenal job with the expansion, the growth, and his direction of the league through these trying times, and it shows. He has put together a safe and sound plan amidst this ongoing pandemic. We know COVID isn’t going away any time soon, but we have to do our best to mitigate the risks and we definitely believe in Kevin and his team’s direction.”
Following the sponsorship of Festival du Voyageur this past February – which just so happened to serve as one of western Canada’s largest pre-COVID-19 gatherings – Warwaruk and his staff took the opportunity to expand and pivot Farmery’s focus from solely producing beer, to assisting the local community in its time of need.
“Much like everyone else, we didn’t know what was going to be happening with our business or even the economy and the safety of Canadians,” he said. “We took the opportunity to move in a different direction and determined that if our plant could safely produce hand sanitizer and package it along with beer, we would go ahead and do that. To be able to offer Manitobans a local beer that we produced, while also offering a local option for hand sanitizer – rather than depending on something that comes from out of the province or out of the country – I think Manitobans obviously appreciate that.”
At this time, Farmery is actually still producing hand sanitizer in its highest capacity. Unfortunately, the plant cannot brew beer and package hand sanitizer at the same time, so a structured production schedule has been put into place.
“To be honest, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how many litres of hand sanitizer we have produced the past few months here,” Warwaruk said. “We supply a lot to the big retail chains. We’re clearly not the only ones that have been doing that, but we are the largest supplier of hand sanitizer produced in Manitoba for Manitobans. We have grown and matured as a beer company and a farm. Our investment in producing the hand sanitizer is just one of those facets of our company. Sometimes we have to remind consumers that we are still part of the beer scene. It’s no different than the growth of hockey, it’s something you just have to foster.”