Turning hobbies into a passion project at Radium Brewing
It was a big idea turned into reality, and now the owners at Radium Brewing have a sold-out success on their hands
It was 2019. Jacob Houghton and Stephen Gale were a couple of guys hanging out in Houghton’s garage. The two had been friends for years after working together as paramedics in Alberta.
Gale had moved to Radium several years prior, and he told Houghton that the town reminded him of a “little Canmore before Canmore got big,” and that it would make a great place for a local brewery. They also both happened to be hobbyists who brew their own beer. They made a joke about opening their own tap house—but as with so many jokes there was a serious side to it all.
“When we were experimenting with our recipes and brewing in my garage, if my garage door was open, I'd always have all the neighbours walking over to try and get their hands on some free beer,” said Houghton. “They liked it, and that really pushed the idea forward.”
Houghton and Gale got their wives on board—Catty Kammann and Erin Houghton as well as other co-founders, Scott and Tannis Sauermann. Together they moved forward on opening the place that had started as a joke in a garage and some good home brews.
Brewing up a storm
The group opened the doors of Radium Brewing in June of 2021. When they started down the path of opening their own brewery, they didn’t know a global pandemic was coming down the pipe. That is the first thing they mention when asked about challenges with their new business. However, the second challenge that pops to mind is something many new businesses dream of experiencing.
“I think our biggest challenge now is just being able to keep up with production,” said Houghton.
We consistently sell out and have had to close a few times in the summer just because we can't make enough beer,” continued Gale. “We had thought, ‘Well, we're a small little town like Radium,’ so we kind of designed our building around the idea of being a small little town and our demand might not be that high. Instead we exploded. Even opening in 2021 with COVID through the summer we closed multiple days because we had no beer left.”
The demand for Radium Brewing’s product is a testament to the support they’ve received since opening. The establishment has been championed by locals, and already has established regulars who come together for camaraderie, games, and friendship. Gale and Houghton said a comment they often hear is that a local brewery is exactly what the town of Radium needed.
Loved far and wide
Radium is a tourist hotspot with popular hot springs, so in addition to lots of local support the brewery welcomes plenty of out-of-town guests. Winter brings visitors from B.C. and Alberta. In the summer, Radium Brewing sees a higher volume of customers from farther afield. In the year and a half they have been open they have served people from places such as Germany and Belgium.
Some Slovakians even came in and said their friends had been there at an earlier time and had specifically recommended that they pay a visit to Radium Brewing.
“It's quite interesting to have Europeans talking about us in Europe and sending their friends to a little town like Radium to try our beer,” said Gale.
The brewery has been an outlet, of sorts, for Gale and Houghton. They enjoy integrating some of the ideas they have around what the world needs more of. They say they are passionate about creating good beer, certainly, but are also passionate about creating a space where people can gather to share stories and ideas.
Building the dream
In designing the building, the co-owners of Radium Brewing wanted to make a lounge and tap room that was both timeless and cozy. Instead of designing a trendy industrial-feeling space, they specifically wanted an area where customers feel comfortable to relax and enjoy the company of the staff and owners.
The owners of Radium Brewing have also brought their passion for the outdoors to their business. They are planning to build an extension—to keep up with all that demand—and to install solar panels. Additionally, their choice to use brewing tanks by Brewha Equipment has meant each litre of beer only requires about two litres of water—the industry generally uses four to seven litres of water per litre of beer.
Both Houghton and Gale maintain that they are having fun, enjoying the learning curve, and leaning into the big picture of running a business. With planned expansions and future projects, their initiative has brought their garage banter and hobby project to a fulfilling business adventure.
“There's a little bit of pride to know you created an experience where people will then go back to their home country and talk about a brewery that they might have only spent one or two hours in,” said Gale. “I think me and Jacob would both say that's a very proud feeling.”