Regina, Saskatchewan, is a city of just over 250,000 people, and features more than 350,000 hand-planted trees, an extensive park system and an array of museums, cathedrals and other elegant structures.
But back in 1882, it was little more than a pile of bones – literally.
Located within traditional Cree and Metis territory, this area was one of the important places where Indigenous people would come to hunt the roaming herds of bison. They began to stack the long bison bones into large piles in an effort to honour the animals’ spirit. Accordingly, they named the area oskana ka-asastēki, which roughly translates to “bone piles”. As the Europeans migrated west and came upon the area, this was anglicized to “Pile O’Bones”.
Roughly 140 years later, Pile O’Bones is still a name associated with Regina, in a variety of ways. You have the Pile O’Bones Rodeo, Derby Club, BBQ competition even the Toastmasters club. Possibly the most notable association is the largest craft brewery by volume in Saskatchewan, boasting a taproom with 32 different taps, a great indoor and outdoor seating space and a kitchen with a full menu.
Started by four members of the Ale & Lager Enthusiasts of Saskatchewan (ALES) club, these award-winning homebrewers found they had common interests and complimentary skill sets. Josh Morrison, Brent Babyak, Nathan Kary, and Glenn Valgardson started in the basement of another restaurant on some used equipment, but very quickly, the increasing demand for their great tasting product, particularly their #1 selling White IPA, prompted a move to their own facility and the purchase of an automated 4-vessel, 25 HL SpecBrew system from Specific.
When news of the expansion was announced on social media, the owners were surprised by some negativity from a select few who hadn’t done their homework, suggesting the name celebrated the decimation of the buffalo herds back in the late 19th century.
Verified by SaskMétis Economic Development Corporation as a Métis owned business, Josh was quick to reply, “We chose Pile O’ Bones Brewing Company to remind people of the fact that Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Lakota, Dakota and Métis people called the plains of Saskatchewan home and hunted Buffalo for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.
Our logo is the Plains Bison, which literally supported thousands of years of life on the Prairie. It is also reflective of our devotion and commitment to our local community.
That devotion is evident as Pile O’Bones undertakes many initiatives of community support, such as their “Community Lager” the proceeds of which funded over 90,000 meals for the local Regina food bank and approximately 30 other communities across southern Saskatchewan.
A recent friendly merger with a smaller brewery in Regina has positioned both companies for greater efficiencies by combining their distribution, administrative, accounting and sales teams and given them increased purchasing power to better withstand the rising costs of ingredients, including grain, hops and aluminum packaging which have risen precipitously in the last number of years.
Award-winning beer, from all locally sourced Saskatchewan ingredients, a supportive and community-minded approach and a SpecBrew automated brewing system, means Pile O’Bones is poised to succeed for many years to come.