Life is full of surprises and no one is immune to seeing an unexpected event suddenly change the course of life. Having experienced it first hand, Robert Oeming, the owner-operator of Polar Park Brewing Company LTD, knows what it means.

“I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Finance from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario – on track for an investment banking or private equity career,” Oeming said, as he told how he turned out to be running a brewery in Alberta instead of making a living in an office building.

What changed his fortunes was the passing of his grandfather, Al Oeming, the founder of Alberta Game Farm, on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, in 2014. “The death of my grandfather floored me the evening I found out,” he recalled. Al was no ordinary Albertan, he had a passion and love for wildlife, whose stories will be shared on the website of his grandson’s brewing company.

While the passing of the much-loved family member was a big loss in itself, there was further fallout: “major estate liabilities” as Oeming described it, including major capital gains tax payments waiting to be made.

But life was not finished throwing stones at Oemings: In the same month his grandfather passed away, Robert was told of a cancer scare in family, it was his father. “So I decided to move to Alberta and deal with this,” he said.

“Our family was in financial ruin when I arrived.”

From bears to beers

“Our history centred around a passion for animals – having bred and provided research into many exotic and domestic species, with an emphasis on the cheetah and grizzly bears,” Oeming continued to tell how Edmonton Metro headlined the family’s story “From Bears to Beers” when the plans for the Oeming brewery was first made public.

But plans aside, there was need for capital that would carry those plans into the plain of reality. That is where AFSC came into the picture.

Without AFSC, this brewery would have never had an opportunity to become a reality and we would have sold off many quarter sections of land to offset estate liabilities

“Without AFSC, this brewery would have never had an opportunity to become a reality and we would have sold off many quarter sections of land to offset estate liabilities,” said Oeming.

After a series of initial meetings to discuss the potential for lending for the brewery, the file came to the desk of Afaq Ullah, lending specialist at AFSC’s Leduc office.

“When the file was transferred to me, the loan had been approved but not yet disbursed,” said Afaq.

“In order to understand the client and the file, I requested a meeting with Robert.

“I found a drive in Robert to get things done. He was motivated to complete the project under all circumstances.

“He was the mastermind behind the project; gathered all the investors, partners and found equipment wherever he could to complete the plant.”

There were, however, some legal restrictions that hampered a quick fix. With the brewery being located at a commercial area of Edmonton with a shopping and pedestrian overlay, that required a restaurant component being added to the brewery and additional financing needed to be found from non-AFSC resources.

“I tried my best to made things easy for him so that he can concentrate on the project,” continued Afaq. “I had to amend the file to straighten up a few conditions and to provide him more time to complete the project.”

“I am proud to call AFSC our core bank and look forward to returning the funds provided. They made my dreams come true and saved our family from financial hardship,” said Robert Oeming for his part.

“Expansion is necessary in our business. AFSC will be our core lending partner as we satisfy prior obligations and expand to suit operations. I fully intend on executing additional financing and look forward to the years to come.”

Afaq is also sanguine about the future of the business relationship between Polar Park Brewing and AFSC.

“Rob is a hands-on person who is ready to get his hands dirty to complete the job. I am amazed with the amount of work that Rob has invested in his dream project and the outcome is worth seeing,” he said.