Calgary’s Barley Belt falls flat over area trademark flap; brewers bolt

Brewers not convinced Labatt has best interest of Calgary craft beer scene in mind

Village Brewery, one member of the former Barley Belt, is one of the pioneers in Calgary's exploding craft beer scene. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Brewers in Calgary’s Barley Belt are coming forward after a mash over the area’s trademarked name has fermented into the coalition’s apparent dissolution.

After the sale of craft brewer Banded Peak to Labatt Brewing of Canada, questions arose over the trademarking of the area’s name, after it was acquired, along with the local brewer.

The Barley Belt is an area of Calgary in the Manchester and Highfield industrial parks that has evolved over the past three years to include 10 brewers, three distillers and a cidery.

Labatt’s head of craft beer, Rob Legate, told LiveWire Calgary last week that the area’s brewers agreed to form an association, with the trademark then transferring to that group.

Despite this, brewers told LiveWire that there were major roadblocks with the coalition, especially if it included so-called ‘big beer.’ Some of that sentiment emerged on social media Saturday.

Many have speculated there’s a growing animosity toward Banded Peak among the brewers. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

Haydon Dewes, co-founder of Cabin Brewing Company said they’re “genuinely happy for Colin, Alex, Matt and the entire Banded Peak team on their sale to Labatt…”

Dewes, however was very clear in how their craft brewery felt about Labatt’s influence.

We do not believe that Labatt has a sincere interest in nurturing a world-class, independent, craft beer movement in Calgary,” Dewes told LiveWire.  

“Being a locally-owned and operated craft brewery means so much more than a focus on the bottom line. Cabin has always taken a ‘beer first, profits second’ approach to business. We cannot, in all conscience, work with a company like Labatt whose core values are so counter to our own. For that reason, we will not be part of an organization that has Labatt at the table.”

Spirit of the Barley Belt will remain: Dewes

Cabin isn’t the only one to express their concern. According to an article in onbeer.org, Andrew Bullied of Annex Ale Project said they too would be pulling out of the group.

“Labatt doesn’t hold an interest in expanding the independent, community focused, and locally produced craft beer industry,” the article quoted an email from Bullied.  

Dewes said despite the Barley Belt trademark flap, he believed the spirit of the area will remain.

“The Barley Belt has always been so much more than just a name. It’s the visitors, the businesses and the focus on great products and good times that has turned this long-neglected part of the city into a success story,” he said.

“For our part, we’ll keep on doing what we know best, which is making good beer and building our community.”

About Darren Krause 447 Articles
Journalist, husband, father, golfer, writer, painter, video gamer, gardener, amateur botanist, dreamer, realist... never in that order.

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