It was a completely different landscape for Alberta’s craft brewing scene a decade ago.
When Village Brewery opened, it was one of just five craft breweries in the city. It was among a small handful in the province.
Now as Village Brewery celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, it’s almost impossible to keep up with the number of new breweries, cideries, and distillers that have made Alberta home.
“Ten years later, it’s a completely different thing with upwards of 150 which is great, especially for consumers,” said Jackson Stuart, brand manager for Village Brewery.
Stuart’s time at the brewery goes back to day one. He said he was proud of what Village has been able to accomplish over the past decade. From crafting award-winning brews—one of which took home gold this past weekend at the Canadian Brewing Awards—to helping the people who made those beers eventually start-up breweries of their own.
The brewery has also engaged in environmentally sustainable practices over the past decade. That includes recycling water to make their processes more sustainable.
Customer and community-friendly additions coming to Village
Stuart said that ultimately all of the decisions they make are designed around their customers and the community.
“We try to put consumers and customers at the middle of the decision making, and sort of go ‘what’s the next thing coming down the pipe?'” he said.
Village Brewery has reacted to customer demand by adding products over the past decade, and meeting changing consumer tastes. The brewery added ciders several years ago. And now they’ve added good tasting non-alcoholic beer, which Stuart said has been a big market addition for the brewery.
They’ve also done a colourful re-brand of their core beer lineup with brand new labels.
“It’s just listening to what people are enjoying and what they want to see,” he said.
To celebrate their anniversary, they’ve launched a new line of beers. Village said they would be for exploratory craft beer drinkers and ones that would prompt conversations. Among the lineup are a New Zealand pale ale, a New England IPA, a Caribbean stout, a Lingonberry Belgian Sour, and a Japanese rice lager.
“It’s been 10 years for us of just building community, gathering around beer. We always talk about using beer as the social lubricant. So, it really has been 10 years of that, which is exciting,” said Stuart.
Taproom and community hub getting renovation
The brewery’s beloved second-floor taproom will also be getting a renovation this year as part of the anniversary.
Stuart said that after spending 10 years turning it into a community gathering spot, they will be working over the next few months on bringing the taproom to the ground floor in an upgraded form.
“All the stuff that you know about Village, just enhanced and renovated,” he said.
The brewery held a final symbolic going-away party for the taproom on Wednesday. Many of the brewers from Calgary’s beer scene attending had gotten their start with Village. It was something Stuart said was nice to see.
“I mean, from the beginning, we’ve been helping these little guys out, bringing people in and trying to connect them,” he said.
“A bunch of brewers that actually started brewing here have gone on to start breweries. And half the guys are up there right now having a beer, so it’s great.”
The new space will have 20 taps for their entire lineup of beers and ciders. They’ll also have the ability to host more musicians and artists. The plan is to have live music year-round.
“The nice thing is with some of the restrictions being lifted, we can start to gather again the way we’d like to,” he said.
“There’s going to be just a lot of programming going on that we weren’t allowed to do for a couple years.”