It’s a quiet Friday morning driving down Manhattan Road, located in the industrial district of southeast Calgary. It feels like the calm before the storm. In roughly five hours, people all over Calgary will be kicking off for the weekend and heading to their favourite watering holes for a cold pint to celebrate the beginning of the weekend.
On this particular morning last week we were invited to Village Brewery (5000 12A St SE) to sample their beer and tour the brewery. Short disclaimer: we’re usually not out drinking beers at 10 in the morning; we’ve come for a standard tasting, but it becomes clear that this isn’t your average brewery shortly after arriving. Over the next few hours we happily climb on fermentation tanks, hear wonderful stories about babies in bars, and we even get to meet the company’s mascot. This is like Disneyland for adults who love beer!
A place founded on great stories
Jim Button is our host for today and he’s an interesting character who is equal parts beer enthusiast, community leader and storyteller. And that’s just what this place is found on: excellent stories. Each Village beer has its own remarkable story attached to the label. Next time you’re in your local liquor store, tilt a Village case to read about the inspiration behind the Blacksmith, the Wit, the Blonde and the Monk.
To understand where some of the inspiration for Village Brewery came from, you have to first hear Jim’s story about leaving the hospital as a newborn in Germany. In true European tradition, Jim’s parents had no intention of having friends and family meet their new bundle of joy in their living room. Instead, Jim’s first introduction to the community was at the local pub right after leaving the hospital. His mother claims that a welcoming committee spent three hours passing him around and inducting him as one of their own before he was returned to his parents. It seems like destiny that Jim would go on to own a brewery.
It takes a village
There’s more to these guys than clever marketing. Village Brewery has heart and really cares about the Calgary community. The mandate here is, “It takes a village to raise a beer.” These guys are all about supporting the arts scene and the community. They currently kick back 10 per cent of their overall baseline to funding an assortment of projects in the community. They’ve thrown their support to theatre groups, the Stampede, and have even held fundraisers to help an employee get back on her feet after she lost her house in a fire.
Perhaps the most inspiring story is about a furniture salesman whose passion for photography brought him to the Village Brewery with a picture of the Peace Bridge in hand. The salesman’s artistic eye agreed with the Village vision and Zeller is now credited with snapping the image that graces the Village Brewery packaging. Epilogue: The amateur photographer has since left his post as a salesman to pursue photography as a full-time career.
The Village market is conveniently located in the brewery’s main level and serves as a space for local artists to sell their wares. Currently the market has bolo ties by Tracy Zeller and wallets by Johnny Tremendous.
The tasting room is also worth viewing. The walls and tables are adorned with the colourful work of Mandy Stobo and the Burnt Toast Collective. You’ll also notice an impressive wall of handcrafted goblets that line the shelves behind the bar (courtesy of the Kingdom Bee Collective).
Larry the Village Friar
Everyone has seen the iconic travelling garden gnome with his picture taken in front of Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, but have you met Larry? Larry serves as the Village mascot, and this teeny tiny ceramic friar has travelled the world in style. Most recently, Larry has been spotted at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and crashing stagettes in the Czech Republic. During the predicted end of days in 2011, he even stopped for a photo opp with Santa on the beach in Belize. Seriously, folks, you don’t need to hire Kim Kardashian to show up at your next event. Just call Larry. He also fits in your backpack and won’t spend all night on Instagram.
Like we said, Village is not your typical brewery. You are also supporting a group of wonderful people who are making Calgary great while making great artisanal beer in the process. Prost!
Psssst! Look for Larry on the Village website. He’s hiding, but we won’t say where…