The neighbourhood of Inglewood-Ramsay has recently seen a boom of microbreweries.
In the past few years, High Line Brewing, Cold Garden Beverage Company, Eighty-Eight Brewing, Revival Brewcade, Ol’ Beautiful Brewing Co. and the Dandy Brewing Company have all popped up in the neighbourhood.
But, instead of seeing it as competition, owners are coming together to support each other with their new businesses.
JJ Matheson, a co-owner and co-founder of High Line Brewing, opened the brewery’s doors in 2016 on Ninth Avenue S.E. Matheson’s passion for homebrewing and inventing started years ago when he and another co-founder, Jordan McKibben, spent five years on Gulf Island off the West coast.
Matheson says when they returned to Calgary and met the other now co-owners, their backyard brewing hobby eventually turned into High Line.
Getting a location in Inglewood was one of the biggest roadblocks due to permit complications with the City of Calgary, Matheson shares.
It took six months of back-and-forth just to secure their location in Inglewood, but Matheson says it was more than worth it.
“This is a community that, I think, will be steadfast in holding back the corporate ventures from coming in,” Matheson says.
“It’s always nice for a mom-and-pop brewery like us.”
Just around the corner and two blocks down from High Line is Cold Garden Beverage Company, a brewery that was started in January 2017 by Blake Belding.
Belding says he wanted to open a brewery since his days as a 19-year-old business student at the University of Calgary. Belding, now 32, says it was a 10-year process to successfully get into the beer industry.
The company took over an open warehouse space and brought it to life with bright lights and colourful pipes. The iconic disco gnome and pineapple that hang from the ceiling were also part of the refurbishing.
“People take pride in the community. We just knew we wanted to be located there,” Belding says.
Cold Garden is tucked between the train tracks and Smithbilt Hats, right beside Ol’ Beautiful Brewing Company. The Dandy Brewing Company is also nearby, approximately a 10-minute stroll down towards 11th Street S.E. Wander a little further and you’ll come across Portland Street, where Eighty-Eight Brewing Company sits.
Eighty-Eight Brewing, opened since August 2018, holds a colourful taproom filled with retro vibes and bright neon colours.
Jordan Saracini, one of Eight-Eight Brewing’s co-founders, says they homebrewed together for four years before venturing into the business, adding that it took them around two years to draft their business plan and vision.
From High Line to Eighty-Eight, the two furthest from each other, it is about a 20-minute trek, with the other four breweries on the path to keep you company along the way.
The owners say that they do not see this high-density of breweries as competition and instead, feel having other breweries so close by is beneficial for all parties involved.
“It’s a great destination,” Matheson says.
“For you to find your way from wherever you are in the city, come down to Inglewood. You’ve got six breweries that you can walk to easily, make a tour out of it.”
Saracini shares that the proximity of other breweries has been a positive experience for Eighty-Eight, describing it as “communal.”
“The boys from Dandy often come in and walk in through the back door and borrow product from us, whenever they need. And we’ll do the same thing,” Saracini says.
“Everybody’s always happy to share an opinion or help you out in some way or another.”
Belding explains that microbreweries are a “neighbourhood business,” making the community of Inglewood a natural fit for them.
“A small business can be a struggle sometimes, so what’s great about it is these are people who are going through the same things you are, so they feel empathy,” Belding says.
“We can just sit and chat about it, make each other feel better and then get up and get back out there.”
The companionship in the Inglewood-Ramsay brewing community has since evolved into a defined collective. The six breweries have started to label themselves as the Brewery Flats Fellowship.
Saracini says the fellowship was “born organically” and was the result of the breweries wanting to help promote their own businesses and others.
Members explain the name comes from the historic roots of the community. The original Calgary Malting and Brewing Company opened in this area back in 1890s and the neighbourhood itself was once called the Brewery Flats.
Saracini says the fellowship is still in its “infancy,” but overall, the group hopes to focus on promoting the history of the area, preserving the craft beer culture and creating one or two events in the year that members can participate in together.
The fellowship also provides opportunities for things such as cross-promotion and co-branding.
Belding comments that it is better to be an area with a lot of breweries and looks forward to seeing more breweries find a home in the Brewery Flats area.
“It’s like a rising-tide-lifts-all-ships mentality,” Belding says. “I think the benefits are innumerable.”
The Brewery Flats Fellowship hosted an Oktoberfest launching event in September 2018. Belding comments that there are no immediate events coming up, but the fellowship will likely be “ramped up” again come summertime.
Currently, members are focused on bringing people into the area to check out the beer scene and pushing customers to each other’s businesses.
“There [are] no specific set roles,” Belding explains.
“Everybody is doing their part. If there’s an event, everyone takes a piece of it and says, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
Brewery Flats isn’t the only collective in Calgary. Saracini comments on the existence of several “micro-communities of breweries” throughout the city. The Barley Belt, for example, is located just on the other side of the tracks from the Flats.
“You can usually catch a lot of us drinking over at their establishments, in the Barley Belt and vice versa,” Saracini says.
“A lot of our best clients are other breweries coming over to drink.”
Belding agrees there is support from breweries outside the community.
“We’re all grouping up based on proximity but that doesn’t mean we’re not in co-operation with guys in the North East or guys in the Manchester Industrial part,” he says.
“Everyone in the industry is friends and that’s the beauty of the craft industry. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”
Editor: Sam Nar | firstname.lastname@example.org