Turning five in a business usually means you’ve made it through those tough start up years and are now in to your adolescent years of making your ‘today’ self better than your ‘wild and crazy’ beginner self.
This is the case here at Village. When we started our six partners, each deep in beer experience in all six corners of the business, were busy doing their respective chores in building the physical plant, creating recipes, building the financial foundation and building and executing marketing and sales plans. We were able to move quickly and efficiently simply because we had implicit trust in each other. Jim worked on the brand, Larry created the recipes and worked with Rob and Allan to build the brewery, Tom leaned on his countless years in the industry to get beer on taps, Stefan and Tim figured out where the money was coming from and built the structure of the company.
We rarely met as we knew the other guys had their areas covered; when we did meet however it was usually around two card tables brought in to the brewery. We were moving fast and we were loving it.
The 10,000 square foot space we selected seemed ridiculously huge especially when sitting at two card tables in the corner. The prevailing question when sitting at those tables was “are we sure this is a good idea”. You see we were the first new brewery in Alberta in 15 years. We really had our backs up against the wall with the industry climate in this province. Alberta is the most competitive market with over 4,000 different beer options for the consumer sitting on the shelves. There was no benefit to being a local brewery and the other provinces were fully leveraging that opportunity. Also at that time you had to build a brewery that could produce 500,000 litres of beer. Imagine the daunting task of being asked to build the infrastructure to brew approximately 1.5M bottles of beer in your first year of business! Thinking that way certainly made you realize why no new breweries were starting. Fortunately those rules changed after we were open and the province is now seeing the momentum and benefit of another 40+ breweries in Alberta.
Scary, exciting and risky. Yup, sounded like something we were all up for.
Without a doubt the most exciting part of the start up process was when we all agreed on the purpose of the brewery. You see, we had over 140 years of beer experience between the partnership group and we didn’t want to just be another brewery selling beer. We knew that beer was a currency on to its own. We had seen how people were motivated by the prospect of sharing a pint with a friend or neighbour and we knew that beer was a social lubricant. Beer greased the wheels of progress and fun and we knew we had to leverage that knowledge.
At the time we were working hard to open the brewery in the Simmons Building in East Village and we were going to call ourselves the East Village Brewing Company. Sadly the process was taking too long so we changed tact and went in to our existing location in Highfield. As a result we needed a new name and naturally the starting and ending point came to us pretty quickly. All we needed to do was drop the east from our name and lo and behold the whole story became complete. The ethos of “It takes a Village to raise a beer’ came to us in a flash. It seemed as obvious then as it does now. Not only were we starting a brewery, but also just as relevant, we were starting a movement.
The best decision we ever made was to go out to individual Calgarians that were working hard to make Calgary a better place. We knew that if we brought the right people in as investors that we could collectively do great things to make this city an even better place. Within a couple of months of taking our plans out to the public we had our Beer Barons and Baronesses in place. And they were a magnificent and engaging lot. Larry had done a batch of the Village Blonde, the group came together, everyone selected their beautiful beer glasses made by Bee Kingdom glass, we had an opening night in the big vacuous space and presented our full plans to the group.
After that meeting we were ready to go.
On December 21st, 2011 we had 30 kegs to sell. All that was needed was to make our first delivery and it naturally turned in to a race between Tom and Jim as to who was going to make the first sale/delivery. Jim dropped some kegs in his Jetta and took off to Fergus Bix, Tom threw his in his Jeep and raced to the Blind Monk. Both bar owners being long time friends in the industry and we wanted the honour to go to them. To this day both believe they were the first sale. And that’s just fine, because here we are today celebrating the great success of five years of making great beer and helping build a better community.
From our fantastic group of partners to our engaged Barons and Baronesses, our wonderful staff and our excellent customers we say thank you. Thank you for being part of the first five years, we look forward to sharing even more in the next five.
PS Of course this makes it all look like everything went according to plan. We’re a pretty positive bunch so we tend to gloss over the negative. But in an effort of transparency, and for the first time publicly we are going to show you the delivery of our very first shipment of bottles.
We thought it was time for this video to come out of the archives...