Cold Garden Beverage Company partners Blake Belding and Dan Allard met a few years back in university. Belding had already started doing the old brew-your- own beer as a “function of drinking cheaper, as students will do.” Allard was generally the party host, throwing more than a few get-togethers for his school buds, and Belding’s home-brewed suds often made an appearance as the beer-of- choice at these co-ed fêtes. One day, while sitting at the back of a lecture theatre in one of the many entrepreneur classes they shared, the friends joked that they should start a brewery of their own. A couple of day-jobs later, the guys decided to leave the kidding behind and put the wheels in motion toward their own brewery. They gathered up a handful of friends and family, and start brewing their own malt beverages. Spotlight on Business spoke with Dan Allard, who’s official title on their website states that he is in charge of “Businessing,” about their humble beginnings two short years ago, their unique approach to brewing and their neighbourhood home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.





By John Allaire C old Garden prides itself on having a wide selection and variety of brews being produced at any given time. But an even larger source of pride is their choice to brew beer that leans more to the malty side, and less to the hoppy side. “We have 10 brews at the moment on tap. Our whole ethos for the recipe creation is malty beer. We really focus on the grain. Arguably, Alberta kicks out the best grain in the world. It gets shipped over to Scotland and everywhere worldwide. So many of the ‘big’ micro-brewer- ies — sort of an oxymoron — in the US have large parcels of land up here in Alberta for their own grain production. So for us, it was a no-brainer.” “We personally like the taste of malty beer. It’s just married well with the fact that we come from a huge agricultural community.” The choice to produce high-malt- content beers started as merely a personal taste choice. “We personally like the taste of malty beer. It’s just married well with the fact that we come from a huge agricultural community.” Allard is quick to point out that the agricultural community not only supplies world- class grains, but the local natural resources make a difference in the quality of their beverages, “Right down to the water



supply. Calgary has very mineral-rich water that pairs well with malty beer. We don’t have to re-mineralize anything. We just have to de-chlorinate it. It’s really accommodating for malty beers that focus on the grain.” “We do have an IPA, but we only have one. And the one we do have is not a ‘slap you in the face’ hoppy IPA. It’s a very smooth one.” While their focus and passion clearly tips toward the malt- side of the beer scale, Allard admits that they do brew one India Pale Ale (IPA), almost out of market necessity. “We do have an IPA, but we only have one. And the one we do have is not a ‘slap you in the face’ hoppy IPA. It’s a very smooth one. And again, that’s just a function of Blake and my taste profiles. It kind of goes ‘against our grain’ a bit,” he puns with a chuckle. Beyond just their own personal tastes, the Cold Garden partners feel that the grainy, malty beer actually represents the region and the local agriculture better than beers that highlight the hops. But Allard points out that the tendency in micro- brewing is to focus on the hops. He’s hoping that their focus on the malt and grain will set them apart and set a standard for western brewing. “It seems anyone getting into brewing no matter where they are located, is really



getting into the hops. I think it’s because the customers that get behind drinking hoppy beer, they drink A LOT of it. It’s an obvious taste profile that new entrants to the market can wrap their palette around.”

But Allard says there are distinct differences to the profile of malt enthusiasts.

“Malty beer is similar to hoppy beer in that, it’s an obvious taste on the palette. But the population isn’t as educated about what it tastes like. So in our region, as a company, we’re not necessarily known as a malty brewer yet. The market is very new for us still, at this point. So it seems that everyone is expanding their palette at the same rate — granted there are a few ‘beer geeks’ that are ahead of the curve — but overall, of the 10 beers we have, half of them are super malty. It’s the direction we want to head in.” “The next beer we are going to launch is going to try and focus on what Canada’s beer style should be.” Cold Garden’s focus on grain isn’t the only thing that sets them apart from other craft brewers in the area. They boast a number of experimental recipes (and attach equally compelling names to them!). Cakeface, One Summer in Saskatoon… the intrigue alone makes you want to pop the top off of a growler. “We have some really whacky recipes… Take our Red Smashed in Buffalo Jump. The nomenclature there has a regional perspective. There’s a UNESCO Heritage Site in our neck of the woods called ‘Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump.’. It was an old ancestral hunting ground, basically. So we brewed a red beer, but we really wanted the colour to be bang on. It kept turning out a little too brown or a little too light. We finally got it to be the perfect red. And it is by far our maltiest beer on the menu. It emulates what we used to drink back in school! It’s one of our best sellers. It flip-flops between the IPA and the Red.”



overall marketing strategy. In fact, the public portion of their building has a tourism licensce, which allows them to offer tours and encourage people to mill about, trying their vast array of craft beers. “Good beer, good prices, and an approachable environment, all under the heading of ‘beer tourism.’. We’re trying to convert people to craft beer.” Like so many small businesses in their infancy, family and friends played a crucial role in their early stages of develop- ment. “We took out a loan for the equipment and then did everything ourselves. We couldn’t afford a contractor, so I swung the hammer, my pops would come from Red Deer and help me because he was a carpenter by trade back in the day. So he would point me in the right direction. Blake was practicing brewing beer in the tanks as I was liter- ally building walls around him.” Friends and neighbours all pitched in as well to get Cold Garden up and running. “We called them the ‘Special Projects Team.’. Any time some- thing came up, they’d all show up and give us a hand. From scrapping metal to building the bar. We are lucky to have a real army of friends who want to help out.” Once the brewery started delivering to area restaurants and turning profits, they were able to begin paying members of their “army” to work at the brewery. “Now that we are in a better position, we can pay them. And we pay them far above the industry average. We’re up to twelve employees, including three brewers in the back and nine up in the tasting room and delivery duties.” Of course, one of the benefits of eventually hiring the volunteers is that you end up working with friends— people that get what you’re trying to accomplish and have a vested interest in the company’s success. “Everyone is getting paid now and they’re all happy. And the beauty of it is, they’re all homies! They’re all friends that go back a ways with us. So a lot of problems that other bars and restaurants may have in terms of trust, it’s a total non-issue here.” Rapid growth wasn’t in the original plans for Cold Garden, but Allard says it almost feels like their hand is being forced. Current- ly, they have a capacity to brew about 1,000 hectolitres annually. They found themselves unable to keep up with demand even in the first few months. So Allard explains that they are preparing temporary measures until more permanent solutions can be found. “We are in the process of expanding with a band-aid fix, adding some fermenters and so forth, but not adjustingour brew house. So that’ll almost double our capacity in four weeks here. But we’re in the middle of designing a new system and we’re debating exactly how big to go. There’s a good chance that we will end up quadrupling our capacity here in the same footprint, which will allow us to keep the same amount of space for the tourist facility.” One thing’s for sure. Regardless of expansion in the future, they’ll be keeping their home in Inglewood. “We’ll keep this space forever… it’ll remain our community hub, our market- ing vehicle — this represents our brand.” Indeed, a brand that Cold Garden Beverage Company hopes will someday be known worldwide as “Canadian- style malt forward beer.’.

And the battle continues. Allard explains that the two tastes, representing extreme opposite ends of the spectrum, battle it out for first place in their tasting room.

“The super hoppy one and the super malty one are always the two top sellers.

There’s definitely a struggle. And you can see that some people really want to push the IPA thing. But there is defi- nitely a solid attraction for the Red!”

The brewery’s sights aren’t merely stuck on the grainy and whacky, mind you.

Allard points out that many countries are know for a ‘style’ of beer. Cold Garden is seeking to put Canada on the map with their newest product. “The next beer we are going to launch is going to try and focus on what Canada’s beer style should be. For example, down in Southern California, their hoppy style kind of propagated that style of beer for the rest of the US. Latin America and Asia, they have super light lagers. Canada hasn’t found a really defined beer style yet. So it’s our opinion that grain is what we should focus on. We do grain very well up here.” Allard admits that brewing the beer is only part of the battle. Sure, you can brew what you consider to be Canada’s style. The trick is to market the product so there’s buy-in at the consumer level. “As soon as Cold Garden gets a little more mature in our business marketing, we’d like to shape our brewery more to be known as a malty beer brewery. And then we’ll push that particular style as a Canadian staple. In the next few weeks, we are going to be cranking out some beers that say ‘this should be the profile Canada’s known for.’.” The Cold Garden Beverage Company is located in the Ingle- woodneighbourhoodofCalgary. That areawasonce thecity’s proud brewery district back in the early 20th century. “This was Calgary’s first neighbourhood outside of downtown. It was basically just rail and malting. Calgary Malting was in a big brown building that’s still standing today. Foster’s out of Australia bought it in the 90’s which was then absorbed by Molson before shutting down. We didn’t want to be located anywhere else but this area… it feels very quaint and town- like. And it’s juxtaposed to downtown, with its huge glass towers, visible from the brewery. We all moved into the neighbourhood. It’s the only place for us to be.” Being in this “quaint” neighbourhood allowed the company to secure a larger space than they had originally anticipat- ed. Allard laughed that they literally had to knock on doors to find what was available, and the deals were all sealed with an old-timey nod and a handshake. They ended up with 6,000 sq. ft., allowing them to use about half the space as a large tasting room. In fact, they can accommodate 136 people in the tasting room, which overlooks the tanks and the production floor. The cozy “Grandma’s living room” space, complete with couches and lamps, helps them push the concept of “beer tourism”, which is important to their




1100 11 St. SE | Calgary, AB | T2G 4T3

as spotlighted in the OCTOBER 2017 issue of SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS MAGAZINE

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8

Made with FlippingBook flipbook maker