Community Involved Ale Brews Larger Urban Gardening Conversations

It all started when two brewers went out to pick hops from a garden just south of Calgary and a picture was posted on Village Brewery’s Facebook page sharing the plan to brew beer from the plants. People started commenting on the post, sending emails and asking how they could get involved.

“I saw something really exciting happening there,” says Jim Button, co-founder of Village Brewery.

Jim extended the invitation for more people to participate and provide hops. A group of men in Calgary’s Bridgeland neighbourhood were among those who donated hops. 

The hops were brewed into 1,300 one-litre growlers of Village Gardener Community Involved Ale.

“It just built all on its own to the point where those growlers disappeared really fast,” says Jim.

Village Brewery gave kegs to the people who had provided hops, which the community association used for a fundraiser event. “It was a nice little endless loop of love,” Jim says.

In January, Village Brewery held a meeting with a diverse group of Calgarians interested in urban gardening and sustainability. Representatives from four community associations were among those in attendance and are looking into getting involved and providing hops this year.

The hope this year is to continue what has started, says Jim. Each community association will receive three kegs in return for their hops that they can use for a community gathering event to discuss gardening and sustainability.

ATB Financial is donating funds that will go back to the community as development or sustainability money, says senior agriculture marketing manager Terry Andryo. The intent is for community gardeners to share produce that will be used for appetizers at Agriculture for Life’s Harvest Gala. The food will be a way to share the story of the four communities involved with manufacturing the beer, which will also be served at the event, notes Terry. 

Terry says getting involved with the project is a way to connect and celebrate the story of urban agriculture, though the bank primarily serves the rural farmer population. The organization intends to have some of its agriculturalists help with harvesting the hops.

“Here’s an opportunity for us to connect on a local level and in the city and then contribute through a bit of sweat equity as well,” says Terry. 

Jim says with ATB’s involvement the collaboration is “spiralling upwards quite quickly into being a bit more of an adventure.”

The hops will be provided during August and September this year, with the hope to launch the beer Oct. 15. The Harvest Gala takes place at the beginning of November.

Jim says the collaboration has its own energy and life, noting it is “community at its core.”

“I like the fact that I’m curating it but I’m not building it, it’s being built by everybody else,” he says.

Many of the community associations are looking to educate people on the importance of community gardening and sustainability, with a variety of people and perspectives coming out. For example, someone who educates people on the importance of bees and backyard hives is among those who attended the January meeting.

Jim will be presenting about the Village Gardener initiative at Sustainability for Breakfast Friday, Feb. 28. Scott Weir, a director on the Parkdale Community Association board contributing hops to the project, will also share why he is involved.

Photo caption: People interested in the 2014 Village Gardener discuss potential plans at the brewery Jan. 15. Photo credit: Neil Zeller

Read Related Story: 
Calgary Events Cultivate Appetite for Sustainability

Writer: Jennifer Neutel 

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