Craft brewing in Edmonton now has an unofficial Brewery District with a crisp and refreshing joint initiative. The cool new collaboration has brewing companies Alley Kat, Bent Stick, Blind Enthusiasm, Longroof, Omen, and Sea Change confirming that a stretch of 99th Street heading south from Whyte Avenue shall now be known as Happy Beer Street.
Zane Christensen and Cameron French, the St. Albert-raised owners of Alley Kat, explained that the kernel for the idea fermented with the earlier, more pungent sobriquet "Hops Crossing" during the problematic COVID year.
“For whatever reasons, it fell off the map and didn't really come to fruition,” Christensen admitted, noting that he and French only took on ownership in February 2020, a seemingly halcyon month in hindsight just before the world changed.
That period saw more new brewhouses on the scene. Age, he explained, can be a good thing for many reasons.
“Now that these breweries are a little more established and there's been more come into the area, we picked up the conversation earlier this year, and we all saw the value in just working together to promote the area.”
While that earlier name ultimately didn’t pass the taste test, the newer and perhaps more effervescent title took hold for the big launch a few weeks ago.
Happy Beer Street takes the concept of competition and turns it on its head. The busy craft beer industry across the province continues to see new startups enter the field and try to take root. The difference here, Christensen continues, is that in this industry a crowded marketplace is a good thing. These friendly foes play well together already, he said, and have a history of helping each other out behind the scenes and beyond the froth.
"My personal view is that I want my competition to do well, because ultimately, it’s about the consumer and what does the consumer want? Well, they want to try different things. They want to see what's new," he said.
"It's just good synergy, I guess, among the businesses and it's just driving traffic to the area, and not even just for the breweries: for the restaurants, for all the businesses. It's just trying to pump some energy and some liveliness into an area."
He pointed out the apt example of Calgary's like-minded Barley Belt.
"Rather than try to emulate something like that, we just said, ‘Let’s flip the script a bit and just come up with something that's so silly and ridiculous, it's just memorable’," he said of the silly and memorable Happy Beer Street.
"It's just a fun name, kind of silly and stupid, but it just makes sense, I guess. We took that approach. We just started meeting and talking about it and what the vision is and getting set up."
To launch the initiative, several breweries put their collective brewmeisters and production managers' heads together for a special product. Mega Collab Sour Time is a dry hopped sour beer at 5 per cent ABV in a 473-millilitre sky blue can featuring a cartoony smiling face that says, “Greetings from Happy Beer Street” above it. It's a high-quality beer that's perfect for the season and for the occasion, Christensen said.
"For this one we wanted something fun, something a bit summery. Sour beers are pretty trendy."
What they plan to have happen next is a calendar of events, with possibilities of festivals featuring live music and food trucks.
"People can just hop around and check out the different breweries and see what's going on, and while they're here, they can check out some of the restaurants and some of the other businesses in the area as well."
Further promotions relating to Happy Beer Street can be found on its website at happybeerstreet.com.