Jim Button with the Village Blonde. The woman shown on the can is Button’s mom Barbara Mae McGuire.
Jim Button, one of the co-founders of Village Brewery, was honoured at the inaugural Alberta Beer Awards as the community builder of the year, an industry-voted award that recognized his outstanding contribution to the development of Alberta’s craft-brewing industry in 2017. However, Button’s aspirations and effects are much wider in scope – he works to strengthen the industry in order to make the city better. “Ever since I moved to Calgary [in 1993], I’ve been trying to build the city and change the perception of it to be what I know it to be,” he says. “It’s all been about building a better community.”
Button’s roots in the beer industry go back more than three decades. He began working in advertising for Molson in Toronto in 1987 and went on to work in marketing for Big Rock and Sleeman. He was vice president of Big Rock for three years before co-founding Village six years ago.
“Beer is a social lubricant; beer is a currency unto its own,” Button says. “We started the brewery knowing that beer could make stuff happen. And I know that the industry can do the same thing, so I’m trying to educate all the other brewers to use their beer for good.”
5 Ways Village Brewery Builds Community
Village Brewery launched its podcast in January 2013 and now has a library of nearly 100 interviews by Dave Kelly with Calgarians talking about culture in the city. Guests have included entrepreneur Kevin Davies from Hop Compost, Anila Lee Yuen from Calgary’s Centre for Newcomers, actor Dave Lawrence, artist Chris Cran, roboticist DJ Sures and Olympian Jan Hudec. A new episode is released every two weeks or so.
This annual special edition beer is made using hops grown in Calgary community gardens and backyards. By its fifth year, in 2017, the project had become so popular that hop growth exceeded what was needed to make Village Gardener. The extra hops were given to True Buch Kombucha for its Citrus Hop beverage and to the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers, which is Canada’s largest club of homegrowers and beer enthusiasts. Watch for the next Village Gardener to be released in the fall after a September harvest.
Village Square Variety Pack Art
Every time you buy a Village variety pack of beer you are buying a piece of local art. The design on the 12-pack uses work by local artists. Images by photographers Colin Way and Neil Zeller have been on the boxes. Recently, the winter variety pack had work by 24 artists selected by Market Collective. Those artists also designed the neck labels on the bottles of beer in the pack. Bret Hart created the art for the 2018 summer pack on shelves now, which includes Village Hitman beer that is named for him.
The Brewery Taproom
The taproom is a community gathering place where you can have a beer or two with friends and munch on popcorn or order in a pizza. It’s also an art gallery and event space.
Village puts local work is on display and hosts exhibition openings. It also holds monthly beer and food pairings highlighting a local food entrepreneur. in its taproom. Village has been paired with Mountain Rhino Donuts and Springbank Cheese. Made by Marcus ice cream is coming up on June 13.
Community Arts Events
Village’s big annual event is Circle carnival. It partners with Bassbus Productions and YYC Food Trucks for this huge outdoor party. The 2018 carnival is September 8.
You’ll also find Village partnering with other community groups, venues and artists for events around Calgary. Village Voice is a music series on Wednesday nights until June 20 at the Ironwood. The music series includes performances from three singer/songwriters each night.
This June, if you are planning your own Neighbour Day party, keep your Village beer receipts and send them to the Federation of Canadian Communities who will submit them to Village. The brewery will donate 15 percent of neighbourhood beer purchases between June 1 and 30 back to your community association. –Jaelyn Molyneux