Calgary brewers want in on Stampede beer monopoly

Local brewers say the company that owns Budweiser has had a monopoly over the grounds for too long.

They say local beer, not Budweiser, should have reign over rodeo boozers

You can't toast with a pint of local beer at the Calgary Stampede. For years Calgary brewers have been trying to get their product onto the grounds to no avail. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

If you've ever had one too many in Nashville North, then you may not have noticed you weren't drinking Calgary-made beer.

Only brands owned by the Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev — such as Budweiser, Corona, Beck's and Labatt — are allowed to be sold by Stampede vendors.

But local brewers say it's not right that the world's largest beer company has a monopoly over the grounds.

"I think the message that the Calgary Stampede works so hard to put out is it's really a celebration of southern Alberta and there's a lot of ways to tell that message," said Brad Goddard, a sales manager for Big Rock Brewery.

"And one important way to tell that message is telling a local story through beer," he added.

Goddard says it's an issue Big Rock has been fighting for at least two decades. 

Longtime concern

Jim Button, former VP of the company, remembers his "annual pilgrimage" to the Stampede with the late Ed McNally. He says the Big Rock founder complained year after year to the board about the absence of local beer on the grounds.

"Everybody always thought what Ed was saying made sense, but economically it's a challenge for them. And I understand the economic challenge they have doing that but I think they should possibly start being a little bit more creative in how they look at this," said Button, co-founder of Calgary's Village Brewery.

Jim Button, left, is the co-founder of Village Brewery and Brad Goddard, right, is the southern Alberta sales manager of Big Rock Brewery. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

According to its website, the mandate of the Calgary Stampede is to "preserves and celebrate our western heritage, cultures and community spirit."

CBC News has asked the Stampede for a comment and they pointed us to this June 26 blog post:

"Labatt, a Stampede Champion level sponsor, ensures that the majority of beer served on Stampede Park is brewed locally in Edmonton, Alta. Labatt has a variety of top selling, premium and newly featured brands, including (but not limited to) Alexander Keith's, Hoegaarden, Rolling Rock, Lowenbrau and Stella Artois. Eighty-five per cent of the beer sold at Stampede is brewed in Alberta."

Why all or nothing, ask brewers

Goddard says that's like saying the lobster served at Mount Royal University's annual Pearls of Wisdom dinner is a local specialty.

"100 per cent of the lobster was cooked in Calgary. But I don't think anybody was under the expectation that it was a distinctly Calgary cuisine being served."

He says local brewers are not asking for the Calgary Stampede to stop serving Labatt and Budweiser, they just want a piece of the pie.

"You look at some of the big music festivals in the states, even some of the sports venues — it isn't an exclusive all or nothing that it is here in Canada," said Goddard.

"They'll split the sponsorships up so that it's proportional."

Goddard says, ironically, this year the Stampede is offering a craft beer garden in the Big Four Building with no Calgary beers on tap.

"So I called and finally got to the catering committee and left a message, and no response."


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