Beer or Bust! – Inglewood

This article from the Calgary Herald sums up Calgary Beer and Inglewood:

A toast to city’s beer-drinking, brewing history

David Finch, Calgary Herald

Published: Sunday, November 01, 2009

In 1922, Alberta drug stores sold liquor over the counter. This was during the era of prohibition that lasted from 1916 to 1924.

There were exceptions, of course. Beer with a two per cent alcohol content was still available as was alcohol “on prescription” from a doctor or pharmacist. Booze was also available for “medical, scientific or sacramental purposes” –so that included ministers and veterinarians, too!

Prohibiting the sale of liquor only drove the business underground, of course, so when the people of Alberta voted to end prohibition in 1924, the government created the Alberta Liquor Control Board. Ever since, the province has been the pusher of all things alcoholic in Alberta.

In 1925, Calgary’s own Palliser Hotel was the first licensed hotel in Alberta– before that you had to booze up in your hotel room.

For a time, bars closed from 6:30 to 7 p.m. to encourage working men to go home for dinner.

Half the chairs had to have arm rests, and patrons had to be seated. It was illegal to take photographs in a beverage room. And dart boards were prohibited.

Dining lounges and bars had to have separate washroom facilities and radios and televisions were strictly prohibited from bars.

Each person could only purchase a maximum of seven cases of beer per day in off-sales. All beer had the same alcohol content.

Until the 1950s, the province made far more profits from the sale of booze than it took in from oil and gas.

Licensed dining lounges arrived in 1958 and 13 years later, in 1971, the drinking age in Alberta dropped from 21 to 18. Then, in 1989 consumers purchased the last bottles of Calgary Beer in Calgary.

Calgary’s own beer dates back to the earliest days. In 1892, rancher A.E. Cross began making beer in Brewery Flats–today’s Inglewood.

The Calgary Brewing & Malting Company buildings have been in the news recently, given the public outcry in the face of attempts by a developer to demolish them.

In 1875, the North-West Territories Act included the prohibition of alcohol in the entire western part of Canada. Bootleggers had a field day, selling to everyone, natives and white alike.

So when this first era of prohibition was repealed in 1892, A.E. Cross and other Calgary investors began producing beer. The brewery was also one of the first consumers of natural gas in Western Canada. Cross later helped form Calgary Petroleum Products, the company that discovered the Turner Valley oilfield in 1914.

A 1906 advertisement extolled the virtues of the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company’s beer– “Alberta malt, British Columbia and imported hops, Rocky Mountain glacial water. These make Calgary Beer.”

“Buffalo Brand” aerated waters and soft drinks also came out of the brewery.

Advertising beer was frowned upon in the early days, so the brewery used the buffalo-head logo on its soft drinks, too, and advertised them widely.

According to Allen Sneath, the pop business never made money but it allowed the company to advertise its beer in a roundabout way. The government eventually ruled this scheme illegal.

During prohibition, Calgary Brewing & Malting Company exported its beer to Saskatchewan, then imported it back and sold it legally as an out-of-province product.

Maybe it’s time to bring back Calgary Beer again. Currently only available in Saskatchewan, this historic beer has long ties to Calgary, to an important historic site, and one of the great revenue generators for the province of Alberta.

And, for the record, this column, like the ad for Calgary Beer in newspapers in 1927 “is not published or displayed by the Alberta Liquor Control Board or the Government of Alberta.”

© Calgary Herald 2009

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