AB InBev’s recent purchase of craft brewer Banded Peak Brewing in Calgary, Canada is causing problems to the local craft beer industry. Banded Peak has been part of Barley Belt, a successful craft beer tourism website. Barley Belt was formed in 2017 and comprises of ten craft breweries in South East Calgary which are located within a radius of seven kilometers. The group is especially known for its Barley Belt Tap Tours, where people can buy a passport which entitles the holder to a beer at each location.
After AB InBev owned Labatt Breweries announced to purchase Banded Peak in January (inside.beer, 30.1.2020), critical voices were raised to exclude the brewery from the website and all of its promotions because it does not comply any more with the requirements of a craft brewery as outlined by the American Brewers Association.
However, as it turned out, the Barley Belt trademark is owned by Banded Peak which is now part of AB InBev. And AB InBev does not want to relinquish the Barley Belt trademark unless the brewery is kept in the Barley Belt partnership.
As a consequence several breweries associated with Barley Belt, including Annex Ale Project, Cabin Brewing and Outcast Brewing, have now pulled out of the project. They argue that “Banded Peak’s continued participation in the Barley Belt confuses consumers, obfuscates its ownership, and undermines the local, independent nature of the project.”
Banded Peak was opened in 2016 by Alex Horner and some childhood friends and has in the meantime become a staple in the local community in Calgary with an annual production of 3,000 hl. According to the purchase agreement, Labatt will oversee operations while the tap room and brewery will remain standalone entities in the hands of Horner.
As it seems, the end of this story has not yet been told.