AGAINST THE GRAIN
PIONEERS OF THE BEER BUSINESS
BY LEE HART
Not only was A.E. Cross one of the “Big Four” founders of the Calgary Stampede, but he was also one of the first in the late 1800s to bring beer to the Wild West pioneers of what was then known as the Northwest Territories. Part of this territory became the province of Alberta in 1905.
Cross founded the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company Ltd. (CBMC) in 1892, producing not only a quality product but also a very popular beverage that supported a successful company for nearly 70 years. From its headquarters in Inglewood, just east of the present downtown, the company produced its first beer and registered its well-known buffalo head and horseshoe logo in 1893.
As the business grew, the CBMC went on to buy several other Alberta-based breweries. To assist with its marketing efforts, the CBMC also owned and financed many hotels across Alberta. The CBMC created a subsidiary, the Ranchmen’s Trust Company, in 1912 to handle hotel purchases and mortgages. This practice continued in the hotel business until regulations introduced by the provincial government in the late 1950s required breweries to divest of hotels.
After A.E. Cross died in 1932, his son, J.B. Cross, took over as president. Under the Cross family, the brewery was very community-oriented. It actively supported local sports through the Calgary Buffalo Athletic Association, established a fish hatchery and developed the brewery grounds as gardens for the enjoyment of Calgarians.
The CBMC was eventually bought by Canadian Breweries in 1961. That company was sold to Rothman’s in 1969, renamed Carling O’Keefe in 1973, purchased by Foster’s Brewing of Australia in 1981 and finally taken over by Molson Breweries in 1989. The Calgary brewery closed in 1994.
As the CBMC and other breweries grew over the years, so did malt barley production in Western Canada. In 2015, Canada produced about eight million tonnes of barley, with malting barley varieties accounting for roughly 70 per cent of the total, on average. Canadian maltsters typically buy about 1.1 million tonnes of malting barley, one-third of which is used by more than 520 Canadian breweries to produce more than two billion litres of beer each year.