Meet the Village Hitman: Calgary Craft Brewery Collaborates with Bret Hart
This article was first published by Secret East in April 2018.
For those of us living in Newfoundland, the craft brewery scene has exploded in recent years. Rural communities across the province such as Port Rexton, Twillingate, and soon Dildo have become attractive destinations for craft beer enthusiasts. Port Rexton Brewing Co. has won awards and expanded their presence into St. John’s, while Split Rock Brewing Co. opened a lovely location in the form of the Stage Head Pub at the end of the summer last year with plans to offer “high quality pub fare”. The provinces capital city, St. John’s is not missing out either as a brewery is being developed on Duckworth Street and Quidi Vidi Brewing Co, the province’s oldest craft brewery is undergoing renovations and offering new brews.
One thing that craft breweries in this province have yet to accomplish is to collaborate with a WWE Hall of Famer, which is exactly what Village Brewery in Calgary has done when they unveiled their Village Hitman, a citrus hibiscus ale, and collaboration with Calgary’s own Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
Village Brewery started up in Calgary in 2011 when six partners with over 160 years in the brewing industry came together with the common goal of a brewery that focused on community building and supporting local artists and craftspeople. “From its inception, the goal was always to create quality beer and better the community around us,” said Eric Daponte, the marketing and taproom coordinator at Village Brewery. “From day one we have invested 10% of our bottom line back into the community and continue to do so.”
Just as in Newfoundland, the craft brewery scene is in Alberta is also taking off. According to Daponte, in the past few years, Alberta has gone from thirty to seventy craft breweries. “It’s a new, exciting industry that has gone over well with consumers,” he said. Daponte noted, “the best part of the large growth we’ve experienced is the camaraderie and friendship everyone has between each brewery. We make beers together, do bike tours between one another’s tap room, all in an effort to push the craft beer scene here in Alberta.”
Collaboration is extremely important to Village Brewery. Daponte noted that they are always looking for ways to team up with local organizations and artists in Calgary and Alberta and Village Brewery’s taproom functions as a rotating art gallery that features rotating artists who take home any profits they make when their pieces are sold. While Daponte admitted to not knowing much about the craft brewery scene in Newfoundland, he noted growing up in Nova Scotia and is aware of how the scene is taking off there. He said that he would love to do a collaboration between Village Brewery and “someone on the east coast but we only sell beer in Alberta as of right now so it doesn’t make sense for us to collab in a market where we aren’t sold.”
So how did a collaboration between a craft brewery and one of the most iconic names in 1990s professional wrestling come about? The answer: bull testicles.
Each year, Village Brewery puts off a prostate cancer fundraiser during the Calgary Stampede called “The NUTRaiser” which involves throwing bull testicles into a cask ale for $100 a pint, with proceeds going to the Prostate Cancer Centre. Bret “The Hitman” Hart went through a bout of Prostate Cancer in 2016 and he became involved in this fundraiser. Daponte said that after this event, Village Brewery started toying with the idea to make a beer honouring The Hitman. “There was a strong connection to the great philanthropy he has done in his retirement that ties in well with our vision of community building and it also helped that many of the production and marketing staff are huge wrestling fans,” said Daponte.
Daponte said the whole experience so far has been great and called Hart “an extremely humble individual who is always happy to take pictures and sign autographs for those that look up to him”.
According to Village Brewery’s website, the Village Hitman is a Citrus Hibiscus Session Ale’s “hops were supplemented with liberal whirlpool additions of Vic Secret and Chinook hops as well as whirlpool additions of orange peel, lemon peel, and hibiscus flower. This gives a pleasant citrus and pine character to the beer, without the hop bitterness.” Daponte called this brew with a pinkish hue which harkens back to The Hitman’s signature ring attire “a summer beer, no doubt.”
Village Brewery always has a character associated with each beer they brew, featuring pictures of family members of employees in order to “tell the story of that person’s place in the village”. In terms of branding for the Village Hitman, Daponte said things were pretty obvious since they knew they wanted to go with a pink colour scheme and go all out Hitman. The tap handles are hot pink and the posters and cases feature photos of Hart during his Stampede Wrestling days, the wrestling promotion run out of Calgary ran by The Hitman’s father, where he started his career. “It helps to represent his beginnings in Calgary and I think the beer itself represents where his career has led him as being one of the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be,” said Daponte.
Village Brewery has had an outpouring of requests to send the Village Hitman across Canada and even the world. Daponte believes this “is a true showing of just how influential Bret “The Hitman” Hart has been over his career and how much he means to the wrestling community.” If you are looking to try the Village Hitman, you will have to make a trip to Calgary as Village brewery doesn’t have any plans to ship out of province due to strict interprovincial laws involving alcohol and taxes. There is the chance that a team up with Canada Craft Club might see the Village Hitman available to be shipped later this summer but wrestling fans and craft beer enthusiasts will have to stay tuned.