June 14, 2023

Something Brewing

Map to Calgary craft beer treasures leads to the secrets of self-growth
Cold Garden Brewery with a Vanilla sky
It's summertime and Calgarians are flocking to establishments like UCalgary alumni Dan Allard and Blake Belding's Cold Garden in Inglewood. Ian Feil / Cold Garden

What if the path not taken is the path you’ve been intending to take all along? It’s rooted inwardly but it needs to be expressed within the world. At night, before you sleep, it haunts you like a phantom limb.

Attitude, not age, matters. It’s never too late or too early to veer from the road you’re on  into the unknown, fuelled by whatever passion drives you. Not to get all Hallmark-y about it, but the time to follow your heart may be now.

During this summertime journey into mission possible, three trailblazing UCalgary alumni, all of whom have launched celebrated, beer-centric ventures in the city, allow us to walk into their minds and discover how they bravely and passionately reinvented their lives – so that we can, too.

That doesn’t mean quit your job. Start laying the groundwork, dig stubbornly with curiosity and point yourself with your inner compass toward the direction that you feel you need to go. It may be within your organization. It may be beyond it. You know how treasure maps work, right? Summer is a great season for exploring.


The summertime lure of patios, people outstretched beneath umbrellas and the long, lazy days of light are here. Untethered conversation while reaching for a well-crafted beer is an irresistible draw. It’s a season when plants grow vibrantly green, and adventures unfurl along roadways and walkways that can lead to Calgary’s more than 50 breweries.

The UCalgary alumni who planted the seeds of their brew establishments did so from early on in their careers. They didn’t plan from the outset to be in the beer business, though some dreamed of it. They each graduated with degrees from UCalgary and set out down different paths, into business, engineering and communications.

UCalgary Alums Dan Allard BComm'09 and Blake Belding BComm'10 Cold Garden Founders

Dan Allard (BComm'09) and Blake Belding (BComm'10) co-founded Cold Garden Beverage Company in 2017 and continue to change the craft brewery experience.

Ian Feil / Cold Garden

Cold Garden pushes the envelope and delivers on extraordinary
As Dan Allard (BComm’09) stretched out in his sweatpants after loping around the basketball court, talking with his buddy Blake Belding (BComm‘10) in a booth at the Den, they considered why they were only able to order big brew brands to drink and thought, hey, in a perfect world, wouldn’t it be cool to create and own a microbrewery and do it up right?

Well, yeah, it would. And so, they did.

Nine years after their talk, Cold Garden Beverage Company opened in 2017, and it’s since been pushing the envelope in how craft breweries operate. Allard, the brewery co-founder and Chair of the Inglewood Business Improvement Area (BIA), led changes to bylaws that basically knocked down the wall separating the production area to the public area, allowing that authentic taproom vibe we enjoy in so many establishments today.

Allard also spearheaded legislation that today allows dogs inside the brew business rather than outside, making visits to many craft breweries dog friendly.  How’d he overcome those challenges? Persistence, people skills and business smarts that he learned in part as a student at UCalgary.

“Those are two items that separate us from the crowd, though these days we’re riding the wave of the quality of our products and our chill environment,” says Allard, who for Calgary Stampede (July 7-16) this summer, aims to have some carriage rides with Clydesdales and launch a collaboration that could bring some farm animals to the brewery.

At Cold Garden, you can try what is still his favourite brew, Red Smashed-in Buffalo Jump, a malt-forward Irish Red Ale that is partly a tip of the hat to his Métis heritage and his Indigenous-given name of White Buffalo.

After Allard graduated at UCalgary, he and Belding (co-founder and Brew Master at Cold Garden) kept in touch, sometimes travelling together to music festivals around the world. It was at a house party several years after graduating that he and Belding, who had continued to experiment with brew recipes in his garage, decided to fully take the plunge. It was time, given that they had gained traction with real-world business experience and had savings if things went sideways.

Belding left his successful career in sales at an industrial abrasives company and Allard, who’d sold the prosperous landscaping company he started in university, stepped away from his job in commercial real estate to mutually create Cold Garden. “The main thing for both of us is that we remained, and remain, very passionate about our original idea,” says Allard.

While at university, Allard was renowned for throwing massive (though, respectful of his neighbours) parties. He knew how to get people together for a good time. He figures hosting people is in his DNA, given that his family was always the house where other kids congregated. For him, it’s a passion and a skill and a talent that he’s honed over the years.

“What inspired me to build the business was really trying to find a way to host again, just like I did as a kid and while in university,” says Allard. “I’m motivated by trying to create great experiences for my friends and patrons.”

If you’re going move toward your passion, Allard recommends trying to make it a way of life, though it’s important to have a plan, even if it starts as a rough map.

“Chasing a dollar has never motivated me, though you want to have enough to feed your baseline if you’re going after your dream – and I know that following your dreams is considered a cliché,” says Allard. “Dreams can be made real. Do what interests you, try and avoid people who put negative energy on you. You need to listen to yourself to focus on your interests and be sure about what really gets you going.”

Maybe work a day job for now for the money but volunteer or intern in the field that draws your heart. “The more you open yourself up, the more people want to help you,” he says. “They’ll acknowledge your passion. You’ll be surprised by how doors open for you. I’ve learned the money just seems to follow. And it’s not just me, so have many of my entrepreneurial friends.”

Allard didn’t come from a wealthy family, far from it. His dad grew up in Manitoba in Red River Settlement, and when Allard visited there as a kid, he learned to snare rabbits for food. He knows what it means to strive from the heart.

“I never feared life as an entrepreneur because I’ve lived poor and I’ve lived comfortably. I know that at the end of the day, there are a lot of fat rabbits and I can skin them literally and metaphorically. Don’t be afraid to achieve what you want. Shake off that concern. Push your own envelope.”

John Reid

John Reid (BKin’09) started Pedal Pub Calgary after seeing the extraordinary experience first hand in Nashville, TN.

Pedal Pub Calgary

Hitting the high notes with Pedal Pub Calgary

A trip to Nashville in 2018 turned John Reid (BKin’09), toward a compelling opportunity – launching the party bike operation  Pedal Pub Calgary. He foresaw a version of the popular party experience in what’s known as Music City, USA, that would fit Calgary perfectly, and became both an operating partner and bike pilot.

Since then, he’s become president of Glacier Communications, which has recently been acquired by NextGrad, the leading provider of digital advertising displays in US high schools.

Pedal Pub Calgary’s 15-person Dutch bikes take clients on tailored tours that visit Calgary breweries and include a Calgary Stampede experience that ends in the giant Wildhorse Saloon tent.

Reid, who continues to reinvent himself in businesses and ventures, says the secret for him is to “be curious and say yes to everything.” Every time he took on a new job or task that both interested and challenged him, it allowed him to explore his capabilities and spur his growth.

He’s had many jobs since graduating from UCalgary and he attributes an element of his success to networking, which he started to do assiduously while at school. “It’s not easy,” he says. “It requires pushing yourself, volunteering, joining societies, participating in social events, finding like-minded people. Doing so can provide structure that creates movement in your life toward your dreams.”

“I’m not very extroverted, so networking was a challenge for me,” says Reid. “But I’m not a quitter. I’m driven by wanting to being the best that I can be, creating the best experience for people that I can. “

Reid wrote for the Gauntlet and was VP of the Kinesiology Students Society, then went on to SAIT for broadcast journalism and a stint in that business before moving on to other work.

He discovered that he loves managing a team and that he’s good at what other people may consider the less than exciting parts of business – process development and finding efficiencies -- while helping to create a work culture that aims to help everyone on the team succeed.

“I understand the feeling of not feeling confident, which can hold you back from making leaps. That paralysis of analysis can be hard to overcome,” says Reid. “When you try a new job or role, often you’re starting again at the bottom of the pile. That uncertainty can kill your confidence. Don’t undervalue your skills. You’ll find that they are more transferable and fluid than you might believe.”

A tip for knowing you are on the right track toward your dream is recognizing your energy levels, learning to self-monitor the tasks that give you energy versus the tasks that leave you exhausted. “In hindsight, the tasks that gave me energy rather than sapped it were guidance. There are the ones to value and follow.”

Reid offers actionable advice for starting down a new path.

Make an objective of going out once a month for coffee with someone who you believe will support your goal of change. Ask them how they did it and how they can suggest you can do so, too.

“Seek out a board of a volunteer organization and join it. It will force you into networks and meeting new people and trying different skill sets. The second thing is, ask for help, whether it is advice or more structured mentorship. Everyone likes to talk about themselves.”

The Establishment Brewing Company's Mike Foniok

Mike Foniok, BSc (Eng)’09, was a mechanical engineer at ENMAX for 10 years before evolving his home brewing hobby into founding The Establishment Brewing Company with three other founders.

Peter Kaczan / The Establishment Brewing Company

The Establishment makes work play

Mike Foniok, BSc (Eng)’09, worked as a mechanical engineer at ENMAX for 10 years, saving money while always maintaining the glimmer of an idea in the back of his mind – launching a craft brewery in Calgary with three other founders that would create unique, barrel-aged mixed culture beer using old-school brewing traditions.

What began as a home-kit brewing hobby in the basement of a rental house led to Foniok and the three other founders finding the perfect property in the heart of what is now Calgary’s Manchester Brewing District for The Establishment Brewing Company.

“The reason we started the business is the reason we’re still doing it,” says Foniok, Co-founder and Head Brewer, who recommends first-time visitors to the brewery try core brews such as Afternoon Delight (a New England pale ale) and another ale, My Best Friend’s Girl. “We were passionate about beer and we wanted to share that passion with others.”

Foniok had already started seeking out flavorful beers in his fourth year at UCalgary – an internship program in Switzerland introduced him to a wider world of brewing -- and when he returned, he started dreaming about opening a brewery in Calgary. He met his future business partner Brandon Hart, BSc(Eng)’08, also a founder of the business, during that internship.

After graduating, Foniok spent a season snowboarding in Fernie, B.C., and then went to ENMAX for a job in the generation department, where he gained engineering experience in skills that would pay off for running a brewery, especially project management.

His biggest challenge in launching the brewery was finding the right location, when he and his partners got the keys to the building in the summer of 2018, opening about seven months later.  

So, what’s the secret to Foniok reinventing himself?

“It’s tricky,” he says. “It requires surrounding yourself with people who are equally as passionate about what you want to do and who are knowledgeable, as well.”

What gave him the confidence to make the entrepreneurial leap was his realization that “actually, no one really knows what they are doing all the time, you’re always problem solving and it’s a process of discovery. So, I told myself I shouldn’t be worried about doing it.”

He recommends being truthful with yourself about your priorities and to know what values you are carrying into your new endeavor. For him, having a strong team that shares your values is essential to success.

“The value that I and the other guys have at the core of our business is that we’re truly passionate about beer, we want the people working with us to have fun like we do, and we want to share our love of beer,” says Foniok, who has more than 100 Canadian beer awards. “Seeing people’s faces light up when they come here and try something new makes it all so worthwhile.”

Okay, you’ve got the treasure map outlined by UCalgary alumni who followed their dreams and made them happen. Now go and make your mark.

You’ve learned what it takes to build the spark of an idea into a business that inspires others. Visit the energetic, beer-centric operations created by Allard and Belding (Cold Garden), Reid (Pedal Pub Calgary) and Foniok (The Establishment) and hoist a pint there to finding and framing your own dream. Who knows? Maybe one of them will drop by and tell you more about the secrets of self-growth.