Three cheers for Edmonton’s Happy Beer Street



When Bent Stick, a local craft brewery, ran out of cans during a production run, the owners didn’t have to wait long to replenish their supply. They simply borrowed a few pallets from their next-door neighbour, Sea Change Brewing. 

That’s the way they do things on Happy Beer Street. It’s a 22-block span of craft breweries around 99 Street, a semi-industrial corridor between the communities of Ritchie and Old Strathcona. Led by Sea Change, the businesses teamed up in 2021 to promote the area and create their own Happy Beer Street brews, featuring ingredients from the collective’s seven founding breweries. They also organize special events in their taprooms—such as a “Happy Fear Street” creepy crawl for Halloween—and participate in  “tap takeovers” at local restaurants and bars. 

“We're all competitive, obviously, because we're in business, and we're in the same lane, but we're kind of all mutually competitive against the macro breweries,” says Jay Sparrow, one of Sea Change’s co-owners. “It's kind of David and Goliath—and we're all David, so it's been fun.”


A map of the soon-to-be-eight breweries and taprooms on Happy Beer Street.
A map of the soon-to-be-eight breweries and taprooms on Happy Beer Street. Blind Enthusiasm is located in Biera, a restaurant in Ritchie Market. Courtesy of Happy Beer Street.


Creative risk-takers 

The local craft beer scene has exploded since the Alberta government changed a few rules to make it easier for small breweries to operate. In 2013, Edmonton was home to only a handful. Today, there are more than 20 across the city, including those on Happy Beer Street. (Of which Alley Kat, Edmonton’s oldest craft brewery, is one.) 

Craft beer sales now make up about 12 per cent of the market in Alberta, according to Greg Zeschuk, owner of Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company. He’s happy to be part of Happy Beer Street. 

“Each brewer has their own aesthetic, their own style,” he says. “The beers are all different. It's actually really cool. The brewing industry works when everyone's kind of complementary.

Everyone asks: ‘Aren't you worried [about promoting your competitors]?’ No, because even more people will be on the street. I'd say 20 per cent of the people on any weekend are from out of town, so it's already kind of proving our point.” 

While their beers are different, Happy Beer Street’s members share a few things in common. They’re creative risk-takers who want to build communities in Edmonton. Not only do they collaborate with each other, they regularly brew concoctions to raise money for non-profit organizations or community groups. 

Here’s a closer look at some of Happy Beer Street’s breweries:


 A concrete building known as The Monolith.
The Monolith, a concrete building on 78 Avenue, marks the start of Happy Beer Street.



Launched in 2017, Blind Enthusiasm operates two breweries along Happy Beer Street. The first, which specializes in ales, lagers and barrel-aged beers, is part of Biera, a restaurant in Ritchie Market. Then, there’s The Monolith, an imposing concrete building on 78 Avenue. It houses a tap room and one of the few Canadian breweries to exclusively produce beers fermented in barrels and sours that usually take one to four years to ferment.

Zeschuk says it’s the most challenging—and interesting—brewing process. “The business right now is all hazy IPAs and we’re like: ‘We’ll do other things,’” he says. “We’re quite different than your typical brewery because we use exclusively traditional brewing methods, but then use science to improve upon it.” 

He’s no stranger to building innovative businesses and communities. In 1995, he co-founded BioWare in his Edmonton basement. The video game company is now a global phenomenon and the inspiration for a new generation of local game developers.


A man pours a glass of beer behind the counter of a taproom.
Greg Zeschuk pours a glass of Blind Enthusiasm’s Ferry of the Damned in The Monolith’s taproom.


From BioWare to Happy Beer Street

For years, Zeschuk split his time between Edmonton and Austin, Texas. When he left BioWare in 2012, he started hosting a YouTube series devoted to craft breweries in the U.S. In 2013, he became the first executive director of the Alberta Brewers Association. A few years later, he decided to take the leap and open his own brewery. 

Since then, Blind Enthusiasm’s beers have won provincial, national and international awards. Some of their recent beers include: Buffalo Meadows, a dark lager aged in bourbon barrels, and Four Corners, a pale ale, with $1 from every four-pack donated to the nearby Ritchie Community League,. 

Zeschuk’s next goal for Blind Enthusiasm and Happy Beer Street? Selling their wares in other countries.


“If we can get multiple breweries in Edmonton exporting all over the world, that will draw people here,” he says.


A line of cans of Sea Change’s Prairie Fairy beer stand in a line on a conveyor belt, waiting to be moved and packaged.
Freshly filled cans of Prairie Fairy wait to be packaged at Sea Change’s brewery.



In less than five years, Sea Change has made a big splash in Edmonton (and across Canada) with its award-winning brews, including The Wolf, an American pale ale, and stylish merch.                         

Sparrow and his partners, Pete Nguyen and Ian McIntosh, run two taprooms—including one on 68 Avenue. A third is in the works. It’s going to be in the same building as Sea Change’s production facility on 78 Avenue, where thousands of cans are packaged each day. 

While starting any kind of business is full of risks, the three friends didn’t blink. All are longtime musicians.  “If you’re going to invest your life and time and money and effort into something, the music industry is the highest risk possible for you,” says Sparrow. “I was a full-time touring musician for 17 years, so [Sea Change] is nothing in terms of workload or risk or difficulty. It’s all easier comparatively than trying to be an original artist in Canada.”


A man in a jean jacket and black beanie holds up a four-pack of cans in a storage room of kegs and flats of beer.
Jay Sparrow holds up a four-pack of Shiddy’s Wild Peach Pie, created by Sea Change’s sister distillery.


“That’s the way we roll” 

Supporting Edmonton’s music and arts scenes is a large part of Sea Change’s vibe. Ten per cent of all sales of Prairie Fairy, a blueberry wheat ale, are donated to Fruit Loop, a non-profit group dedicated to organizing events for the LGBTQ2S+ community. In 2022, the brewery threw its first music festival, Super Friendly, at Union Hall, and took part in two others.

Sea Change’s newest venture is also connecting with Edmontonians: Shiddy’s Distillery. It’s a line of ready-to-drink vodka beverages, featuring flavours such as Earl Grey tea and wild berries (Ol’ Blooty) and black cherry almond (Nibby Boy). “We're always trying to come up with something that isn't in the market and couldn't be poured by a bartender at a bar,” says Sparrow. 

“It's weird to call your product Shiddy out of the gate, but that's the way we roll. We ran out of all of our products almost instantly and we've been struggling to keep up. Most of it is getting brewed in Calgary right now, because [our Edmonton facility] is kind of maxed-out on beer. Eventually, we'd like to bring it all in-house and do as much as we can in our own building.”


 A trio of beers stand in the middle of a blue circle at the end of a shuffleboard table.
Enjoy some brews and a game of shuffleboard at Bent Stick’s new taproom on 78 Avenue.



Juicebox Hero. Blizzard of Oz. There Will Be Blood Orange. Ariana Grande. 

These are just a few of Bent Stick’s tantalizing concoctions. Owner Ben Rix and his partners offer a rotating roster of IPAs, fruit beers and lagers at their taproom and brewery on 78 Avenue. “We’re always coming up with new stuff every week or two,” he says. 

“That's sort of something we specialize in, maybe more than some other breweries. We originally had seven taps, but we've upped it to 15 and now we can brew a lot more. We've got all sorts of weird stuff on tap now. We like making new recipes, and my business partner, Patrick [Gaudet], is particularly good at it. We find that's also what brings people in the door—they’re always wanting to try something new.”


A man holds a hose and a large squeegee as he stands in front of three silver vessels where beer is fermented.
Ben Rix shows off some of the cellar vessels where Bent Stick’s beer is fermented.


Sharing with friends 

Bent Stick’s location is also new. They opened on Happy Beer Street in 2022, after outgrowing their original spot on Fort Road in north Edmonton. Bent Stick’s owners wanted to be closer to other breweries, and, as it turned out, many of their customers lived in the area. “During COVID, when we were delivering beers to people's houses and we were based on Fort Road, it seemed like half our deliveries were in this neighbourhood,” says Rix. “It's really a spot with people looking to support local—and each other.” 

Community is always on tap at Bent Stick. Since opening in the Old Strathcona/Ritchie area, the brewery has released a lager with Blind Enthusiasm and an IPA with Longroof Brewing, another Happy Beer Street denizen. Bent Stick has also collaborated with The Tea Girl, a local online store, to create Porch Swing Friendly Tea Ale, which recently won an Alberta Beer Award. 

Rix is also quick to offer advice and mentorship to new and aspiring breweries, whether they’re part of Happy Beer Street or in another area of Edmonton. His top tip? Brew one of your recipes at someone else’s brewery a few months before you open your own. That way, you can get your beer on shelves and get the word out about your business. 


“I think the industry attracts people who are pretty easy-going and cooperative, not purely profits-driven,” he says. “It’s kind of like cooking—making something delicious to share with your friends.”