Welcome to The Oasis: A Cold Garden & BassBus Collaborative Refuge
If you’ve ventured to any craft beer related events in the past couple of years, the odds are very decent you’ve come across a quirky little faux grass dancefloor centred around a pool noodle forest. The chances are also good that the aforementioned offbeat little party zone also featured real dynamic music, and high quality affordable craft beers. If you’re like us, it sounds like a little slice of heaven, and it’s the exact vibe Dan Allard and Blake Belding aimed for when they started Cold Garden.
In this day of shrinking profit margins and surging property prices, a new form of venue has emerged to complement traditional food and drink, full service bars and restaurants. Craft breweries and distilleries now dot the commercial and industrial zones in many of Calgary’s slightly more distant suburbs and neighbourhoods, and aside from some licensing-mandated simple food items the formula is streamlined: serve great drinks, entertain your patrons with something kitschy like board games or shuffleboard, and keep the prices reasonable without the budgetary bloat of kitchen staff, food costs and hordes of servers and hosts.
For the majority of this business model, the streamlining becomes literal, and the visual aesthetic and dynamic inside them becomes slick, stylized, branded and pretty darn cool. It’s a great concept, and the continued success of a number of these businesses speaks to its viability. That said, there’s always room for different takes, and if you’ve ever ventured into Cold Garden’s brick and mortar location, you’ll have seen just how quirky and fun those takes can be.
Where some breweries opt for perfect, shining metal tables and chairs, Cold Garden seats people in vintage couches amongst thrift store chic decor. Where other businesses keep their spaces crisp and perfect, Cold Garden invites dog owners in with their pooches and lets their hair down a bit. The casual, low key feel of the place makes it feel like a real common space watering hole, where all walks of life and attitudes are equally likely to turn up and sample high quality craft beer for a reasonable price.
SubText caught up with Cold Garden’s Head of Brewery Operations Dan Allard to talk about not only Cold Garden itself but its upcoming two week series called The Oasis, a five day fully curated collection of top notch Calgary artists, creatives, and all around fun people produced by (ahem) BassBus. Once he and I touch on festival culture in their conversation, the entire ethos of Cold Garden starts to fall into place.
“An event like The Oasis is really awesome because we get to take elements we enjoy from a lot of the big parties and festivals we attend [ed: Bass Coast, Shambhala, Coachella and some far flung events in places like Austria] and bring them to a little neighbourhood in the big city and expose that vibe to a lot of people that might otherwise not see it,” Dan explained. “That’s always resonated with people in this community. They’re always blown away by the space, and it can be really novel for people that haven’t come across the same communities and events we’ve been to. We’ve been trying to expand on that with our events and bring that vibe to everything we do outside of our walls as well.”
So how does it go to try and communicate an aesthetic and ethos that might not be especially recognizable to many of Cold Garden’s patrons? “A lot of the driver behind The Oasis was hard to conceptualize at first,” Dan continues. “We knew the vibe we wanted but it was hard to explain to people. You guys (BassBus) get it right away, but yes, it’s during Stampede and yes it’s an absolute rager time in the city and the atmosphere is electric, but what we’re trying to provide is a different, chill vibe. There’s an amazing music lineup, but it’s not necessarily the focal point. It’s present and it’s going to be good, but this is still a space where people can just come and chill in an environment that’s completely unique to what else is going on in the city.”
That’s a feeling that resonates with us here at BassBus, and it’s led to many fun and exciting collaborations in the past already. Our contribution has been to produce the music and lighting and other technical aspects needed for this model of laid-back, different attitudes, and to curate a musical lineup to encourage dancing and connection. That said, Dan and Blake and the entire Cold Garden staff themselves bring a special vibe that can’t be reproduced any other way.
The series of days is designed to actively encourage engagement and participation from as many aspects of the city as possible, just like the ethos of Cold Garden itself. Dan speaks to that desire to embrace the entire community around the venue. “We’ve got a drag day happening for example. It’s not necessarily one big show where there’s winners or anything, we’re just literally inviting a bunch of drag artists to feel comfortable cruising around in our space and it will be coined as our welcoming day for drag. It’s not necessarily a big hurrah or big pointed moment, but more of a vibe happening throughout the day. We’re doing the same thing with our Ro-doggyo, where people dress up their dogs in western gear and hang out with them at the brewery. The whole weekend is meant to be juxtaposed with these other types of things happening that are a big competition or focal point, whereas what we are encouraging is just people to literally dress their dogs up and have fun with them, or whatever.”
The fun begins Friday, July 5 at 2 pm, and continues through the entirety of Stampede. As a fan of BassBus, quality music, and conscious people, you’ll most definitely feel at home there, so don’t deny yourself. Rip that bike down to Inglewood after whatever Stampede shenanigans you find yourself engaged in, and cool it off with a nightcap in one of Calgary’s chillest, connective-est spots to be.