Airdrie's first micro-brewery has announced plans to close up shop at the end of April, after more than five years of pouring pints for local patrons.
Fitzsimmons Brewing Company, located in the East Lake Industrial Park, announced via its website and social media channels this week that it would be serving its final glasses of beer on April 29.
“It’s now time to begin a new chapter,” the post stated.
“The amount of thanks and gratitude we have is insurmountable. We will always cherish, not just what our team has created, but what all of us have built as a community.”
Located on East Lake Road NE since 2017, Fitzsimmons was the first micro-brewery to set up shop in Airdrie, during a craft beer boom throughout Alberta following the deregulation of the brewing industry in 2014.
Business founder and owner Cody Fitzsimmons said the decision to close the brewery stemmed from his own shift in interest toward creating different kinds of beverages rather than beer.
“It’s been five and a half good years – it just felt like it was coming to a natural conclusion,” he said.
“For me personally, one thing I developed during the pandemic was that I started doing mixed beverages and hard seltzers. That’s something I want to pursue going forward. Just with the way the company is going and everything else, it doesn’t make sense to keep this thing going. I’d rather pivot and go do my own thing.”
After opening in 2017, Fitzsimmons quickly became known for its East Lake Amber Ale, which won the brewery an award at the 2018 Alberta Beer Awards. According to Fitzsimmons, it was an accolade that gave Airdrie's first brewery immediate legitimacy.
“Especially in Airdrie, that’s our number-one beer we sell,” he said. “Anywhere from Old Town to the legion, you can find it on tap. It definitely is a cult fan-favourite. Maybe if one of the other breweries wants to pick up that mantle, we could definitely share the recipe and see if we could keep that going.”
Fitzsimmons paved the way for three other craft breweries to open in Airdrie in the years afterwards, including Balzac Brewing Company in Coopers Town Promenade, 948 Brewing Company off of Kingsview Boulevard, and Atlas Brewing Company in Kingsview Market.
Asked if the local craft beer market was perhaps becoming saturated, Fitzsimmons denied that argument. He said if anything, Airdrie's four breweries tend to collaborate with, prop up, and even celebrate each other and their achievements.
As an example of that local collaboration, the Airdrie breweries tend to brew and sell a beer together every summer. Last year's collaboration was called the 'Last 4 Exits' – a play on both the number of highway exits and breweries in town.
“I think what’s really great about having a brewery in the community is that everyone has their own niche and everyone does their own thing,” Fitzsimmons said. “We’ve actually always worked really well together. If anything, the more the merrier. The more breweries that open up, the more people get introduced to craft beer. I think we all actually benefit from that.”
Over in the southeast corner of the city, fellow Airdrie brewer Kyle Wudrich agreed with Fitzsimmons' comments. The brew master and co-founder of 948 Brewing Company said on Tuesday afternoon he was still processing the news that Fitzsimmons Brewing will be closing in just seven weeks.
“It sucks losing literally one of our own,” he said. “Without Cody’s help, we couldn’t have even gotten started. He helped us brew beers and get cans out when we were developing our own space.”
Wudrich agreed there is still plenty of room for growth of Airdrie's craft beer scene.
“We’re definitely not over-saturated,” he said. “Based on our population, we have a lot of room to grow here in Airdrie, and there will be another [brewery] coming at some point. But it sucks to lose one now.”
While the Fitzsimmons staff sells off the brewery's equipment and assets in the next several weeks, Fitzsimmons noted the business will be starting its final hurrah on the weekend of March 31 and April 1 – a celebration that, perhaps ironically, will double as the brewery's delayed five-year anniversary.
“It was very important to us to give everyone a big old heads-up that we’d made this decision,” he said. “We didn’t want to just close up and call it a day. Both in March and April, we'll have our comedy shows and name-that-tune. At the end of March, we’re going to do a five-year anniversary party, which is a long time coming. I think we’re half a year late on that.”
Since announcing the brewery's upcoming closure, Fitzsimmons said customers have been reaching out to express sadness that the facility won't be around in Airdrie anymore. In addition to their beer offerings, the brewery also became known for hosting live comedy and other weekend entertainment options.
Sadness is the feeling Fitzsimmons said he shares as well.
“I definitely want to convey the thanks I have for everyone in the community who has helped make this place what it is,” he said. “That’s the sadness I feel – not being able to hang out there on a Friday night for name-that-tune…that’s the part that’s sad for me.
“But there comes a natural point when it’s time to move on.”