By Scott Zielsdorf
Upon stepping into the Grizzlar, one is immediately met with a welcoming and intimate cafe space as well as the unmistakable scent of freshly roasted coffee. The cafe located just north of MacEwan campus on 109 St is both a craft coffee bar and a growing musical culture hub in the Edmonton downtown core, making it a unique destination in the area.
Owner and operator Drew McIntosh say it’s not just a coffee business for him.
“It’s a space where people are coming and using it to do other things that are community-facing, which I really love,” said McIntosh.
McIntosh’s motivation with his business has always been to keep his coffee intentionally focused, with a strong emphasis on fostering community.
“There’s coffee, and then there’s coffee that does something,” he said.
The Grizzlar hosts multiple community-based music events, from all-ages rock shows to hip hop production open jam sessions, all celebrating innovative music, artists and culture in the Edmonton area. McIntosh says it’s an excellent chance for people to get into seeing a show and experience that musical subculture.
“It’s an opportunity for community engagement, and to build communities as we go. That’s what we try to produce here,” he said.
“This is a different way to enjoy music, it’s something we’re working on, and it’s a lot of fun – and also that it’s open to youth, it’s a good mixer for the community.”
The business also has a small side focus on a tightly curated collection of vinyl records, primarily rock music.
Of course, you can’t have a successful cafe space without coffee, and it’s in that regard that the Grizzlar thrives. The business prides itself on roasting their own coffee right in the back of the store. McIntosh says the shop started as an economical means to support their creative work but to do that they first had to focus solely on coffee.
“I feel good about everything we’ve done, and I feel good about [basically] every batch we’ve done. We’ve really done a good job of figuring out who we are in the coffee world,” said McIntosh.
They begin the process with ethically and responsibly sourced green coffee beans from various countries in the developing world. The goal is to find a coffee that has been sourced with an element of “human autonomy” in the growing process. McIntosh says there’s been a shift in the coffee world where now the communities that produce coffee beans can claim the resource for themselves, a contrast from the trades colonial days.
“There’s this concept of autonomy, and if this is what is helping these people we want to buy into it,” he said.
Being able to back up their product with knowledge is also very important to the Grizzlar team. Every label is packed full of information regarding the origin of the beans and other fine details on their coffee blends.
McIntosh and his partner Suzy are former punk rockers turned coffee experts, having both spent time receiving master training in Florence, Italy before beginning the entirely DIY coffee project.
The name “The Grizzlar” is a reference to a new breed of bears resulting from recently intersecting territories of grizzly and polar bears. McIntosh says it’s the idea of combining two distinct things – coffee and music culture to make something entirely new and unique.
“There’s all kinds of people who feel at home here, and that’s something really special. We’ve met a lot of people in the last year who are now just completely apart of our experience, and it all starts with roasting this coffee.”