Brewing Up Community Engagement

Part 2 of a series exploring local craft brewers' contribution to resilient communities

The Publican House Brewery

Craft brewers are renegades. Why? They are the intrepid Davids of beer making, challenging the mighty Goliaths of national and international brewing with tiny batches of additive-free (and sometimes exotic) lagers, pilsners, wheat beers, ales, porters and stouts. Of course, they are committed to brewing top quality beer. And they strive to be sources of pride for their communities. But they won’t compromise. They build all this quality and pride their way. They want to grow, but only in ways that are sustainable for their communities. They all recognize the importance of reducing costs, but they buy locally and create local jobs because they know the health of their community economies drives their own success.

The eight craft brewers at the June 20 Kawartha Craft Beer Festival in Peterborough are defiantly local in their goals for their businesses. They all want to grow, but only within the context of their current communities. Vince Castronovo, co-owner of the Bobcaygeon Brewing Company is a strong advocate for local growth. Vince said, “We want to be a good local citizen and we want to support our community. We love this town and this part of Ontario. As we grow we want to employ more local people; that’s really important to us.”

The eight craft brewers at the June 20 Kawartha Craft Beer Festival in Peterborough are defiantly local in their goals for their businesses. They all want to grow, but only within the context of their current communities.

This desire to grow is tempered by a commitment to stability and sustainability. According to John Graham, owner of Church-Key Brewery in Campbellford, “We’ve been making roughly the same quantity of beer for the last 10 or 12 years; we don’t want to expand, we don’t want to become the next Sleemans.” Sustainable growth is also a priority for Sean Walpole of the William Street Beer Company in Cobourg, “Quality, service and branding are really important in such a crowded market. Start small and grow organically.”

These entrepreneurs support their local communities through their businesses in fascinating ways. Jack Doak, owner of the Old Flame Brewing Co. in Port Perry, recounts how his brewery promotes local food producers, “Our spent grains are picked up by a local sheep farmer, the lamb meat then goes to a local butcher, the butcher cooks the lamb in our Brunette Lager, then he makes the most delicious lamb-lager pies. We do a similar thing with a local bakery where they pick up our spent grains and they make a spent-grain bread. We also have the best butter tarts in Port Perry down at the Pantry Shelf Cafe & Bakery; we now have an Old Flame Butter Tart that is infused with our Brunette Lager.”

The Publican House Brewery in Peterborough has a similar arrangement that helps local farmers and food producers. Marketing director Kim Cranfield describes her brewery’s Square Nail Project (Square Nail Ale is the Publican’s premium IPA): “We did a pig roast two years ago on our patio. A farmer (Mike Bohm of Hawthorne Ridge Farm) took the mash we produce, fed it to his pigs, so these pigs were raised on Square Nail mash then they were sent to Primal Cuts butchers, where they prepared the meat, then we had the pig roast and they also sold this pork from their store. So it’s us helping the farmer, helping Primal Cuts which helped us, so we all worked together to help each other succeed.”

For Dan Beaudoin of Boshkung Brewery in Minden, brewing and selling local beer means promoting local food as well. “We try to get a lot of local fare in our retail store. We also have a restaurant upstairs called the Rhubarb where we get local meats and veggies when they are around, and we also host a market on our property.”

Craft beer even gets made into soap. According to Daniel Almeida, co-owner of Manantler Brewery in Bowmanville, “We hooked up with an artisan soap maker, she makes a soap with our beer; we promote her soaps in our store.”

All of these breweries try to source as much of their ingredients and supplies locally whenever possible. For Kim of the The Publican House Brewery, sourcing locally is a business goal: “We try as much as we can to source locally but sometimes it is not possible. Hops are very difficult to find and they are running out (in Ontario) so we get ours from the West Coast. There are lots of local farmers who are looking at growing hops, but it takes a few years to build up the quantities that we need.  So once that local source is available, we would like to shift to that.  We try to get our merchandise locally, even if it is more expensive. That’s important for us.”

A few of the larger craft brewers build relationships with their communities through hosting arts and entertainment events. Randy Smith, owner of Smithworks Brewing Company says that “Some weeks, we have about five or six events. Last week the United Way was there, we’ve had the Rotary Club, chess clubs, and a bunch of doctors are coming in for an event soon. We bring in caterers to serve food. We use local businesses for the catering; for example, recently we had a mobile wood-burning pizza oven come in for a party.”

Some brewers provide space for community events and family celebrations. Jack Doak at the Old Flame Brewery in Port Perry runs jam sessions with local musicians: “We have a large tasting room, that doubles as an event centre which becomes a local venue for small weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties, and Kitchen Jam parties with local music on Saturday afternoons. So the place is packed with beer drinkers.” Good for the musicians, good for the beer enthusiasts and good for business and of course, good for the community.

The Publican House Brewery has set up fund raising co-sponsorships with the Rotarians and the Canadian Canoe Museum. Kim says,“We have a Roaring Rotarian Ale, so we rebranded and relabelled one of our award-winning beers; it is in Rotary-labelled cans and is currently available just at our retail store. We are looking to expand into the Beer Store eventually. A portion of the sales goes back to Rotary International; a portion to the Rotary Club of Peterborough and a portion goes to the Rotary club that purchases the beer. So we are getting a lot of Rotary clubs across Ontario who buy the beer for their events. They can use it for fundraising then we donate a portion back to them as well. We give back as much as we can without losing money in the process.

“We also have a similar project with the Canadian Canoe Museum,” Kim adds. “The beer is called William English Ale (another one of the Publican’s beers is re-branded for this campaign) and a portion of the sales goes back to the Canoe Museum to support their move down to the Lift Lock. We try to do as much as we can to support projects we believe in for the local community.”

These craft brewers not only do business in their communities, they build business wherever they are and however they can.  In the next post, we’ll share the lessons learned by these craft brewers on how they do business.

Part 1:
Ontario’s Craft Brewers: Building Communities One Pint at a Time

Part 3
Community is Part of the Blend: How Craft Brewers Do Business

Brewers interviewed (and beers sampled) for this blog series

(Click on any brewer’s logo to visit their website.)

Smithworks Brewing CompanyThe Publican House Brewery Bobcayeon Brewing Company Boshkung Brewing Co.

Church Key BrewingManantler Craft Brewing Co. Old Flame Brewing Co.William Street Beer Co.