In the craft beer world, opinions about the merits of contract brewing are pretty varied.
Without wading into the debate (again), I do want to discuss one thing that I think virtually everyone takes a disliking too, and that’s when a contract brewer or brewing company attempts to be dishonest about where it is that their beer is actually made.
Frankly, I don’t know why people think it benefits them to claim they own an actual brewery when they don’t (whether they claim this explicitly or implicitly), but there is a trend as of late for some “brewers” to be shady about where it is that their malt actually meets water before they slap a label on the beer and try to sell it to the world. Most brewing companies are, of course, happy to tell you where their beer is made (I asked a lot of them for this article and they answered me), but there are still some that are less-than-forthcoming about it. Given that I’m a big proponent of transparency when it comes to the brewing, production, and marketing of beer in this province, I thought I’d add simply a little more clarity to the issue today.
In collaboration with Chris Burek, the artist formerly known as Mom n’ Hops who runs the highly informative website Ontario Beer Network, I’ve created the chart below that lists all of the province’s active contract brewers, along with the “host” brewery where they actually brew their beer. I don’t think this should be all that contentious, frankly, because people simply like to know (and should be easily able to discern) where the beer they’re drinking is actually brewed.
So, for those of you who didn’t know, now you do.
|Host Brewery||Contract Brewers|
|Cool Brewing Co.||Liberty Village Brewing Co.
Longslice Brewing Co.
Ontario Beer Co.
Spearhead Brewing Co.
Woodhouse Brewing Co.
Kensington Brewing Co.
|Wellington Brewery||Double Trouble Brewing Co.
Arch Brewing Co.
Sweetgrass Brewing Co.
Stouffville Brewing Co.
HogsBack Brewing Co.
Junction Craft Brewing*
|Great Lakes Brewery||Triple Bogey Brewing Co.
Cheetah International Breweries Inc.
|Black Oak Brewing Co.||Cheshire Valley Brewing
Radical Road Brewing Co.
|Grand River Brewing||Bamboo Beer Co.|
|Nickel Brook Brewing||Collective Arts Brewing
Bush Pilot Brewing Co.
|Innocente Brewing Co.||Shacklands Brewery
Clifford Brewing Co.
|Big Rig||Gongshow Beauty Beer
Old Tomorrow Ltd.
HogsBack Brewing Co.
|Niagara College’s Teaching Brewery||Shillow Beer Co.
Outlaw Brew Co.
|Durham Brewing||C’est What|
|Stratford Brewing||Draft Dodgers Brewery|
|Broadhead Brewing Company||Turtle Island Brewing Co.
HogsBack Brewing Co.
|Hockley Valley||Midland Beer Works|
|Forked River Brewery||Beer Lab London|
|Railway City Brewing||The Hamilton Brewery
Descendants Beer & Beverage Co.
Underdogs Brewhouse Inc.
|Trafalgar Brewing Company||Black Creek Historic Brewery*|
*these breweries brew some of their beer at other sites but also have their own breweries
Photo credit: Jesse Milns
36 thoughts on “Where is your beer brewed?”
Not 100% on this but Kensington may have been at Cool for the last while?
Yep. I updated the table. Thanks!
Follow up question for those breweries allowing contractors to use their space (in exchange for cash of course): do they ever have a crisis of conscience about letting sub-par beer to be made on their premises? Example: does a brewery with a reputation for experimental ales ever think to themselves “hmm, I hope no-one finds out we brew a pretty boring lager here for someone else”?
It’s not an Ontario brewery (yet) but Big Rock did that a few years ago. The Calgary plant had several discount brands being produced for other labels. Then, one day, the company cut them all off and scaled back a lot of their own less interesting beers. They drastically cut overall production to focus on core brands and new, experimental labels.
Nice list, definitely still more to add. Some small breweries that brew some beers for selling at the brewery still contract out their larger / flagship labels that they distribute.
Fill me in on some we’re missing! Happy to update the list as we go along.
Add ciders too
So overjoyed Ben was able to keep this post family-friendly 🙂
Yes, a Ben Johnson blog with multiple F-bombs. That’s worth a beer or two. 😉
Sorry, ‘without’ the F-bombs. Great blog, Ben. Good to know
Doesn’t Junction Craft brew some of their canned goods offsite?
Yep. I added them (It’s Wellington by the way) and I added an asterisk for brewers like them who only brew some brands at another facility but have their own breweries.
it’s very interesting to look at this from a BC perspective because out here we only have two contract breweries: Canuck Empire and Fuggles & Warlock. They’re both brewed at Dead Frog. I’d say there’s definitely a stigma associated with it here in BC. Dead frog also brewed Steamworks’ beer when it was building its new brewery.
Very comprehensive list! Not sure if he still does, but wasn’t Shacklands brewed out of Junction for quite some time?
Where is Left Field brewing, until their own place is up and running?
They were brewing at Barley Days in Picton and Grand River in Cambridge, but their brewery is operational: http://www.leftfieldbrewery.ca/news/two-new-beers-both-brewed-right-here-in-our-very-own-brewery
Thanks Ben. I didn’t know LFB is now up and running. Good on them!
What i’d also love to know is how many of these contract brewers actually have someone on site at the larger breweries on a daily/weekly basis performing real brewing duties as opposed to renting space, handing off a recipe and hoping for the best.
Its always a personal choice; but my $ goes to the small hands on guys with passion and ambition to actually brew their own. Its not always doable but as long as that is what drives them; all good by me.
I have a hard time differentiating some of them from macros as far as marketing and strategy. They are my last resort; aside from water.
Drink deep – and drink often!
Where is UnderDogs from Oshawa brewed at? They claim it be durhams craft beer but don’t brew at thier keg storage site.
They’re listed here. They brew at Railway City in St Thomas.
On thier door to “Underdogs Brewhouse” unit it says ” Durham’s” craft beer. First they are not a brew house nor is ST Thomas in Durham. Guess they are one of the shady.
I’m sure if you asked them, they’d be happy to give you the details. It’s entirely possible they’d like to open a brewery in Durham, but don’t yet have the funding and are brewing in St. Thomas in the interim. It’s dangerous to start assuming business practices are shady without chatting with folks. Kensington Brewing Company doesn’t yet brew in Kensington Market, Liberty Village Brewing Co. doesn’t brew in Liberty Village. It’s not always so easy to just up and build a brewery in your “home” neighbourhood.
Just a BTW, but got to meet the Underdog guys on beer cruise in Toronto last September, and the guys were very pleasant and knowledgeable, and very upfront about not having a brewery of their own yet….before my second beer from them i knew they were brewing at Railway, still too new/not enough capital to open their own site…..seems like they’re definitely on the up-and-up, and the heffe was awesome 🙂
Outlaw Brewpub in Southampton is brewed at Niagara I believe.
Yes, they do. I thought they were on here. I’ll add them. Thanks for the heads up.
Doesn’t BRICK BREWING brew for anyone ? (Presidents Choice) ..
I think Brick just owns a bunch of brands. It’s not really a contract situation. Brick makes President’s Choice beer, as well as Waterloo Brewing Co., Red Cap, Formosa Springs, Red Baron, and a bunch of vodka coolers, too.
Barn Door isn’t contract brewing at King – it’s a partner brand owned by the same parent company. I wrote a bit about it on CBN last summer:
Right. I’ve gotten twisted by semantics. Provincial Beverages of Canada Inc. brew the King branded beers and the Barn Door Beverage Company branded beers in Nobleton, Ontario.”
So King and Barn Door are both PBC beers. And since they’re owned by PBC and not contractors, I’ll yank them from this list. Thanks for your studiousness, Clow.
So that’s like 35+ contract breweries. The Ontario Craft Brewers’ newsletter said there were 100 breweries in Ontario as of the end of 2014 – 75 with actual breweries and 25 being contract brewed. Is the discrepancy just poor reporting on their part of are they only talking about their own members?
The OCB only has 46 members.
There are about 170 open breweries in Ontario, (including contractors and nanobrewers) according to Chris Burek’s comprehensive Ontario Brewer’s Directory. http://www.momandhops.ca/brewery-listing/
Make what you will of the inaccuracies in the OCB newsletter.
Excellent piece Ben, Thanks. One thing – the asterisk, if you brew 99.999% of your beer off site, and the rest at ‘your location’ its not that some of your beer is made elsewhere, almost all of it is. If on the other hand you are opening or open, have to move locations or close down to expand etc and brew off site for the interim, thats completely different. Many craft breweries have and will do this. A one time shifting of work, and claiming to be a brewing company when you don’t make any of “your” beer, are two different things.
Also, why no “motherfuckers” in the piece, going soft? I always thought it was a good way to ensure age-appropriate readership.
Q1: Manitoulin Brewing Company (not to be confused with Split Rail Brewing Company) is very cagey about where their first shipment of Swingbridge Blonde Ale is being brewed. Their press releases make it sound like they have their own brewery on Manitoulin Island, but they don’t. Who really brews their beer?
Q2: can contract brewers sell at festivals this year (2015)? If not, what law(s) prevent them?
Q3: are contract Brewers allowed to have distribution centres, or must their product be transported directly from manufacturer to the bars/customers of the contract brewer?
Wonder how much this has changed in a year and a half.