If you’ve been paying any sort of attention to craft beer in Canada for the past decade or so, you already know the name Luc “Bim” Lafontaine.
Bim started working at Montreal’s famed Dieu du Ciel! Microbrasserie in 2001, became the head brewer in 2007, and made a name for himself making beers that were fairly universally considered among Canada’s, if not the world’s, best.
He’s known as something of a “brewer’s brewer” if there is a such a thing, and has earned a level of respect in the industry such that Hill Farmstead gets excited when he stops by to do a collab.
Bim recently left Canada to embark on a new adventure when he had an opportunity to head to Japan to launch a brewery and, I think he had hoped, to help build up that country’s small but growing craft beer scene. Now Bim has returned to Canada and it has been something like a poorly kept secret among Toronto beer nerds that he has been searching for the right space and the right people with whom to start a brewery in Toronto. That long search (which astute beer nerds like me have been trying to monitor without being too nosy) has been both a testament to the kind of person and brewer Bim is as much as it has been a means by which the anticipation has grown exponentially as his search continued.
What I mean is, if you ever have the good fortune to meet Bim, you’ll learn very quickly that the dude is capital P Passionate about beer and as he’s held out for “the right fit” it’s only made the wait more interesting.
To give you some idea about what I’m talking about, consider this: I spoke with Bim once a few months ago at a chance encounter at Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery and he made it clear that he wouldn’t be “settling” and that there would be no brewery or brew pub until the circumstances were right for him. In fact, he told me, during his ongoing search it was not an uncommon occurrence that someone with money would realize who Bim was (i.e. a realtor or developer or property owner would Google him and discover his brewing pedigree) and would virtually immediately offer to go into business with him–essentially offering to back him financially since a brewery with Bim at the helm must surely be a money maker. Bim turned down all these offers because he didn’t want to start a brewery with someone who was only in it for the money and he continued to opt instead to wait until he found partners whose passion for beer matched his own.
Did I fall in beer-love with Bim a little bit that evening? It’s possible. There was a lot of Farmaggedon being consumed. It was a magical evening.
But now that you know not only the kind of beers Bim is capable of making but also the kind of dude Bim is, hopefully you can appreciate the magnitude of what I’m about to tell you, patient readers: Luc Bim Fontaine has found partners and has commenced building a brew pub in Toronto’s east end.
After a long search for the right supporters, Bim has partnered with his brother as well as the folks behind Shawinigan, Quebece’s Microbrasserie Le Trou du Diable (…and I’ll give you a second to cheer aloud as the idea of this beer nerd fantasy team-up sinks in.)
The space is located at 242 Coxwell Avenue (Coxwell & Gerard) in Toronto’s Upper Beaches and is 6000 square feet.
I spoke to Bim about the long search and how he knew he finally had the key ingredients in place to pull the trigger. “I tried to not put too much pressure on myself,” he says. “Just being patient and believing that something good would happen at the right moment was my attitude. It took a while but it’s finally happening. My brother and Trou du Diable’s addition was a great suprise that brought a lot of joy in my heart.” Indeed! And presumably it will bring much joy to the hearts of East-end beer fans to learn that a new brewery is being constructed about a kilometre from Left Field Brewery.
Almost 3000 square feet of the space will be used for the brewery floor, which will house a 20 hectolitre system. Bim says his target production for the first year will be about 1200 hectolitres, but the brewery he hopes to set up will handle about 2800 hectolitres if they need to expand production.
The rest of the space will house a 140-seat brewpub which Bim tells me will include “a small unpretentious kitchen and beer-to-go retail store.” He added, “It should be fun,” as I awkwardly tried to hide my beer boner.
I asked if there were any particular style that he hoped to focus on and he said only, “Let’s just say I have lots of fresh ideas. I’m thirsty and I want to have fun.” As for timelines, Bim says he would be surprised if the as-yet-unamed brewpub isn’t open before the end of 2016.