The opening of a second Bellwoods Brewery location in Toronto has been something of a long saga, but on December 17th, the ability to buy their much sought-after beer in another locale became a reality when they opened the doors of a production-focused facility at 20 Hafis Road.
Toronto beer enthusiasts will recall that the beer-making darlings of the Ossington Strip first announced a proposed second location way back in August of 2014, but the proposed site number two was slated for 950 Dupont Street in the former Hamilton Gear and Machine building.
But then there was the pesky and annoying possibility that said second location would be unable to sell bottled beer thanks to a weird rule in the province’s liquor legislation.
That arbitrary 25,000 hectolitre rule was, thankfully, one of the few things changed as part of Ontario’s profoundly lacklustre “revamping” of our liquor laws that came into force on Canada Day of 2016, and so presumably the stage was set for Bellwoods to soon have two bottle shops.
And yet, the beer drinking public continued to wait.
Finally, in March of 2016, the Bellwoods team made an announcement, but it wasn’t news about 950 Dupont, rather a decision, thanks to what they called “landlord delays,” to go ahead and open this third/second/whatever location at 20 Hafis Road.
While they’ve been hard at work putting the final polish on this new location the past few weeks (as well as brewing and bottling a fantastic batch of Farmafuckingeddon) I managed to chat recently with Bellwoods cofounder Mike Clark about the new space and what increased capacity will mean for the future of the brewery.
Ben’s Beer Blog: What’s the size of the brewhouse?
Mike Clark: 30BBL – Three vessels, with space for a dedicated whirlpool in the future should we choose to add it.
BBB: How big is the “non-brewing” space at the new facility. I know it’s not a pub, but there’s a tasting area, right?
MC: The non-brewing space includes the retail store and tasting room area, which I’d ballpark at about 750 square feet.
BBB: Will there be full pints available at this space?
MC: We have four taps in the tasting/retail area. We have a “by the glass endorsement” from the AGCO that allows us to pour up to 12 oz glasses.
BBB: Is there food?
MC: We have no kitchen at Hafis Road. The only food available at the moment are pre-packaged snacks like chips etc. Partnering with food trucks or caterers for special events in future is an option.
BBB: So how many bottles will be in the fridge now? Is Bellwoods at, like “never run out of beer again” capacity?
MC: We should not run out of beer at either of our retail stores again. The goal is to always a have a balanced offering, year round at the brewpub and in both retail stores.
BBB: What kind of hours will this retail space have?
MC: Regular hours start January 4th and will be 12pm-9pm Wednesday-Saturday and 12pm-6pm on Sunday. We’ll be closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday.
MC: More than anything I think people will notice improved variety year round on tap and in the bottle shops. The barrel-aged releases, for example, have been very hard to keep available or do in decent quantities for the last four years. Not to say Cherry Farmageddon will be available more than once or twice a year, but we’ve grown (and will continue to grow) our barrel program significantly. We bottled Grandma’s Boy 2017 about six weeks ago (along with another hit from the past) and that should be out mid February. We’ll also be able to do more barrel microblends for the Ossington brewpub tap list. While the Hafis Rd. brewery has a large farmhouse and wild ale focus, we’ll be brewing through a rotation of our favourite hoppy beers, stouts, and porters as well. This frees up tank space at Ossington for things we’ve been forced to neglect in the last few years. We’ve always wanted to have our dry hopped pils on tap regularly at the Ossington brewpub and we’re starting to make it again, which is fun.
In terms of packaging, we wanted to invest in one high-quality bottling line as opposed to spreading our budget to two formats. We do a lot of bottle conditioning and styles that require heavier glass (for higher carbonation levels), so bottling is something we had to focus on. We’d like to be able to can our hoppy beers some day. One step at a time.
BBB: Can we expect to see Bellwoods in other retail environments any time soon (i.e. the LCBO)?
MC: No real decision on that at the moment. Despite the size of our tanks we’re ramping up production very slowly, and doing a lot of slow beers in the bigger tanks. We could imagine doing releases of seasonal or specialty beers to the LCBO at some point in the future. We get a lot of inquiries from importers in other provinces and countries and we’ll be exploring those opportunities as well.
BBB: Lastly, what the heck is going on with 950 Dupont?
MC: The project has been delayed for the last 18 months while the landlord of the building reconfigures tenant areas and prepares to renovate. The landlord has a huge amount of work to do to the building before we can even start our work. It’s out of our hands at the moment. Our guess is it will be a minimum of a year before Bellwoods will even be doing any work in that building. In the meantime we’ll be focusing on improving everything we do at Hafis Rd. and Ossington.