[attach]4796[/attach]The Junction, which remained dry from 1904 to 1998, is about to get wetter as two new brewing companies are calling the neighbourhood home.
The first: Junction Craft Brewing, whose owner Tom Paterson, a self-proclaimed history buff, says he’s always been interested in the community’s past.
“The fact that it was dry for so long … is just a pretty crazy story. I think it’s a pretty unique situation,” he says at his warehouse near Pacific Avenue and Dundas Street West. “So I always thought that was fascinating, especially to have a beer company that is based in that same neighborhood is kind of a great story.”
Paterson’s company will be rolling out their first and signature Conductor’s Craft Ale, which is named in part after all the notable railroad tracks in the area and their industrial ties, at several bars this month including The Dizzy and The Local on Roncesvalles Avenue and The Mugshot Tavern on Bloor Street West.
Paterson first met his brew master, Doug Pengelly, at The Paddock Tavern, which he used to own, when he started carrying one of Pengelly’s lagers and he would personally come and deliver the beer.
“We always kind of talked about, you know, one day when I’m not doing this restaurant thing I’d love to get together and start a brewery,” Paterson says. “Literally when I sold my last restaurant I called him and he said ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ ”
He adds that between the two of them he knew that Pengelly could make really good beer and that he had enough contacts from over 20 years in the service industry to get it sold in enough bars to establish themselves.
[attach]4797[/attach]For starters they are contract brewing out of Wellington Brewery in Guelph, but aim to have their own brewery in the Junction, which will also have a retail component. Paterson also wants the beer to be available in the LCBO this spring.
Unlike mass-produced beer, he says craft beer is brewed with more natural ingredients and it isn’t pasteurized.
“It means that our turnover is higher so we’re brewing more often in smaller batches so it’s fresher, so it tastes better,” he says. “Ultimately pretty much anyone who has our beer on tap, the oldest they’re ever going to try it is going to be three weeks out of the fermenter.”
Paterson says Pengelly wanted to create a beer with a hop complexity that would change as it warmed up but was balanced enough so that people could drink more than one in a row.
“We don’t want to make something that is really going to turn a lot of people off, but it’s got to have enough complexity that it’s enough for the kind of beer geek,” Paterson explains.
The second addition set to join the neighbourhood is Indie Alehouse Brewing Company, which is under construction at 2876 Dundas Street West.
Owner Jason Fisher says that on top of being a small craft brewery, it will also have a restaurant with artisan food and a retail store.
Although he hopes to be up and running within the next four to six weeks, beer fans don’t have to wait quite as long to taste some of his brew as he will be sampling it throughout Toronto Beer Week, which runs Sept. 16–24.
When he does open the restaurant, Fisher plans on having five or six house beers on tap, which are currently being brewed out of Niagara College, as well as a few guest taps for microbreweries from around Ontario.
“We’re going to make beers that are a little more adventurous, a little extra flavour, so they won’t be for everyone and that’s completely fine with us,” he says. “It’s kind of the model that a lot of breweries in the States have followed and that’s kind of what I follow.”
Even though he hasn’t locked into the name yet, he is potentially calling one of his beers Instigator Ale.
“It’s a little bit of an aggressive beer, but also the west coast style (India Pale Ale) was one of the main beers that started the craft beer revolution,” he says. “It looks kind of like a regular lager or a light beer and it tastes nothing like that, it really kind of surprises people.
“So Instigator has a little bit of a double meaning. I like it because of the aggressive meaning. It warns people this beer is not for people who are timid.”
Fisher first started brewing beer when he was in grade 10 for a science project and says he continued doing it as a hobby over the last two decades and even took several brewing courses along the way.
While he worked in sales and marketing, he says he kept thinking of the day he would start his own company.
“I’ve had a pretty good education on business, marketing, entrepreneurial forethought into doing this and the time came to either do it or don’t,” he says. “Stop dreaming of it or just do it.”
Since moving to the Junction 15 years ago Fisher says he’s noticed it has undergone a big transformation and that he can’t wait to be a part of it. He says he likes that it’s filled with mom and pop type shops instead of chain stores.
“People are really friendly and helpful. It’s a very, very good community,” he says. “It’s a really good fit for the stuff I want to do.”
Although Fisher agrees that the area’s history is interesting, he says it also came with an extra bit of hassle.
“You have to go get a letter that says the area you are brewing in is no longer dry and there are no longer any dry areas in the city,” he says. “But the fact that the letter exists is because of this area.”