By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
There are beer lovers, and then there are craft beer lovers.
If you are one of the latter group, Drew Macklin has a treat for you – the Ontario Brewery Club, which he and three friends (cofounders Derek Munroe, Jeff Bellamy and Mike LaRiviere) launched in April.
“What we have created is a club where people become members and get a monthly subscription. They get beer shipped directly from different craft breweries throughout the province,” Macklin said in a recent interview.
There are about 300 Ontario breweries, he pointed out, so that’s a lot of potential.
The craft beer mystique is something very important to Macklin, as one of the partners in the William Street Beer Co.
“The difference is, commercial beer is brewed on a large scale and they have extensive marketing and it’s made with lower-quality ingredients to keep their margins,” Macklin said.
“All big commercial breweries use maybe 40 ingredients and some rice.”
Craft beers, on the other hand, rely on four basic all-natural ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast.
“It’s a much healthier product – no preservatives, no chemicals, small batches locally distributed.”
In the case of William Street, there’s also the local element. Their hops come from Bickle Farm on Dale Road and their barley from Prince Edward County.
As for the water, that’s Lake Ontario water.
“We break it down to make sure it’s the way we want, but it makes great beer. Great Lakes water makes incredible beer.”
Even the yeast has an artisanal element, as they can sometimes re-use it – much as home bakers trade starters back and forth among themselves.
Sometimes a craft brewery will have a name that has a meaning to the local community. Church-Key Brewing Company began in a former church in Petherick’s Corners, for example. William Street went into business in a former gas station on – you guessed it – William Street.
It’s on Elgin Street now, in expanded premises that include a taproom where you can sit at the bar or a table and sample the goods (with a small kitchen that offers snacks). You can watch the beer being brewed and stop by the walk-in cooler to select varieties to take home.
Along with maybe 20 standard varieties, Macklin said, they have seasonal favourites like an orange creamsicle variety for summer or an ice hole stout for winter.
The story of William Street is a unique and interesting one, and probably every craft brewery could tell a similar story of its own.
Craft breweries often approach the restaurants in their communities, but sometimes even the big franchise restaurants may be agreeable to setting aside two or three of their taps for local craft beer.
A real craft beer aficionado knows this – it makes it easy, as he or she travels around, to stop for lunch and ask, “What’s the local craft beer?” If they really like it, they may go the extra mile and try to locate the brewery so they can stock up.
The Ontario Brewery Club helps you expand your choices way more conveniently with monthly six- or 12-pack deliveries. Each delivery will have six different varieties from a different brewery that you would normally have to visit in person to find. This month, it’s Refined Fool Brewing Company in Sarnia.
It’s shipped directly to your door in a model that makes a lot more sense than the usual beer-of-the-month clubs that have the beer shipped to a central location from which it is shipped again to its subscribers. The Ontario Brewery Club’s direct-to-your-door model means it gets shipped only once – much more cost-effective for the breweries.
“You grow the craft industry – and that’s something unique about this industry. Everyone seems to pull the rope in the same direction. A high tide raises all ships.” Macklin said.
“Especially in a pandemic when you can’t necessarily go to a brewery and enjoy a pint. A member can sign up, pay a monthly fee – $32.99 for a six-pack, $54.99 for a 12-pack – and it arrives on your doorstep each month, and it’s kind of fun. You don’t know what’s coming next, and that makes it interesting.”
Twelve breweries have already signed on, and the club has 100 members so far – not bad, considering it’s not much more than a month old. Their first brewery spotlighted was Brock Street Brewing Company in Whitby, and they will be sending out product from Barley Days Brewery in Picton next month.
Along with a month that will feature William St., shipments are lined up from Big Rock (Etobicoke), Sons of Kent (Chatham), New Ontario (North Bay), Old Dog (Bobcaygeon), Riverhead (Kingston), Macleans Ales (Hanover), South River (South River), Boshkung (Minden) and Lake of the Woods (Kenora).
You can find out how to sign up at www.ontariobreweryclub.ca
You can also find out about a great Father’s Day special, an opportunity to order a six- or 12-pack for your dad.
“We actually mail the Father’s Day card with a code where you go on the website and sign up to receive your six- or 12-pack.”