GUELPH— Two friends who’ve generated a following after home-brewing small batches of specialty beer for friends will soon open the city’s newest brewery in the city’s east end.
Russell Bateman and Cameron Fryer of Royal City Brewing plan to sell a large variety of beers to local bars, restaurants and self-described “beer snobs” like them, from a storefront on Victoria Road South, starting sometime this April.
Bateman, who owns his own plumbing business in town, said he and Fryer have been friends for more than 20 years. The pair has been brewing unique concoctions at home, 80 litres at a time, for the past year and a half.
“We buy the barley, the malted barley, we mill it. It’s the same process as a larger brewery; we just have a smaller piece of equipment. We don’t do it off of our stove top,” Bateman said
Fryer once worked at Great Lakes Brewery in Toronto, and has been passionate about brewing for many years.
Bateman said he’s starting the brewery with his longtime friend because Fryer’s passion for brewing and the chance to create a business doing something he’s already so interested in.
“I like talking about beer more than I like talking about plumbing,” Bateman said. “And it seems a lot easier to sell beer than it is to sell plumbing (services), because people want to talk about it, they want to learn about it and they want to be involved in it.”
Both are fans of Wellington Brewery and F&M Brewery, and felt Guelph’s relative affluence, water quality and the existing breweries’ success meant the city was the right place to set up shop.
Bateman said they plan to sell a large amount of the beer they brew in one, two or four litre glass jugs customers can pick up straight from their store. They plan to offer up to nine different types of beer at a time at a time from their store.
“We’ll be able to sell a limited amount of (open) alcohol onsite to people. But we’re not a bar, we’re a brewery. So you can purchase a tasting in order to see if you want to have a beer.”
Bateman said they plan to start with three or four year-round beers. The first is a smoked honey beer, with honey supplied by a friend of Bateman’s wife, Janet, who happens to work as a beekeeper. The second will be pale ale, and the third will be some sort of stout, likely a coffee stout.
Initially they’ll be able to brew up to 1,000 litres of each at a time.
They’ll rotate through 30-40 other varieties of beer throughout the year, and producing more of those that sell best.
Ontario’s Craft Brewers say 16 microbreweries opened in the province in 2013. Another 33 craft breweries plan to open this year. Sales of Ontario craft beer at LCBO outlets jumped by 45 per cent from 2011 to 2012.
The growth in craft beer consumption in Ontario has come largely at the expense of the massive Canadian brewers such as Labatt and Molson.
Bateman said this trend suggests Royal City Brewing won’t need to steal sales away from the other local craft brewers in order to succeed.
“It’s not like we’re competing with F&M or Wellington. We’re competing more to try to get people to stop drinking (Molson) Canadian and start drinking our beer.”