Aug. 5, 2017
Community Spotlight: Grand River Brewery
Grand River Brewing is committed to producing fresh craft brewed beers of outstanding quality for discerning beer drinkers. Our goal is to produce full flavoured beers with alcohol contents less than 5% of today’s population concerned about over indulgence. These beers stand out and change people’s thoughts on how beers should and can taste.
Grand River Brewing’s Historic BuildingOne of Ontario’s finest Craft Brewery’s located in historic Galt along the Grand River.
Grand River Brewing is located at 295 Ainslie St. in downtown Cambridge Ontario. We are situated in a historical building which was the original home of the Galt Knife Company, the manufacturer of industrial knives for the last 100 years. The building is typical of industrial buildings built at the beginning of the 20th century, being of red double brick construction with many large windows, which bathe the interior with wonderful natural light. The location gives the building great street presence and we are taking advantage of the windows, by situating the brew house right behind the front ones so it will be visible to the passing motorists.
Extensive renovations have been carried out, in order to make the building suitable as a brewery, while still retaining the unique character, which makes it so eye catching. Post and beam construction, with open rafters in the brew house are complimented by massive Victorian trusses in the high ceiling fermentation room and the whole interior is bathed in sunlight, as previously mentioned giving it a wonderful warm ambiance. By putting our own stamp on it, while still maintaining the historical character of the building, we hope that area residents will soon start referring to it as their local brewery.
The brewery has a large meeting room with slate floors and a lovely antique wood bar that was purchased in Wisconsin. The walls are lined with several antique church pews to provide seating for special events. The former office and walk in safe in the building have become the retail store area. The coolers for the growlers have actually been placed in the old payroll cash vault.
Meet The Owners of Grand River Brewery
Bob Hanenberg and Jane Southgate.What inspired you to start your own brewery? (Bob) "I was looking for a career to take me into retirement. I home brewed for over 30 years off and on. I had hired a consultant early on who became Grand River Brewery’s first brewmaster and together he and I worked out the recipes as we went. That was 12 years ago, and that was when we first started working on the business plan. At that time, the craft brewing industry was just at the cusp.” “I had noticed what was happening in the market with craft beer and it was similar to what had happened with the wine brewing industry 25 years prior. Now, craft breweries are all over.”
How did you get into brewing commercially? (Bob)Bob – “I bought the equipment at the end of 2005, then I left it in storage. We moved into this location right away after I bought the building in 2006. I had to get cleaning it up, so that took some time. Once we were in the building we were able to get set up and start brewing commercially.”
“The storefront has been open since the beginning, since June 2007 and our clientele consists of locals. We also sell to the LCBO, licensees and The Beer Store.” We also ship a little out to the east coast. The LCBO /grocery are our biggest client.
What do you do to stay involved in the community?Jane – “We run some special events at this location which include renting out to beer clubs. We also have live music on the weekends, paint nights, vinyl nights, and euchre nights. All of these things help create a buzz regarding the things we have going on at the brewery and in the area... It’s sort of similar to a neighborhood pub, where friends get together with a bottle of their favourite beers.
The Dickies Original 874 Work Pant is a go-to option for Sam when he’s brewing and when he’s doing business. “They’re durable in the sense that they last based on their quality, but also durable in that they can move from one part of what you’re doing, brewing a batch of beer, to another part where you’re in front of 80 people in a fancy restaurant talking about your beer.”
What was the motivation behind starting a brewery at this location?
Bob – I was looking to still make some income after retirement! This is a family owned and operated business. At this time we have no succession planned yet. What was lacking in some of the beers you had tasted out there? And, what made you want to set out to get it right with your own blend? Speaking on the Industry: Right now, there are a lot of beers out there that are very good. It’s been important for us to spread our wings and get away from the mainstream. We wanted to experiment and try new things Jane- The High Baller Pumpkin Ale for instance and the Russian Gun (imperial stout), were the first we came out with. Then a Curmudgeon IPA, which is an English style beer (IPA = India Pale Ale). And they do really well.
Can you describe what makes your brewery unique? (I.e. staff, equipment, how much beer is produced, marketing, and any other information that sets your brewery apart?)
Bob – “Our location and building on the water is a draw to a lot of locals who enjoy sitting out near the water. We are very proud of the product we make here, we think it’s great even though it might be similar to what other craft breweries are doing.”
“The taste of our beer is unique because of the water we use to brew our beer. It’s natural water out of the wells. All of the greatest beers in the world are unique because of the water they use. We use artisan city water.”
What’s your favorite beer?
Jane – Russian Gun Imperial Stout (dark beer with notes of chocolate and coffee. It has some nice roasted flavours. Bob – Plowmans Ale - refreshing beer with a lovely hoppy aftertaste.
Dickies is mainly known as being a work-wear company. With that being said, what is your favorite feature about Dickies clothing that helps you get your job done? Their durability is great. The fit is great. I really love the jeans (Bob).
What is your favourite article from Dickies Canada and how do you wear your Dickies at work?
Really like the way the jeans fit, I’ve worn them for years. I also really like the black winter coat I’ve got and their vest is really great quality too. I wear these work clothes all the time when I’m out back working.
What are 3 words you would use to describe the Dickies Canada brand?
Quality, stylish, and durability. Where can GRB beer fans go to find out more about your products and upcoming events?
GRB is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course our website. We like to let people know when our special events are coming up and to get involved. We support a lot of the City run events such as junior achievement and Scottish Games Festival. We try to do our best to be involved with the community.
When is the busiest time of year for GRB?
The busiest time is Spring until Fall. We’re coming up on our busiest season right now.
The New Grand River Brewing Brewmaster
What is your name?
Name: Geoff Wiseman
What inspired you to become a brewmaster?
Geoff - “During my 4th year at The University of Guelph I made beer for credit. I was in a course called: Food product development class. My group used potatoes as an adjunct and we monitored the fermentation of the product. It was from that moment that I simply got hooked.”
So how did you get here, to this spot in your life right now?
Geoff – “After University, I had taken a job at Labbatt’s (in Mississauga) where I was working in their innovation department. Then, I worked at a brewery in Halifax, came back to Ontario where I worked at Mill Street Brewing. While at Mill Street, this resulted in becoming a head brewer there. After that, I came here to Grand River Brewing. (Totaling 8 years experience in the industry).
University of Guelph – Food Science Diploma in Brewing – at The Institute of Brewing and Distilling – which is the former brewers guild. (one of the professional brewer’s designations). Located in England.
What do you love most about your job?
Geoff - “No two days are ever the same. I love coming in and smelling the “mash” which is the mixture of malt and water. Just the overall environment and positive workplace, and the people who are eager to make beer and also make the best beer possible.”
Describe the perfect beer for you.
Geoff – “My perfect beer is a hoppy IPA (India Pale Ale) that can be enjoyed on a patio. Perfection.”
Are you working on any new flavours we can look forward to?
Geoff - “I’ve got a hoppy IPA going in the back right now, were going to be packing it into a keg this afternoon.”
“We’re also working on some new beers and innovation in the upcoming 6 months. I just took over as brewmaster here at Grand River Brewery and I have lots of ideas as to where I want to take the brand while still keeping in line with it’s renowned Grand River flavor.”
Where can we find Grand River Brewery Beer? (Countries, shops) etc.?
Geoff – “Right now, we sell our products in the LCBO and I would love to see us get more listings out there, but it’s hard to get into the LCBO. At this time, you can only sell 2-3 products through the LCBO and of course, at our storefront location right here.”
What do you like best about wearing Dickies products while on the job?
Geoff – “It’s comfortable, it moves with you, and it’s water resistant. The pants also dry quickly, and this can be a pretty wet environment. I wear my coveralls every day while I’m working in packaging and they hold up great.”