By Jessica Lovell
If you’re living in the Royal City and you’ve never heard of Royal City Brewing, don’t worry; you’re probably not alone. It’s not just micro; it’s nano.
“It’s a term for smaller than a micro brewery,” says Russ Bateman, who along with friend Cam Fryer is getting ready to open Guelph’s newest and smallest brewery.
Shiny new tanks are in place at the brewery’s headquarters near Victoria and York roads. Fryer and Bateman are now awaiting inspections and licence approvals before brewing begins. They hope to begin making at least some smaller batches soon, and to be selling beer by mid-May. Once it is up and running full steam ahead, Royal City Brewing will be able to brew about 2,500 litres of beer a week. It’s the smaller batches, though, that will be the company’s specialty.
“We have a very small brewing system that makes 80 litres at a time,” explains Bateman.
That means “we get to try a lot of new and different things all the time,” says Fryer.
“Every week, we’ll have one or two different beers,” Bateman says.
They also plan to offer three year-round mainstay beers, which they will brew in larger batches. These are a smoked honey beer, a dry hop pale ale and a coffee stout – cleverly named Morning Stout.
Mastering the recipes on a larger scale will be part of the startup process.
Their experience with brewing is small-scale. While Fryer worked for Toronto’s Great Lakes Brewery in the past, it was not as a brewer.
Their brewing knowledge comes from a lot of reading and practice at home. “We’re home brewers, basically,” says Bateman.
The pair started small, brewing beer for themselves and for friends, gradually buying bigger and better equipment as they gained more experience.
“As we got a little more serious and a little better, we increased the size and capacity,” Fryer says.
Now, they want to be neighbourhood brewers. Though not from Guelph originally, they count themselves among the many people who came to the city for university and then decided to stay, because they loved the community.
“We’re trying to be very community-driven,” says Fryer.
While the city dictated that they must set up shop in an industrial area, they did their best to find a location that is as much in a neighbourhood as possible, he says. Their brewery is just on the edge of St. Patrick’s Ward – or more commonly, the Ward.
That makes it a place that people can get to by walking or biking. They hope customers will become regulars, come in to buy a glass of beer in their tasting room and then buy a few bottles to take home.
The beer will be sold in one-, two- and four-litre brown glass bottles. The largest has a distinctly hoedown look. Fryer and Bateman want customers to buy the bottles and then bring them back to the brewery to have them refilled.
To add to the community focus, the brewery’s logo and labels for their three mainstay beers were designed by local artist Cai Sepulis. Guelph’s covered bridge features prominently on one of the labels.
“We tried to get the labels to be local-looking,” says Bateman.
Royal City beer will also feature local ingredients, including Tuckamore honey sold at the Guelph Farmers’ Market and Grizzly Bear Coffee, which is roasted locally.
And, of course, local water – run through a charcoal filter to remove the chlorine – will be a key ingredient.
“Guelph’s water chemistry is fantastic for brewing,” says Fryer. “It’s everything of what you need in the water and very little of what you don’t.”
For the first little while, Bateman and Fryer will be the brewery’s only employees, so when people do come in to try a new beer, they’ll be getting it from the makers.
“People can discuss the beer with the guys who make it,” says Bateman.
The beer won’t be available at the Brewers’ Retail or at the LCBO, the partners have already lined up some local pubs and restaurants who said they’d be willing to put it on the menu.
“They say, ‘we’ll buy your product, and if it sells we’ll buy more,’” says Bateman.
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By Jessica Lovell