“There’s something to be said for being the local guy,” says Jeff Carefoote, owner of Leaside’s Amsterdam Brewery, which tripled its brewing capacity this March.
That’s its second expansion since moving here three and a half years ago.
“In the past three years we’ve experienced a 40 percent growth in sales across all channels, the LCBO, the Beer Store, bars and restaurants, and at our Leaside store, and we can’t always keep up with demand.”
So how much of that comes from Leaside beer drinkers?
Carefoote says he can’t quantify, but there are lots of local Leaside residents among customers at the retail store, which is open seven days a week and especially busy on Saturdays.
And, he says, local folks have responded to their seasonal releases.
From my own experience, when they released the Double Tempest Russian Imperial Stout which went on sale at noon on a Saturday in November and each person could only purchase six bottles, I lined up and other people I was chatting with were from Leaside.
“We’re starting to see more people from the neighbourhood dropping in to the Tap Room (attached to the brewery, beside the retail store), now that they can get a pint here,” said Carefoote.
For the first couple of years he wasn’t allowed to sell pints, only sample sizes, but former Councillor John Parker got the permits changed.
“We’ve gone from 20,000 square feet in 2012, when we first came to Leaside, to 65,000 square feet today,” says Carefoote, “and from 39 employees to 92. We just hired six new members of the sales team this month.”
Amsterdam has installed three kinds of new machinery as part of the current expansion.
In late February a new “tank farm” with eight large fermenting tanks was finished and is already almost full of beer. New packaging equipment has enabled an increase in production from 24 cans per minute to 200-plus cans per minute. And the new and larger “brewhouse” – the kettles in which the water, malt, hops and yeast are mixed to produce the beer – was to be fully operational by April 1.
“We won’t be using all the available capacity right away,” notes brewmaster Iain McOustra, “so we’ve still got room to grow.”
McOustra hopes that some of that growth will come not only from their existing product line but also from interest in some of the new brews that he is continually experimenting with.
Three Speed Lager, for example, is a new offering for 2016. “It’s conditioned for 25 days so it’s very smooth,” he says. It’s already available in a few Leaside-area pubs and will be at the LCBO sometime in April.
McOustra is most excited about Amsterdam’s new Farmhouse Series of seasonal ales.
“We’ve been experimenting for several years in the Brew Pub and it’s great to see them get a wider release. The first one, called Home Grown, is available now.”
As the name implies, the ingredients are local. The malt is made from Red Fife wheat (in the late 19 th century it was the most important grain crop grown in Ontario but is much rarer today) and spelt, and the Clear Valley Cascade hops come from the Collingwood area.