Everywhere you look, there’s a new brewery, beer bar, or beer event. In smaller communities, breweries have become community social hubs and local sources of pride: Carleton Place (Stalwart Brewing), Almonte (Crooked Mile Brewing), Pembroke (Square Timber Brewing) and Calabogie (Calabogie Brewing Company) are but a few examples.
In a larger city like Ottawa, breweries represent their neighbourhoods, which includes the suburbs.
“There has never been a better time to live in Ottawa’s suburbs,” according to local realtor Chris Scott, sales representative with Keller Williams Integrity Realty. “There are so many great amenities now to service these growing populations. The breweries are a welcome addition that will help bring more of a hip factor to these neighbourhoods.”
Last year saw breweries open in Orleans and Barrhaven — neighbourhoods that seem to sprawl farther and farther each year.
Conspiracy Theory Brewing Company popped up on Cheyenne Way (starting a rumour that the burb could be nicknamed Beerhaven) summer of 2017. Brewer and co-owner Darryl Owens is thrilled with the welcome so far. “Almost everyone that has come by to see us and chat has said the same thing — that Barrhaven has needed something like this for some time — so we’re really pleased with the reception to date.”
Setting up in that neighbourhood was no accident. A lack of suburban breweries is exactly why Conspiracy set up outside the urban core. “Barrhaven is a growing community, probably one of the fastest-growing in the city of Ottawa, with a projected population of approximately 100,000 by 2020, so it made sense to us to become this community’s first brewery.”
Indeed, Barrhaven boasts huge numbers of people — and hot tubs, which beget social events, which typically involve beer. Choosing to buy from the local brewery seems natural.
Célia Lemieux of Orléans Brewing explains that after travelling and seeing the positive impact breweries had on communities, she and her husband, Yann, realized, “We were missing a brewery right here in our own backyard, in the suburb we chose to grow our family.”
And they are all in. “The Orleans community is a very fun and honest crowd, and other than some really cool restaurants, there just didn’t seem to be a place to go chill with the ambience that comes with the craft brewery experience,” says Lemieux. “We’re seeing lots of young professionals moving into Orleans, and we want to create the perfect place for them — as well as the established residents — to discover the tastes of the world through our beers.”
And much like its southwestern counterpart, the neighbourhood beyond The Split boasts plenty of people and homes but less in the way of destination amenities. Yet, seemingly overnight, the east-end neighbourhood is now home to two breweries.
Stray Dog Brewing set up in the Taylor Creek industrial park, near the Orleans Bowling Centre, and have turned an industrial area into an active and inviting social space.
Local city councillor and deputy mayor Bob Monette sees value in the local business setting up shop. “Orleans was quite proud to see the arrival of its first brewery to locate in our community,” says Monette. “Stray Dog Brewing is a new venture from local residents who believed in the community and wanted to provide a quality brewery that is locally owned and operated.”
The open-concept design of the tap room, with long wooden benches and tables, invites visitors to sit and enjoy their fantastic brews. A TV, regular comedy shows, and even a recent burlesque show have given people entertainment to enjoy with their finely crafted beer.
“We purpose-built our brewery to be more than just a production facility,” says Stray Dog co-owner and brewer Marc Plante. “We wanted it to be a destination, a gathering place in the community where everyone is welcome and part of our family in a unique and inviting environment. Craft beer brings people together, new friends are made, and we wanted to facilitate that as best we can.”
What these businesses are doing is making the burbs cool again. Consider that Barrhaven now has its own Oktober-fest and Orleans held its first beer festival last year. Not long ago, the idea of beer-centric events in these neighbourhoods was unfathomable.
The last example of revival of suburban breweries comes by way of Evergreen Craft Ales in Bells Corners. It’s named after the street on which it is located — a quiet, curving subdivision road with houses and their garages. Blink, and you’ll miss the tiny brewery located in one of those garages.
Resident and brewer Chris Samuel was thrilled by the response he received when his brewery opened in 2016. “Before opening day, we sent out a flyer to our immediate neighbours, letting them know that ‘Hey, your local brewery is open next Saturday,’ ” says Samuel. “On that first Saturday, we met people in our neighbourhood that we had never spoken to before, and they were only five houses down. To this day, a decent portion of our customers are people that live within 10 houses of us. This has been one of the best parts of our brewery, having the chance to meet people that we may not have ever known.”
And their neighbours love having Evergreen on their quiet street. “We all know ‘that guy’ who loves making basement beer in small batches, but Chris actually makes enough quantity, quality, and variety for his neighbours out of his garage!” says neighbour Jean-Luc Cooke.
These suburban breweries are signs that Ottawa is maturing as a city as its neighbourhoods develop into distinct communities. In fact, they are both an indicator and a driver of that positive change.