City Bites

Flora Hall Brewing restores historic garage, opens taps in heart of Centretown

Flora Hall Brewing launched last week, welcoming guests to a two-floor, 120-seat space with lofty ceilings and a second-floor mezzanine with sweeping views into the glass-walled brewing room. At 37 Flora, craft beers are on tap, there are great bar snacks, and an inviting atmosphere — all of which encourages visitors to kick back and stay awhile.

Owner, Dave Longbottom, describes himself as an entrepreneur, so when he got it into his head that he’d like to launch a brewery, he jumped right in, searching the city for the perfect spot. That ideal location was an empty industrial building in the heart of Centretown, a former garage and repair shop that dates back to the 1920s.

Built close to 100 years ago, the building was a garage for many years. The new owner kept many of the architectural details intact
Built close to 100 years ago, the building was a garage for many years. The new owner kept many of the architectural details intact

“I was on the lookout for an old building with character and this fit the bill,” says Longbottom, who bought the rundown building in June 2016 and began construction last January. It would take almost a full year to get Flora Hall Brewing up and running, with Longbottom using old photos to help guide a renovation that honoured the building’s history. Many of the windows are original, as are some of the floors, while the industrial-looking stairs and accessories remind guests of the building’s origins.

City Bites sat down with Longbottom to find out what inspired him to open a beer hall in Centretown — and how it’s going one week in.

The Vibe

I have travelled all over the world on business and I always seek out local establishments like Flora Hall. I love immersing myself — talking to local people and eating and drinking what they do. My vision for Flora Hall was to create a real gathering spot — not just a bar or a brewery. The space and the menu are designed to be welcoming.

Brewer Rod Hughes comes to Ottawa by way of Vancouver, where he was head brewer at R&B Brewing
Brewer Rod Hughes comes to Ottawa by way of Vancouver, where he was head brewer at R&B Brewing

The Beer

Brewmaster Rod Hughes came from Vancouver, where he was with R&B Brewing. He was looking to move out of Vancouver because it’s just too expensive to create a lifestyle there. He and his family came out, as well as his head brewer from the brewery, too.

We have five beers on tap. One is an English ordinary bitter that was brewed by Rod at my request. I have an English background and the English-style ales, which are more malty, aren’t as well represented. I love this style of beer. There’s also a west coast IPA to reflect Rod’s roots, and a farmhouse saison with orange peel in the boil to give it a spiciness.

The beers on tap will switch around, although I’d like to keep the ordinary ale, and there will always be an IPA. Rod is a chemist and water scientist by training, so his beers are very balanced — his brewing is art and science and chemistry all melded together.

The view from the upstairs seating area takes in the entrance, the beer menu, and the glassed-in brewing room
The view from the upstairs seating area takes in the entrance, the beer menu, and the glassed-in brewing room

The Food

The chef is Linette Edmonds and her team is creating food that reflects Ottawa — casual, international, with spice profiles from around the world. The plan is to always have a menu that’s quite short. Everything is snack-y — meant to be eaten while you’re enjoying a beer and hanging with friends. You can keep ordering over the course of the evening.

 Menu Sneak Peek

 Five snacks:

  • Asian spiced pork tenderloin slider singles
  • Black bean and jalapeno dip with grilled garlic flatbread and fresh coriander
  • Spicy, crunchy fish fritters with honeyed Harissa and green salad
  • Falafel with pickles, flatbread, tahini, and green salad
  • Ploughman’s platter with house-made porchetta, pickles, chutneys, cheese, and bread

The Shop

As you enter Flora Hall we’ve got a big beer fridge selling sets of four. We just finished a session so it’s filled with West Coast IPA, North East IPA, American Oat Pale Ale, and Farmhouse Saison. There are T-shirts and hats, as well.

Each floor has its own bar. The upstairs seating area (shown) seats 50 guests
Each floor has its own bar. The upstairs seating area (shown) seats 50 guests

The First Week

Our first week open has been really heart-warming. People are responding to what we’re trying to do… They’re saying ‘We had such a great time’ and that’s exactly what I want.

Hours

Flora Hall Brewing is open Monday to Thursday, 3 pm to midnight; Friday and Saturday, noon to 2 am.; and Sunday, noon to midnight.

The ultimate beer fridge includes 4-packs of Flora Hall's West Coast IPA, North East IPA, American Oat Pale Ale, and Farmhouse Saison
The ultimate beer fridge includes 4-packs of Flora Hall’s West Coast IPA, North East IPA, American Oat Pale Ale, and Farmhouse Saison