Craft beer booming in KW as another brewery set to open

Another brewery is set to open in the region, boosting an already vibrant craft beer scene in Kitchener.

Together We’re Bitter has been in development for two years

The co-operative owners of Together We're Bitter in a photo during construction of their new brewery near downtown Kitchener. TWB opens Feb. 10. (Facebook)

It has been a long two years, but the collaborating team behind the brewery Together We're Bitter is excited to finally be opening near downtown Kitchener.

"It has been forever," Culum Canally, one of six co-owners of TWB, said in an interview with CBC News.

In September, they found a 1,500 sq. ft. building to turn into the brewery, the former Eco Coffee Roaster building at 300 Mill Street. In January, they had all their licenses in place.

But they are waiting until Feb. 10 to open to ensure they have enough beer in the tanks, Canally said. They are very aware of embarrassing stories involving other local breweries that opened but then sold out within days, forcing them to close until they had more beer available.

Canally said they wanted to avoid that and, he said, their supporters seem willing to wait a few more days to ensure stability.

From finding co-owners in the co-operative brewery, to a crowdfunding campaign to buy a fermenter, to shifting the planned opening day, Canally said people who were excited when the brewery was first announced two years ago have continued to support their journey. 

"We've been pleasantly surprised that our community that's been following us and supporting us has not gotten as weary as we thought they would get at hearing the same refrain that we're still looking for a location and going to open," he said.

"We're hoping there's going to be a good, loyal crew of followers and supporters there to purchase beer."

Growth in local beer

For a long time, Brick Brewing and Lion Brewing in the Huether Hotel in Waterloo were the only beer players in town. But in 2013, Block Three in St. Jacob's opened. Then in 2014, Abe Erb and Innocente both opened in Waterloo.

TWB will open next week. Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. plans to open its Victoria St. storefront in March.

As well, two breweries are in the planning stages in Cambridge, WT BrewCo and Barncat Artisan Ales.

For the first couple of years, we're just going to sell beer and try to have some nice parties.- Culum Canally, part owner of Together We're Bitter

Despite the growing market, Canally said he is not concerned about so many breweries opening in such a short time.

"I am a little surprised but I am also really heartened that a place like Kitchener-Waterloo, that has such a history of brewing, is finally getting some of that brewing tradition back," he said.

"I don't think it's a bubble, I hope it's not a bubble. I think it's just more of growing the market and taking market share away from the large macro international breweries."

Future plans

TWB is unique in that it is a co-operative brewery, so there are six owners as well as several community supporters who have a stake in the business.

Canally said those who initially proposed the business model felt it was a natural extension of the craft beer industry, which is often very much about collaborating with one another and being connected to the communities where they are based.

The Together We're Bitter brewery in Kitchener has been in the works for about two years. (Twitter)

"We felt that really roots us in the community, it drives us, it gives us a lot of support to draw on in terms of ideas and links to the community to be more authentically linked to the community," he said of having so many people involved.

The initial plan for TWB was to be a brewpub, but Canally said the prices to rent a space in downtown Kitchener that could accommodate the brewing equipment was "out of our reach."

Not only were rents too high, Canally said the downtown Kitchener foot traffic after 8 p.m. needed to sustain a brewpub is just not there.

The owners also wanted to have a brewery people could walk or bike to, and while they are not far from the downtown core, Canally said they did opt to go with a building that had lots of parking.

"For the first couple of years, we're just going to sell beer and try to have some nice parties and nice events," he said.


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