Microbreweries invigorating neighbourhoods across Canada: U of R geographer

Local microbreweries are more than just a place to grab a pint, they're transforming the neighbourhood and becoming a community hub, according to some.

Microbreweries bringing back the appeal of local

Malty National serves alcohol but it doesn't have the same vibe as a bar, says neighbourhood resident Matt Leisle. (Radio-Canada)

Microbreweries have transformed neighbourhoods across Canada and have become community hubs that are more than just a place to grab a pint.

Breweries bring in a new attraction to neighbourhoods simply by existing, according to urban geographer Vanessa Mathews.  

"They're hip, they're exciting, they're very creative in terms of the products they're bringing out," Mathews said as she sat on the deck of Regina's Malty National Brewing in the city's Heritage neighbourhood earlier this week. 

Vanessa Mathews conducted her doctoral research on the historic Gooderham and Worts Distillery. (Radio-Canada)

There were about 40 microbreweries across Canada in 1980, but that ballooned to about 775 in 2016, Mathews said. The number has likely grown since then.

Saskatchewan is third in Canada on the number of craft breweries per capita, she said. 

Mathews first started studying the effects of craft brewers on their locales while she was in Toronto. She moved to Regina in 2012 and now works at the University of Regina.

In Toronto, she saw the opening of Mill Street Brewery and its eventual growth into a brand name across the Canadian beer scene. Mathews' doctoral research was on the Gooderham and Worts distillery there. 

"Mill Street was, in many ways, responsible for the transformation that would later happen in that space," Mathews said, adding they would later open up another location at LeBreton Flats with similar effects.

She later worked with Trent University's Roger Picton on the effects of craft breweries on the places they set up shop. 

Mathews will talk about the relationship between craft beer and place on July 26 at the Civic Museum of Regina.

Malty National sits just a short distance from Regina's downtown, on a stretch of 15th Avenue near old character homes, Regina's General Hospital and a vegetarian diner.

"When we're thinking about the effect of craft beer on place, and we're thinking about things like economic development, this is really dependent on the place as well," Mathews said.

"We've seen craft breweries go into really small communities and just entirely transform them. It places them on the map. It creates jobs."

Adam Smith, one of Malty National's founders, said the brewery reveals some familiar faces he might not have noticed otherwise. When the doors first opened, people walked in and said they just lived around the corner.

Smith, himself a neighbourhood resident, began to recognize faces around the area as time went on. 

"You know so many more people now, which is awesome," Smith said. 

Adam Smith points to a sample of Malty National's wares and products. (Radio-Canada)

Matt Leisle lives a few blocks away from the brewery. He said it has positively transformed the neighbourhood. Although it serves a limited number of alcoholic drinks to customers, it doesn't have the same vibe as a bar.

Leisle said that when he walks in will usually see friends hanging out. He said it's laid back and easy going. Children and dogs frolic with staff members.

Of course, the beer is really good too, he said.

With files from Radio-Canada's Marie-Christine Bouillon

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