One re-launched and another new microbrewery wet Windsor’s whistle
eer: The world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage, and the third-most popular drink in the world overall; after both water and tea. Believed by many to be the oldest fermented beverage known to man, beer has secured itself as a cultural staple throughout the known world.
The history of beer is rich and complex, and rooted in some of humanity’s earliest known writings refer to the production and distribution of beer. The Code of Hammurabi, which is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world, consisted of 282 laws, and was one of several sets of laws in the ancient Near East. In it, there are laws which regulate beer and beer parlours. The Hymn of Ninkasi, which is a prayer to the Mesopotamian goddess of beer, further cements beer’s role in the course of human history, and served as a prayer and a method of remembering the recipe for beer in a culture with few literate people.
While historically beer was brewed village by village, and was a point of pride for communities to gather around, today, the brewing industry is a global business, which consists of several dominant multinational companies which own thousands of smaller producers. There smaller producers range from brewpubs to regional breweries.
In Ontario, The Beer Store— the trading name for Brewers Retail— is a privately owned, joint-venture chain of retail outlets, which was founded in 1927. Its articles of incorporation state that it cannot sell “hard liquor,” or consumer goods. The Labatt arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev of Belgium owns 49 per cent of the company, while Molson Coors Brewing Company owns 49 per cent. The additional two per cent is owned by Sleeman Breweries, which is an arm of Sapporo of Japan.
The Beer Store was created in 1927, following prohibition. While prohibition was unsuccessful, the provincial government needed to appease angry temperance advocates and decided that beer would be sold through a single network of stores. The government didn’t want to operate the network itself however, and thus, it permitted brewers to organize themselves.
Prior to prohibition, the whole region of Ontario produced craft beers and there were many microbreweries. However, following prohibition, the industry has for the most part, wiped out.
Windsor has a rich history of brewing. The British American Brewing Company was founded in 1882, and operated until 1969. It was the oldest continuously operating brewery in Windsor when it ceased operation.
Walkerville Brewing Company in its first incarnation operated from 1885 to 1956. A new company, which shared the same name, started up as a microbrewery in 1998. In 2007, it declared bankruptcy.
Charlie’s Brew Pub, for a long time running, served as the only brewpub in the City of Windsor. When it closed last year, Windsor found itself without a traditional brewery, and a brewpub; indeed, a travesty.
Flash forward to today, and it would appear as if things are looking up.
Motor Burger, located on Erie Street, has ventured into the brewing industry, and has decided to open up a nano-brewery in their basement. The restaurant is not your run-of-the-mill burger joint, as the menu items are made in house, and their burger selection is indeed vast.
Gino Gesuale, co-owner of Motor Burger, explained that they had recently hired a brew master to oversee their new operations. Donovan McFadden is passionate about brewing, and has a bio-chemistry degree which Gesuale states allows him to act as a mixologist. McFadden has the ability to bring creativity to the brand, and has a constant need to try new things, explained Gesuale.
Motor Burger in Gesuale’s eyes is about exploring and trying new things, and he emphatically stated that it’s “not about being comfortable with the status quo.”
Indeed, it is no secret that burgers and beer go well together, which is why Gesuale and his partner felt the need to make their own brand. “It was the perfect marriage; our own beer and our own burgers.”
The new beer is being launched on June 1, at a beer kickoff media event, and will be a pale ale. While there isn’t a set name developed yet, the owners have artists who are excited to help with labeling and design.
In neighbouring Walkerville, a new owner is seeking to revamp the Walkerville Brewing Company by opening up operations again in the old brewery and Hiram Walker storehouse. Owner Chris Ryan is seeking to create a community space, as well as redevelop an aged brewery.
A retail shop within the brewery will allow for the company to sell its beer and merchandise directly to consumers, while a quasi-beer museum will allow them to “recreate the beer history of the Windsor Essex area.” He hopes to include story boards to talk about the history of brewing in the area, and to talk about the breweries that were in the region both pre- and post-prohibition.
Their community room, which is an open concept area in the brewery, will soon be filled with Bavarian beer tables and opened to private business to rent for events, meetings or other gatherings.
Ryan, a craft beer enthusiast, explained that craft beer is on an upswing in the province and that there is a lot of interest. “Craft beer itself over the past few years has garnered a lot of interest, and the Walkerville Brewery was probably a little ahead of their time. Originally when they opened they were on the edge in the Ontario market, and the market has caught up to craft beer now.”
“The whole local: eat local, drink local, support local comes strong too.” Indeed, people want to know where their beer is being produced, and prefer local over something which is mass produced. By using all natural products, which are locally sourced, Ryan plans to abide by the modern Bavarian Purity Laws; using only four ingredients (water, barley, hops, and yeast).
While Windsor was lacking a distinctly Windsor beer, such times appear to be in the past. With a new nano-brewpub and an industrial brewery opening up later this summer, the beer industry in Windsor just doubled; something which is sure to be welcomed by many residents during the hot summer months.