BUSINESS JOURNAL: Putting the craft back in beer

It’s been a year of fermenting, tasting and critiquing.

Now, finally, the first commercial batch of craft beer at Sarnia’s new Refined Fool Brewing Company is almost ready for retail.

“At this point we’ve tweaked the recipes enough and we’re pretty happy with them,” says Nathan Colquhoun, 29, one of 10 investors in the company.

It was at a get-together in Colquhoun’s backyard last January that the idea began percolating. Or should that be fermenting?

“A bunch of us were brewing together using propane burners and a big turkey roaster, and it was awesome…we were really happy with our first batch,” he said.

The group of young professionals, all 20-and-30-somethings, began researching how to set up a microbrewery and come up with appealing flavours or styles of craft beer.

The craft beer concept has taken Ontario by storm in the past five years, becoming popular in trendy restaurants and pubs.

“No one else is making it around here,” says Tony Alexander, 38, one of three teachers in the Refined Fools group.

“We want to share our love of craft beer with Sarnia,” he said. “I was a regular beer drinker until the moment I tried craft beer and loved the flavour, the variety.”

The Refined Fool Brewing Company will open in May at 137 Davis St., staffed by brew master Dallas Willms.

Six “styles” of beer will be offered to start including a nut brown the guys have dubbed Brew-Ha-Ha.

Draft beer in two-litre bottles called growlers will sell for $12 -$18 each. Smaller 750-ml bottles more than double that of a regular beer bottle will retail for $4 – $8, depending on the kind.

To start, The Refined Fool will sell take-home products only. The group is seeking a license for single serving sales with a tour of the compact brewery.

Patrons will see old maple syrup drums converted into beer kettles, the nine fermenters and the cooler with the brite tank where beer is carbonated.

The brewery’s 10 investors have spent about $50,000 on the start-up, Colquhoun said.

“There’s so much potential. We want to be in the LCBO within five years and there are several restaurants we’re talking to.

“But first, we need the support of the local community to focus on our Davis Street operation for a year or two.”

– Cathy Dobson

Refined Fool Brewery, brew master Dallas Willms, Sarnia.