SCUGOG: With the recent sale of one of Port Perry’s iconic buildings this past summer, the community will soon join an ever-growing list of municipalities hosting micro-breweries throughout the province.
In September, entrepreneur Jack Doak took possession of the former LCBO building at the intersection of Perry St. and Mary St., after the building was put up for sale in late 2012 following the departure of the business for a new location.
Mr. Doak, a Newmarket resident and experienced entrepreneur, will be working throughout the fall on establishing the new home of the Old Flame Brewing Company Ltd., his latest business venture that will bring craft-brewed beer into the heart of Port Perry, just a stone’s throw from the shores of Lake Scugog and the community’s historic downtown. Currently, work on both the exterior and interior of the heritage property are taking place, drawing interest from numerous passersby, said Mr. Doak.
Working with a small group of investors - or ‘torchbearers,’ as Mr. Doak prefers to call the team - the brewery is slated to produce and package (in cans and kegs, not bottles) three varieties of beer as early as January. That’s just for starters. While Mr. Doak wouldn’t reveal what those beers would be, he said that Old Flame will keep a number of different styles in production, while continuing to work on seasonal and special products. While he explained that Old Flame will not serve the function of a traditional bar, Mr. Doak said that the brewery will be open to tours and offer tastings as well as a special events room.
"I’ve always taken a key interest in craft beer," said Mr. Doak. "Ontario is experiencing a renaissance of microbreweries and there’s definitely a growth opportunity here. The growth in craft brewing is not going to slow down."
Mr. Doak turned his attention to craft brewing following a string of successful business ventures, including squash and fitness clubs and day spas, after researching the industry’s recent growth in southern Ontario. The province’s microbrew industry makes up approximately five per cent of the total Canadian beer market. Partnering with Niagara College’s teaching brewery, Mr. Doak developed a number of beer ‘profiles’ before settling on the initial three offerings from Old Flame.
"As the consumer continues to develop an interest in craft brewing, they become more discerning," said Mr. Doak, "and its important to have the support from the surrounding community."
Mr. Doak said that support will be returned to the community by Old Flame, which he hopes to see grow into a fixture of both Scugog and North Durham in the coming years. As for choosing Port Perry, Mr. Doak said that not only was it a natural fit for the business due to the character of the community and its proximity to a large waterbody, it also has a special place in his family’s history.
"We were chasing a location and my wife suggested that we look at Port Perry because we have a long history of driving through here and stopping on occasion," recalled Mr. Doak. "The first property that came up in the search was this building. We ultimately chose Port Perry because of its strong sense of community and interest in tourism. I also love the fact that it’s on a lake - the community really fits the artisanship of craft brewing."
The location has a storied history.
Built in 1874, the building originally housed the Ontario Carriage Works, where horse-drawn vehicles were manufactured locally in the late 19th century. Beginning in the early 1900s, the building changed hands and uses several times, housing over the years a Ford dealership, shoe factory, lumber yard, farm equipment supplier and textile factory before becoming home to its most recent use, that of Port Perry’s LCBO store, in 1976.
The building housed the LCBO until last December, when it moved to a new location in the SmartCentres development on Hwy. 7A.
Both the heritage of the building and the irony of a brewery operating in a former liquor store are not lost on Mr. Doak.
"It’s a great location and size, but most importantly, this building tells a story," said Mr. Doak, "and we’re dedicated to telling and preserving that history. We could have just changed the sign and started brewing beer, or moved into an industrial unit, and we would have been successful. But we want to be part of the community and its history.
"It’s all about purchasing the right building in the right community," he continued. "The Ontario Craft Brewing Association believes that growth is much more enhanced by a showcase brewery where the consumer truly gets a beer experience. People can come here after a day of shopping in downtown Port Perry, take a tour and meet the brewmaster, learn about the brewing process and taste the products that are made fresh right here."
While craft beer aficionados will have to wait until early 2014 to get their first taste of Old Flame’s line of products, Mr. Doak said that he plans to have the retail side of the business open in time for Christmas, where a variety of Old Flame merchandise will be available for purchase, including pre-orders for beer - packaged in commemorative 1.5 litre ‘growlers’ - from the brewery’s first batch.
"It’s really important to us to be a member of the local business community that the people of Port Perry can be proud of - proud of what we’re doing with the building and proud of how the beer will taste," said Mr. Doak. "Port Perry’s a very cool town, and we hope to add to that."