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Hogtown Brewers enter the Toronto craft beer fray

Posted by Staff / January 20, 2012

Hogtown Brewers TorontoUsually, when I bring up the subject of local craft beers, it doesn't take long for someone to raise the point that these brews aren't typically of the variety one can consume in large quantities. With their hoppier flavour profile or their tendency towards the dark and rich, craft beers aren't often the first choice for people looking for a good, local session beer. Thankfully for those people, the guys at Hogtown Brewers agreed, and decided to do something about it.

Founded by six guys who play rugby together, Hogtown Brewers was born out of a desire to create a local beer that had a decent amount of flavour but wasn't so complex or heavy that you couldn't drink a half a dozen or so in an evening (see above re: six dudes, rugby).

The idea, according to Pete Shippen, one of the brewery's founders, was to develop a beer that was "just drinkable enough not to alienate." With the help of experienced brewmaster Jay Cooke, that seems to be precisely what they've done.

Hogtown is probably Toronto's only Kölsch-style beer, a lagered beer that is essentially Germany's answer to the British Pale Ale. It's a beer with a rich brewing tradition in Cologne, and the style choice is a reflection of brewmaster Cooke's training at brew schools in Germany.

Hogtown BrewersThe beer is a pale straw color with a noticeable but not overbearing hops presence and a middle-of-the-road alcohol content of 5%. I can certainly confirm its easy drinkablilty, and if the throngs of after-work drinkers at the Duke of Devon, where the beer is currently being poured, are any indication, others agree.

Hogtown officially launched this past weekend, slightly ahead of schedule. The owners of the Duke of Devon told Shippen that they'd start pouring Hogtown on Wednesday, just as soon as the current supply of Alexander Keith's Red was expected to run dry. Anxious to get their beer out there, however, Shippen and the rest of the Hogtown Brewers enlisted some friends and saw to it that the bar's supply of Keith's Red ran out ahead of schedule and Hogtown has been tapped at the Duke since Friday.

There are plans to take Hogtown to other bars, but in the meantime Shippen and his partners are happy staying a little bit exclusive. "We've had a lot of interest," he notes, "but we want to be able to expand the right way." The plan seems to be a level-headed approach not to get too far ahead of themselves and to grow the business in a way that ensures they can still service whomever opts to pour their beer.

Shippen brings just some of what seems like considerable business-savvy to a group of brewers/rugby players that comprise a few financial industry types, as well as a current student and a gum salesman. For now, they seem content to take it one step at a time, but during a conversation that included reference to the Duke of Devon as a "focus group" and a chat about their contract brewing (at Cool Brewery) as a "less capital intensive" approach, it seemed clear that the guys from Hogtown Brewers have their sights set on eventual distributing to a wider market. Given the rate at which people seem to be downing pints of their tasty Kölsch-style beer, Toronto's beer drinkers will likely be ready for them when they do.

Writing by Ben Johnson. Photos by Traven Benner

Discussion

34 Comments

THIRSTY STEVEN / January 20, 2012 at 10:39 am
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I wonder if this tastes anything like Cool's "Keith's" that gets subbed in and around town. If so, I'm looking forward to having it at the Duke! That place is my favourite place to go after a hard day's work on Bay St.



Fairness / January 20, 2012 at 10:49 am
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It sounds like these guys are exploiting their friends by trying to make a buck on every pint they drink. I personally would hate to find out that for every $6 I spend on a pint, $1 goes directly into my drinking buddy's pocket. It's like his pints are $4 ($1 from me + $1 paying himself) and mine are $6. If we're friends, what's with the screwing me over like that?
Sousedbergin replying to a comment from Fairness / January 20, 2012 at 10:55 am
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Why wouldn't you want to drink your friends beer and help him out instead of pumping money into Pete Coors pockets you jealous slubberdegullion?

Apparently Fairness is wishing your friends poor. I bet you hate bands the second they have enough money to live on.
danielle replying to a comment from Sousedbergin / January 20, 2012 at 11:09 am
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Awesome.
Fairness replying to a comment from Sousedbergin / January 20, 2012 at 11:46 am
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I've got no problem with bands making money, but I'd have a problem if I found out that after jamming with them in a rented rehearsal space that they got a kick back from the space owner and didn't share.

Bro culture teaches things like taking care of your boys.
twit replying to a comment from Fairness / January 20, 2012 at 11:54 am
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Haha..."bro culture".

Give your head a shake, champ.
scottd / January 20, 2012 at 11:57 am
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"just drinkable enough not to alienate" now that's a slogan!
Christopher / January 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm
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I like my craft brews complex and a "session" for me is three, tops, so I won't be looking for this guy any time soon (except for a sample). That said, this is a great idea. Of course there should be local beers like this available. I wonder, though, how different it is from a Steam Whistle, a Mill Street Organic, etc.?
Deano replying to a comment from Fairness / January 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm
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Yes, I'm sure guys that own a brewery don't take care of there boys at all. I'm also sure they got into the business just to scam their friends. Do you propose that all business owners share all their profits with all their friends??
huh? / January 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm
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Fairness, so if you run a legitimate business and your friends benefit from that business but don't get a cut of the profit that makes you a bad friend?

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

That being said, if you hand out money to your friends on a regular basis, let's hang out.
Ryan / January 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm
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Beau's Lug Tread Lagered Ale is also a Kolsch style beer
Ben replying to a comment from Ryan / January 20, 2012 at 12:29 pm
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Indeed it is, but it's brewed in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, not Toronto.
David replying to a comment from Ryan / January 20, 2012 at 01:25 pm
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I had a pint of that at the Queen and Beaver yesterday with my Rabbit and Potato Pie.
Jordan replying to a comment from Sousedbergin / January 20, 2012 at 01:28 pm
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Slubberdegullion? Marvellous. Way to take internet comment trolling into the 19th century, you blackguard.
Jet replying to a comment from Fairness / January 20, 2012 at 02:15 pm
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Fairness / JANUARY 20, 2012 AT 10:49 AM
It sounds like these guys are exploiting their friends by trying to make a buck on every pint they drink. I personally would hate to find out that for every $6 I spend on a pint, $1 goes directly into my drinking buddy's pocket. It's like his pints are $4 ($1 from me + $1 paying himself) and mine are $6. If we're friends, what's with the screwing me over like that?
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what the I don't even

what sort of business no mind would think that a viable business model for a brewery is to make a dollar - ahhh f it never mind.
Lushly / January 20, 2012 at 03:03 pm
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Congrats to Hogtown Brewers! An amazing beer we've been waiting for! All the best on your new journey!
That Guy / January 20, 2012 at 03:05 pm
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It is disappointing to learn that a Craft Brewer had the opportunity to make something so deliciouus, hoppy and unique yet decided to take the easy way out and make some Coors Clone for suits.

I can't wait for the real beer connoisseurs' reviews of this product on RateBeer and Bartowel.
McRib / January 20, 2012 at 03:40 pm
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now how about making an interesting beer. The more local brewers the better as far as I'm concerned, but this probably isnt one I will try, going by the description of "just drinkable enough". good luck to them anyway.

Are there any real ale connoisseurs in Toronto? Are there any real ale brewers in Toronto? Are there any pubs that serve real ale?

perhaps one day.
Jason replying to a comment from That Guy / January 20, 2012 at 03:58 pm
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Because this beer doesn't have a lot of hops, it's a "Coors Clone?" What exactly is a real beer connoisseur anyway? Are you not allowed to like something until someone on Ratebeer says it's a good beer? Lame. Drink what you like, not what other people tell you is cool.

And McRib, there are plenty of good Toronto brewers and plenty of great pubs that serve them. You should probably get out more.
Mark replying to a comment from McRib / January 20, 2012 at 04:02 pm
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I know of at least 10 places in Toronto serving cask right now. Is that "real" enough?
dee / January 20, 2012 at 04:35 pm
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Awesome, "session beer" is a great term and I'm going to start using it! I cannot stand hoppy beers, they are unbearable to me and I end up nursing the same pint until it gets warm and gross. I will definitely seek out this new brew!
Amin replying to a comment from dee / January 20, 2012 at 05:06 pm
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Hops give me the shits.
Gary / January 20, 2012 at 06:08 pm
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I'd rather have a Pilsner Urquell than a fake IPA.
Jeff / January 20, 2012 at 08:42 pm
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I guess this is the only way independent brewers can have any success in this beer backwater. It's too bad considering how many session beers we already have here. It'd be nice to walk into any lcbo or beer store and pick up a competently brewed beer.
Lily / January 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm
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Congrats to Hogtown Brewers on their beer launch. I had the privilege of tasting the beer this weekend before it went live at Duke of Devon and found it refreshing. Loved the design of their logo, glasses and coasters too.

- Lily
Daimin / January 21, 2012 at 11:05 am
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Hey Fairness... WAKE UP !!!

Congrats to the boys at Hogtown. The beer is fantastic and I enjoyed Beer 1 as much as I enjoyed Beer 5. They found the right balance for me.

Keep up the good work.
EJ / January 21, 2012 at 11:43 am
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Nice pictures, look forward to trying this offering and those in the future! Always room for more quality craft beer.
McRib replying to a comment from Mark / January 21, 2012 at 01:47 pm
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oooo 10 pubs in Toronto serving cask ale, we are spoilt for choice!!

sarcasm aside....I can think of a few that rotate cask ale, but not many have more than one at any particular time (C'est What usually has more).

need more. travelling across town to get a decent beer instead of just being able to head down to your local is a shame in a city of this size.
Lisa / January 21, 2012 at 03:07 pm
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Congrats to Hogtown Brewers, I can't wait to try a pint!
Penny / January 22, 2012 at 06:48 am
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Congratulations! From your thirsty Aunts in Peterborough ontario!
Mustard replying to a comment from McRib / January 23, 2012 at 10:53 am
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I agree with Jason that McRib should get out more. There seems to be a Beerfest, or Craft Beer Festival, or an Beer Awards (really, another good excuse for tasting) just about every month now. There's plenty of Ontario breweries making some fine ales right now. C'est What is a great bar but you're really limiting your choices if you don't check out Beer Bistro, Granite Brewery or, most importantly Bar Volo. The guys at Bar Volo are the go to beer experts in Canada right now. Hopefully you didn't miss their Cask Days event.

As for Hogtown, the guys felt there was a need for a specific kind of beer. Just because I prefer rich, hoppy beers does that mean I won't support a local beer once and while? If the beer succeeds at the style it's trying to be than of course I'd have one. One? Nah, let's make it a session.
Steven replying to a comment from McRib / January 23, 2012 at 01:33 pm
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Perhaps you should open your own bar for us to trash-talk then, hmm?
Mike Murphy / February 22, 2012 at 05:28 pm
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A true beer drinkers beer...The last glass taste as good as the first one..
T / July 21, 2012 at 03:43 am
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A true beer drinkers beer is not a kolsch.

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