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Eat & Drink

Brewery and beer store coming to Kensington Market

Posted by Ben Johnson / March 11, 2013

Kensington Brewing CompanyAfter two years brewing beer at other people's facilities, the brewing company behind Augusta Ale and Baldwin FishEYE PA has announced plans to open their own neighbourhood brewery. Yes, Kensington Brewing Company is officially coming to Kensington Market in more than just name.

The brewery, which will be located at 299 Augusta Avenue (the space formerly occupied by the Electric Theatre and perhaps better known as "that building with the big alien face on it"), is actually just part of a larger development that will also feature office space and apartments. It's always been part of the plan for company owner Brock Shepherd that his beer would be brewed in Kensington Market, and so when he caught wind of a well-suited development just down the road from his unofficial headquarters, Burger Bar (now sold), it seemed fortuitous. "There was a plan in place for this property before we were involved," he told me via e-mail, "but it will be a very unique space."

Because the space is set to be redone by his future landlord, Shepherd's been able to work the specs for a brewery into the development's plans, a prospect that can be daunting and expensive when retrofitting an existing building or scouting for the right location in the first place.

Kensington Brewery"The main floor will have a large section cut out, allowing the fermenting tanks in the basement to come through the floor maximizing the size of tanks that will be in the space," he explains. And while he's certain the brewery will be a draw to the city's beer drinkers, he's unequivocal in his beer-focused intentions for the space: "This is a brewery with a bar, not a brewpub," he says. "We will have some food and it will be made specifically for us from merchants right here in the Market, but it's not going to be a restaurant."

Shepherd's beer is currently being brewed at the Wellington Brewery in Guelph and before that it was being brewed under the watchful eye of Paul Dickey at Black Oak Brewery's facilities in Etobicoke. Shepherd is a lot of things, but one thing he's always made clear: he's not a brewer. He knows what he likes and can offer guidance, but he's not an experienced brewer. Instead, since Kensington Brewing Company's inception, he's entrusted the mash paddle to the hands of experts, a trend that will continue when he finally gets his bricks-and-mortar brewery as KBCo beers will be brewed under the guidance of David Lee, who brings to the table four years of experience working at Mill Street.

Along with Lee, Shepherd's staff will grow to include a full time sales person and his total staff will swell to five people, up from just Shepherd and his "right hand man" employee Michael Gurr who's been working with Kensington Brewing Company for over a year.

Given that KBCo is no longer contract brewing, they'll also enjoy increased capacity; upping their brewhouse size to 15 hectolitres, double what they have been working with in Guelph. There's also potential, and space, to add additional tanks in the future.

It'll be interesting to see public reaction to the news that Kensington will be getting its own brewery. On the one hand, it's hard to argue with locally made, brewery fresh beer, but on the other hand, Kensington Market is known for a rather fierce and unique strain of NIMBYism. Shepherd though, is optimistic. "I hope the neighbourhood will embrace us rather than resist us," he says. "Who doesn't like beer?"

Electric Theatre KensingtonHe's realistic though, notably in light of recent reaction to news of a potential Loblaws nearby followed closely by the news that high rents might force out Casa Acoreana , that the brewery might meet some resistance. "Some people just don't like change," he says. "But I've been a part of this community for almost ten years, and Burger Bar was part of the positive change that occurred at the top end of the Market, which 10 years ago was pretty sketchy and desolate."

He hopes that the prospect of beer made locally with a nod to the Market's history and culture will be a welcomed addition to the neighbourhood that his brewery has already been calling home unofficially for a few years. "Who better to be a marquee business for the area, but a brewery?" he says. "We really will contribute to the Market. The brewery will be a draw to people from all around and that's sure to help other businesses and we're also going to add foot traffic later at night," he says, alluding to the brewery's late closing for retail sales, "and that will make the streets a bit safer."

Onsite retail sales, which for now include plans to incorporate Augusta Ale, the-soon-to-launch-in-LCBOs FishEye PA and their seasonal Watermelon Wheat, will be a big part of the new brewery's business. You can also expect a variety beer series that could include saisons, session brews, and more unique offerings. "We will have our flagship brands in cans as well as 650ml bottles of unique one-offs and growlers of whatever's on tap," Shepherd says, noting he's happy to be bringing extended retail hours to the city's beer drinkers. "Holiday Monday beer anyone?"

As with any development that requires extensive renovating and permits, it's probably safe to assume a few delays before the dust settles, but Shepherd has his fingers crossed that by the Fall of 2013 he'll finally get his beer brewing in its namesake neighbourhood.



EricM / March 11, 2013 at 08:29 am
Black Oak is a great brewery! I had no idea that these guys were brewing at Wellingtons up until now... Hmm Wellingtons kind of tastes like a boot. I hope with the independence they are able to make an already good product even better.
budlight / March 11, 2013 at 09:28 am
I gotta say...This brewery rubs me the wrong way. Craft Brewery In Toronto's Kensington Market but you brew your beers in Guelph? I don't know man...smells like something fishy
Earl replying to a comment from budlight / March 11, 2013 at 09:33 am
the only thing fishy here are the fishmongers in the market and possibly your reading comprehension skills...They currently contract brew in Guelph, but will be building a brewery to make their beer in Kensington Market
Kurt / March 11, 2013 at 10:25 am
Amazing. Congratulations and good luck.
Elle Em / March 11, 2013 at 10:51 am
Very cool news and hope to see an indie brewer do well.
Pete / March 11, 2013 at 10:56 am
Wow. That proposed building will stick out like a sore thumb in Kensington. Get ready for dreadlocked picketers...
Glank Winner replying to a comment from budlight / March 11, 2013 at 11:02 am
They outsourced their brewing because at the time they didn't have the resources/space to build a brewery in the Market. Now they do. It's not an uncommon arrangement.
Mark / March 11, 2013 at 11:04 am
Looking forward to this one!
bobby / March 11, 2013 at 11:16 am
That logo looks like KD, not KB
johnsonstarfish / March 11, 2013 at 11:20 am
Wish these guys best of luck. Small brewers start this way: renting out space or brewing at someone else spot. Cost of starting it up is way too high.

I love how the craft beer scene is exploding in Toronto. I hate Labatt and Molson products and hate supporting them. I used to drink Creemore exclusively until they sold out to Molson.
Em En / March 11, 2013 at 11:51 am
So, so glad about this! I honestly don't think the neighbourhood will protest too much. I hope not. An independent, craft brewery is not the type of place that would attract the kind of clientele that the Market worries about
Jordan / March 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm
Wish they could get a better architect on this project - the proposed building looks hideous. It'd be even better if they could somehow revive the existing building.
Rex / March 11, 2013 at 02:21 pm
Thumbs up to the brewery, thumbs way down on the building. Did the architect ever set foot in the market? It looks like a chiropractor's office in Burlington.

Obviously they wanted a bigger footprint, but too bad they didn't renovate the old building. The pitched roof with the woodwork fits with the historic buildings on that strip. All these west coast-style rectangular boxes with the faux stone facade ... no character, and going to look dated fast. Context, folks!
reality / March 11, 2013 at 03:36 pm
u think running a restaurant is stressful, wait til this bad-boy opens up. best of luck!
Mike-KBCo / March 11, 2013 at 04:07 pm
Just wanted to thank everyone for their support and comments.
Just a note about the property: we're not the owners, merely long-term tenants. The building was originally designed for high-end retail space. Fortunately we were able to have the interior heavily modified to suit the needs of the brewery. I think a craft brewery is a better fit for the market, isn't it!?

We're fans of the current space but unfortunately it was destined for redevelopment, with or without us. This is something we had no control over. We're just happy to continue in the tradition of independently owned, grassroots businesses here in the market. We're looking forward to working with our neighbours and friends to brew some awesome beer...right here in the Market, where we belong. We hope you dig what we're doing, and thank you for supporting us throughout this process!

Tristan / March 11, 2013 at 09:36 pm
Finally some positive news for the local-loving Market. Can't wait to be a regular!
JOSH / March 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm
If Kensington doesn't want to go corporate (Loblaws)... They shouldn't have their own Brewery and Beer store. What is this Muskoka Lakes? Upper Canada lager? Waterloo brewery.
JOSH replying to a comment from JOSH / March 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Waterloo, ON
Me replying to a comment from JOSH / March 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm
Double standards.
Chris replying to a comment from JOSH / March 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm
Your comments make no sense, bruh.
Reg / March 12, 2013 at 10:06 am
JOSH and budlight. Can't tell if you are trolling or not because your comments are comedically wrong.

The addition of this brewery would be the opposite of a corporate addition to the market. They are completely independently owned and operated and have an amazing track record of actually hearing and connecting with the community.

I've met these guys a couple times at beer gatherings around Toronto and it turns out they are legitimately passionate about beer too. You can tell because they don't mind gushing over other brands of craft beer that inspire them, aside from their own.

To me that sounds like the kind of business the market traditionally responds to. Of course, if we were talking about the addition of a Molson Beer Academy or Three Brewers, that would be a different story.
Gord / March 12, 2013 at 11:32 am
Is there anyone over 40 commenting here? I find it strange that we are all patting each other on the collective back for 'saving' Kensington. What exactly says "market" about a Burger Bar, a 'craft' brewery, and any of the other 'independent' (read: independent with loads of cash) businesses that have led to everyone asking why the area is called a market? When we lived there 30 years ago, we did so because we could buy our food from mom and pop fruit and vegetable stands, butchers and bakeries all owned by hard working people, just arrived in this country. For most, the area was a great place to start a small business with next to no money. Remember Al Waxman? The King of Kensington? They might as well bury his statue along with him because the neighbourhood in that show is long gone. So don't talk about our heroic 'saving' of the neighbourhood. If Kensington Market was a 'sketchy desolate!' neighbourhood to us when it was a living, breathing experience of the hustle and bustle of DAYtime life, we all should have stayed in Yorkville, the last area destroyed by our kind. So let's lift our $7 pints and toast what we have already destroyed with our misguided ideas about nightlife being the only life worth living. 10 years from now we will NOT like what we have given birth to today. Guaranteed. "Some people just don't like change." What a line! Exit: King of Kensington. Enter: Friends
Ben / March 12, 2013 at 11:42 am
Hi Gord,

I appreciate your comments, but I can testify that Brock and the city's other microbrewers aren't exactly swimming in cash. They are in fact very "independent" when it comes to their place in the huge beer market. The same "buy things directly from hard-working people" mentality you bring to your grocery shopping is the same mentality that they, and some of us, bring to our beer-making and beer-drinking habits.

Your thoughts on the way Kensington has changed are well taken, but I'd suggest that craft brewers aren't so antithetic to the philosophy for which you're waxing nostalgic.
Mr. Logic / March 13, 2013 at 02:03 pm
So you tell a guy that he should make more money and say "that's what I did", as you humblebrag about money your parents left you that let you continue to ponzify your meaningless existence.

You won't get it either and will just call me jealous.
Mr. Logic / March 13, 2013 at 02:05 pm

OMG. Please go back to where you came from. Not a racist comment, I really don't care where it is, but I hate this attitude among new Torontonians. Haven't been here, haven't built shit, using money that's not theirs to buy up and rebrand everything. Enjoy Manhattan Lite, you twats. I can't wait to let you idiots further run things into the ground.

You people are the absolute fucking worst.
Mr. Logic / March 13, 2013 at 02:32 pm
Whoops. I get it now.
Michele / March 16, 2013 at 11:17 am
I love the brewery idea - the building is horrible. It doesn't reflect our community. I wish you luck all the same!
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Rex / March 17, 2013 at 01:49 am
@REX: Where should they have moved to, and how would they have afforded a new building in the retro style people like you trapped in the fog of nostalgia want them to move into?

Good to see an endeavor like this be started up in Kensington Market, and in a space where the company can store the massive equipment needed to make the beer (which is most important and a lot more of a pressing need than being in a older building that looks 'kewl' to a hipster.) It's a shame that the company probably can't afford to move into the proposed new condo with the retail space that a Loblaws is supposed to be in, but that's the luck of the draw.
New2toronto / March 7, 2014 at 06:40 am
is this place open now? March 2014?
Mike-KBCo replying to a comment from New2toronto / August 18, 2014 at 11:53 am
We're moving our equipment in by the end of the November this year. After more than a year of delays (permit related, construction related, etc.) we're hoping to officially open our doors by Feb/March of 2015. Look forward to seeing you there!
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