bellwoods brewery retail store

Bellwoods Brewery opens permanent retail space

Just in case there was any doubt that Bellwoods Brewery is taking the Toronto craft beer scene by storm, yesterday the brewers announced that the space they own next door to their brew pub will now act as a full time retail space.

Starting today, the space at 126 Ossington, which Bellwoods previously used to host occasional pop-up retail sales, will become the permanent home of Bellwoods Bottle Shop. For the first three days, the space will open at 5pm and remain open until 11pm, then, as of Saturday, the space will be open from noon to 11pm six days a week. On Sundays, they'll shut things down at 6pm.

I spoke to Mike Clark, who, along with Luke Pestl, is one of Bellwoods' founders and co-owners, about how bottle sales will help the already popular brewery grow even more.

"The main thing is that it will allow us to reach many more people. With the exception of the occasional pop up sale, up until now we've only been selling by the glass in our bar and in kegs to 10-15 local establishments. We recently tripled our capacity to keep the retail store open full time, and also to get our existing wholesale customers a regular supply," he says.

"Anyone who's interested in our beer can now come by the brewery and pick up bottles to enjoy at home. Our license gives us the benefit of extended hours over the LCBO and Beer Store, which is great."

Indeed, the fact that Bellwoods will offer the city's beer fans a place to pick up a few beverages up until 11pm is certain to help solidify the growing brewers' popularity downtown--especially given the recent departure of Amsterdam Brewery, the downtown core's only other real later-hours beer store.

The move has been in the works for some time, and the boys at Bellwoods have kept the city's beer fans drooling in recent months as they boasted the addition of equipment to more than triple their capacity, and teased social media followers with photos of their on-going work to get their retail operations up and running. Says Clark, "The retail store (and the new tanks that support it) will also allow us to focus on some of our regular brands. As we ramp up production through February and into March, we'll start featuring a core group of products, alongside the brewpub's more experimental offerings as they become available."

Now that they're ready to open their retail doors, their initial offering will include 650ml bottles and growlers ranging in price from $4.75-$8 ($14 for growlers) and will offer a number of styles including Muggleweisse (a light sour brown ale), Petal Head (a dry hopped saison), and my pick for the best session ale made in Ontario, the so-easy-to-drink, 4.1% ABV Bellwoods Common.

"We'll also be using 750ml bottles for some barrel-aged products and/or bottle conditioned products, and we'll be moving towards a growler fill program, but that won't be up and running until March. Until then people can purchase new growlers or exchange for pre-filled growlers if we have them in stock," Clark says.

But don't expect a lot of bells and whistles at 126 Ossington just yet. "People can expect to feel like they're walking into a functioning part of our production space," says Clark, "because they are. We're not setting up a slick retail space--it's basically a kiosk beside our short-term barrel storage and cellar space. And of course--the eternal caveat--everything is perpetually under construction around here."

Given how far they've come in just one year (already their Witchshark Imperial IPA ranks among the best 25 beers in Canada according to Ratebeer, they've received international shout-outs from the likes of The New York Times, won a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards, and were chosen by acclaimed beer writer Stephen Beaumont as the Ontario Brewery of The Year), there's no doubt that retail beer sales are just one more step in their perpetually improving business. And if the results thus far are any indication, I'm sure Toronto's beer fans can deal with a little construction dust.

For complete details of what's available for sale today and what's happening next at the brewery, check out Bellwoods Brewery's website.

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