Toronto beer came from nowhere to become a party favourite
Toronto beer drinkers are spoiled right now. With more and more breweries opening up in and around the city, it feels like there's an endless number of new brews to try. But one beer seems to be everywhere since launching in the spring of 2016.
Ace Hill Beer debuted its pilsner last year, and since then, it's become a fixture at parties, bars and restaurants across the city. It's also in the LCBO and in a number of supermarkets licensed to sell beer.
"The response to the product and the brand has just been exciting for us," says co-founder Mike Wagman.
He brought Ace Hill to life with marketing expert Noah Gill, award-winning home brewer Blake Anderson and Richard Lambert, who's behind The Social Group (which runs Parts & Labour, Dog & Bear and until recently, The Hoxton).
Wagman describes Ace Hill as a startup and thanks to its well-positioned team, it's been able to scale up fast. Currently, Ace Hill's made at Big Rig near Ottawa, but since it's quickly outgrowing that space, it'll soon start contract brewing out of Brunswick Bierworks in East York.
Along with being available at some of the most popular bars and restaurants in Toronto, Wagman explains that developing partnerships with other organizations - including BrainStation, the Power Plant (it's the beer of choice at the Power Ball), Nike and last year, Luminato - has helped build brand awareness.
"Thatâs the kind of stuff that we personally wanted to be involved with," says Wagman, who notes Ace Hill also donates one percent of its profits to clean water initiatives.
"People liked that and they saw it at cool parties, cool restaurants. So we had a brand strategy that I think works," he continues. Branding, of course, is essential to Ace Hill's success.
Its slogan, "premium simplicity," takes inspiration from companies like Warby Parker, and its can - designed by Berkeley Poole and the Common Good's Jamie Webster - typifies the aesthetic popular with millennials; it's highly Instagrammable.
Some beer writers have said Ace Hill's pilsner appears to favour style over substance, but other restaurant and bar owners say they often recommend it to customers looking for an approachable, easy-to-drink beer.
The pilsner, he explains, goes well with pizza and fried chicken (his restaurants' "bread and butter") and it serves to contrast the more experimental suds coming out of local craft breweries - while delicious, these might not be for everyone.
Of course there's another locally brewed pilsner that's also pretty well-known in Toronto, but Ace Hill's can is oh so much prettier.
And Ace Hill is about to release a Vienna-style lager, so we'll probably start seeing even more of it this summer.
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