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Posted August 16, 2018

These breweries started as contract brewers


With around 75 active businesses, contract brewing is a practice more prevalent in Ontario than any other Canadian province. In fact, Ontario has three brewing facilities dedicated to making beer for others: Common Good Beer Co. and Brunswick Bierworks in Toronto, and Equals Brewing in London.

What is contract brewing? Essentially, a contract brewer is a business that pays another brewery to produce their beer. They may perform the brewing process entirely on their own or have it done for them. A contract brewer typically possesses Manufacturer’s Licence issued by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).

Contract brewers can only sell their beer through the LCBO, Beer Store, grocery stores, and bars and restaurants. Their beer can’t be sold at the retail store of the brewery where it’s made (sometimes there are loopholes).

This business model can be effective way to get a beer out into the market, for numerous reasons, without a large investment in equipment and space. Many contract brewers have gone on to open their own bricks-and-mortar brewery, while others are content sticking to the contracting model.

The overall contract brewing practice, however, is seen by some – consumers and breweries alike – as antithetical to the definition of craft beer.  The topic is frequently debated (see: The Globe and Mail and CBC).

Here’s a list of breweries that started out on a contracting basis and went on to open their own facility:

4 Degrees Brewing
5West Brewpub & Kitchen
All or Nothing Brewhouse
Arch Brewing
Bell City Brewing
Bench Brewing
Brothers Brewing
Clifford Brewing
Collective Arts Brewing
Cowbell Brewing
Descendants Beer & Beverage
Elora Brewing
Falcon Brewing
Full Beard Brewing
Junction Craft Brewing
Kensington Brewing
Lake Wilcox Brewing
Left Field Brewery
Manantler Craft Brewing
Manitoulin Brewing
Northwinds Brewhouse
Outlaw Brew Co.
Radical Road Brewing
Rhythm & Brews Brewing
Sawdust City Brewing
Shacklands Brewing
Spearhead Brewing
Stray Dog Brewing
Trestle Brewing
Tuque de Broue Brewery

This is a list of current contract breweries that are now in the process of building their own brewery:

Bayfield Brewing
Black Bellows Brewing
Black Donnellys Brewing
Bobcaygeon Brewing
Canvas Brewing
Fenelon Falls Brewing
GoodLot Farmstead Brewing
High Park Brewery
Hometown Brew Co.
Longslice Brewing
Old Dog Brewing
Orleans Brewng
Weatherhead Brew

Additionally, due to in-house capacity limitations, many bricks-and-mortar breweries source out a portion of their production to meet large LCBO or grocery store orders. Other established breweries work with outside brewing facilities for many others reasons.

For instance, Beau’s Brewing Co. in Vankleek Hill, operating since 2006, has no space onsite for a canning line; When Beau’s opted to put their Lug-Tread Lagered Ale and Full Time IPA in cans, they turned to outsourcing. Both beers are brewed at their Vankleek Hill brewery and then meticulously shipped via tanker to a Toronto brewery to be canned.

Many of your favourite breweries may be brewing, or have brewed, beer for others. It’s a smart way for a brewery to make use of extra capacity and to bolster their income. Over the years, some of these breweries have included Big Rig Black Oak, Broadhead, Cool, Forked River, Grand River, Great Lakes, Highlander, Innocente, Niagara College Teaching Bewery, Nickel Brook, Railway City, Wellington, and more.

Overall, contract brewing is very commonplace in Ontario, it’s helped many breweries get to where they are, and it’s not going away.

You can view a list of Ontario contract brewers here.

Looking for more information? Check out these slides from the 2014 Ontario Craft Brewers Conference.

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