Golden Age
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Historically speaking, for craft beer lovers, we are in the age of enlightenment. It has simply never been a better time to love craft beer. Worldwide brewers are handcrafting exceptional quality beer, while pushing the boundaries of the beer lover's pallet on a daily basis.
Here in Ontario, the craft beer market is booming. New breweries are starting up on what feels like a monthly basis. Any bar, pub or restaurant that is even halfway respectable has craft beer on tap. The LCBO is firmly behind our craft brewers providing help with marketing and distribution. Even the Ontario government is trying to get on the bandwagon by updating beer distribution laws to open the market for our local breweries. While things have never been better, I ask the question, where did is all start?
Thirty years ago, well before craft brewing was called craft brewing, Phil Gosling (original founder) opened Wellington Brewery when the laws changed in Ontario allowing microbreweries to exist. When  it started, it only produced cask-conditioned ale for distribution to local bars and restaurants. While it quickly started producing filtered beer into kegs and bottles, it has always stayed true to its roots by continuing to produce and distribute traditional cask beer.
Being one of the only craft breweries in Ontario, Wellington did not face the same kind of competition new brewers face today. However, many of the challenges facing new microbreweries in the 1980s and '90s are similar to those being faced today. These include the cost of getting products listed in the Beer Store, which continues to be a huge cost for any new brewery; and at the time, the LCBO was not the major retail opportunity that it is today for small brewers.
Like craft brewers today, Wellington grew as it obtained licensees – bars, restaurants, and pubs – which carried its beer. However, being the first in its field, it had the disadvantage of having to educate bar owners on the benefits of craft beer and the advantages of working with a local brewery. Some early adaptors included the Woolwich Arrow in Guelph, which took very quickly to supporting local brewers.
Fast forwarding to the present day, Wellington Brewery has embarked on a major addition to its brewery. The expansion will include more than 12,000 square feet of space with a brand-new brew house and state-of-the-art packaging line. Construction is ongoing but it expects to have the new addition fully operational by the end of the year or early 2016. This new equipment will more than double its brewing capacity and position the company for future growth.
“This expansion is a major milestone for our brewery,” says Wellington Brewery general manager Sarah Dawkins. “The changes we're undertaking now will allow us to sustainably grow, while maintaining our dedication to crafting award-winning beer.”
Wellington has got some fantastic core brand, year-round offerings. But what I really love about it is that it is not willing to sit on their backsides and simply profit from past successes. Wellington Brewery continues to push boundaries and to find new frontiers for craft beer. With its Welly One-Off series, experimenting with flavours and styles continues to challenge even the most sophisticated palate.
“Our approach to brewing is about the balance of tradition and innovation,” says Marvin Dyck, plant and quality manager. “For 30 years, we have built our reputation by crafting traditional English ales with a focus on quality and consistency. With the ongoing support of our loyal consumers that have stuck with us for so many years, we've grown and evolved.”


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