Graham Orser, president and brewmaster of Forty Six North Brewing Company, the latest brewery to open in Sudbury, stands with one of the tanks in the soon-to-be brewing and bottling room. (Karen McKinley photo)
By KAREN MCKINLEY
And after seven months of renovations to the new home of Sudbury’s latest brewery, Forty Six North Brewing Company, Graham Orser has opened his brewery and tasting room at 1275 Kelly Lake Rd. in the city’s South End.
“We will focus for now on about four beers I think people will like, and go from there.”
That’s exactly how he wants to keep it. Simple, homey and welcoming with a focus on brewing beer.
The name is an homage to the longitude and latitude location of Sudbury on a map, 46.5221 degrees north, 80.9530 degrees west.
Orser acquired the space, an old industrial office next door to a city water treatment plant, and has been gutting and building it to suit his needs and business plan. The business encompasses 5,000 square feet for the brewing and bottling of beer, retail and bar space, where people can have 12-ounce samples and purchase bottles and growlers.
“Everything else is literally built for nothing,” Orser said. “We got lumber for free and I built furniture for around $400.”
His parents are lending a hand in the process, he said, helping to construct furniture and set up equipment.
The retail space is being zoned for about 75 people, where events can be held and people can come and enjoy a drink.
Food will not be served at Forty Six North, Orser said, but people will be allowed to bring in their own food, as well as catering for events.
The location is no accident. Orser said the Kelly Lake industrial area is a perfect place to open a brewery due to the heavy regulation of alcohol production. To open a retail and brewing space anywhere else would mean months of regulatory rezoning.
That’s already taken care of, since Stack Brewing and Crosscut Distillery are already set up in the neighbourhood.
Having a well-established brewery and distillery within metres of Forty Six North also offers him support.
“I’ve been over to Stack many times to talk, and it helps knowing they are close in case I need help, or maybe borrow a bag of grain,” he said. “I can just walk over there.”
While the businesses are competing for sales, Orser said the brewing and distillery industries comprise one big family, helping each other to promote locally produced beer and spirits.
The addition of a third alcohol producer also means the area is quickly becoming the city’s brewery district. Orser says there is plenty of room for growth, considering cities in the south are home to dozens of breweries.
His love for beer grew out of a hobby. He received a home brewing kit as a 30th birthday gift from his wife and started making home brew.
Orser admitted his first batch was “horrible,” but he kept playing with it, creating new recipes and having backyard tasting parties.
Ironically, he said, he wanted to brew his own beer in the hopes of making it cheaper. But with the cost of the equipment and ingredients, that wasn’t a reality.
Orser kept making brews, taking his recipes to competitions, and winning several.
He said winning was great, but it’s the feedback that is really helpful.
“These competitions give back pretty detailed notes on the brew, like what felt off, what was off-balance,” he said. “It helps me take that and tweak it.”
The idea to open a brewery came to him about 18 months ago, when he lost his desk job at a tech company. While searching for yet another desk job, he questioned why he wanted to still do the same job when his real passion was beer. He got to work on a business plan.
Orser is planning on a 12-tap tasting room, but said he is starting small for now, with four different beers, and working toward more as popularity grows.
“I’ll brew everything, from ales to IPAs to stouts, brewing seasonally,” he said. “I’m going to also offer more sour beers, which are growing in popularity. Those are a little different because bacteria, not yeast, is used in fermentation.”
Orser added he will be naming the beers after local landmarks, lakes, and other unique features of Northern Ontario.
His distribution plans will remain local for now. Orser said the brewery’s annual production is based on old beer barrels that could hold around 117 litres. Forty Six North will be considered a seven-barrel operation, producing around 800 litres annually.
All microbreweries are classified as producing under 15,000 litres, according to The Brewers Association.
At the rate construction is going, Orser said he is aiming to be open by mid-March to early April. It will be a soft opening, and an official launch will follow a few weeks later, depending on how quickly they work out kinks in operations.
The brewery already has bookings for events well into the year.
“December is already booked for Christmas parties, and we’ve had requests for weddings and events,” Orser said.