Brewing it up

George Renner, owner of Dawson Trail Craft Brewery, checks on a brewing batch of beer in his new equipment at the brewery’s new location on Golf Links Road.

Dawson Trail Craft Brewery has been operating at its Copper Crescent location in Thunder Bay since 2016 and has grown to capacity.

Over the last few months, brewery owner George Renner and his team have been relocating the operation to its new location in the former Quality Market building on Golf Links Road, sharing the building with On The Links.

“It’s a big move to more than triple the space,” Renner said.

“We’ve been kind of squished up in our space (on Copper Crescent) for quite a few years, even before COVID. We have been stacking things higher and pushing things closer together.

Besides providing ample space, the move to the larger facility has enabled Renner to increase his brewing equipment, which will ultimately expand his product line.

“We’re expanding our production by quite a bit. Basically, everything around this move is facilitating the expansion of that system,” he said. "It’s allowing us to expand our production into the bigger market and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) where previously we just weren’t big enough to do that.”

Renner added they are now able to have a bigger tap room, larger packaging facility, and the ability to produce more varieties of beer.

New to Dawson Trail Craft Brewery is the addition of an on-site food service that will be handled by Daytona’s Kitchen and Creative Catering.

“We got kind of locked in our old space, because we had four beers that were varied enough, and that people really liked,” Renner said.

“They wanted this at all times and when we didn’t have them, they were disappointed. We had five tanks to brew beers in and one spare tank to brew something different in any other time the other four were occupied. It limited us quite a bit to what we could do.”

Now that they have a bigger space with additional tanks for more capacity, Renner says they can start doing different things.

“We have almost four times the volume capacity in our fermentation so if we keep those four brands, we will go from being able to brew one new beer to five new beers every three weeks,” he said.

With the larger capacity for increased production, Renner now qualifies to enter the larger market across Ontario through Beer Stores and the LCBO with his product.

Renner says they saw their “fair share” of challenges with supply shortages and exuberant cost increases. He noted the heightened costs of aluminum cans and their unavailability at one point.

“Shipping for our equipment went up by 10 times. The cost to ship a tank went from $300 to $3,000 a tank, and the tanks are only worth $6,000. That was a little nuts,” he said. "We get all our grains locally in town from Canada Malting and we saw that price jump up by around 30 per cent. It’s been tough for that, but so far, now that we’re good with equipment, things seem to be settling down, knock on wood.”

Meanwhile, Renner’s team has begun brewing as they wait for their licensing to come through and final work to be done at the new site. A grand opening is in the works.