Dawson Trail uses home brew system

·3 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — What do you have when you mix a locally brewed flagship beer with a signature Thunder Bay pastry? You get Dawson Trail Craft Brewery’s Imposter Beer which features the flavours of a persian.

“We are located kitty-corner to The Persian Man and as a result, we inevitably eat one or two too many persians throughout the week,” said

George Renner, owner of Dawson Trail Craft Brewery. “We thought it’d be a funny idea to make like a cinnamon and raspberry flavour beer, which is a bit of a weird combo and for beer. It’s called the Imposter and we really made it as a joke, but people seem to really want us to keep making it to the point where if we don’t, we have to deal with people getting upset.”

Renner says they have kept Imposter Beer around begrudgingly and found success in the brew because it has developed a “bit of a following.”

Since 2017, Renner has operated Dawson Trail Craft Brewery, which he says conceived its name from the historical Dawson Trail, which was a land and water route from Fort William (Thunder Bay) to the Red River in Manitoba, in the early settlement years. Renner’s brewery began with him and some friends experimenting with different flavours in their home-brewing endeavours.

“We loved Sleeping Giant’s beer and we admired them a lot,” Renner said.

“We thought it would be a really cool thing to have more craft breweries in Thunder Bay and we started thinking about it over a bottle of home brew or two. Eventually, to our bewilderment, it became a real thing.”

Located on Copper Crescent, the brewery produces up to eight varieties of beer that are available in the can or on tap in their tap room.

Four of them are their flagship beers and the others are seasonal. Renner says the space is small and the business is preparing to expand and relocate soon.

“People are always surprised when they walk in and ask, ‘Hey, like, do you actually make the beer here?’ because we’re so small,” he said, adding that their beer has been popular at many community events as well.

“We have been looking at expanding for years now and (future plans) evolved from a COVID initiative that we’ve been trying to work on.”

Renner says they want to market their beer through the LCBO, but just don’t have the capacity.

“Our system is basically a giant home brew system so we can only really make so much beer. We can get it pretty sparse in here,” he said. “We were talking about expanding for years and the COVID pandemic definitely threw a big wrench into our plans.”

He said with all the shutdowns, government changes and restrictions, all of their planning “hit some pretty big snags,” but support from the community and people who came for their beer allowed them to stay open.

“We faced issues like everybody else with shortages for materials and suppliers . . . and things getting more expensive or more difficult to buy,” he said. “We’re pretty small. Our costs on minimum orders started doubling or tripling so we had to start ordering more cans for instance, which challenged us by how we can store things. If we have to order four pallets of something, that makes things difficult for us in our space given that we’re so small.”

Renner is optimistic about the expansion happening in late summer or early fall of this year.

Like other area breweries, Renner’s brewery obtains materials from local producers and suppliers. Grain is provided by Canada Malting, which is located “down the street” from the brewery.

“We try to use ingredients locally if we can find them,” he said. Spent grain or mulch is a byproduct of the beer-making process and is collected by local farmers who feed their livestock with the nutritious mix.

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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