Winnipeg brewer flat on Ontario maker’s expansion to downtown market

By | July 19, 2019

A Winnipeg brewer is disappointed the True North’s Hargrave St. Market downtown features an Ontario beer company rather than local suds.

“We could certainly have some capacity to be in that market and adjacent to a major sports team,” John Heim, owner of Winnipeg’s Torque Brewing, told CBC’s Ismaila Alfa on Friday.

“There’s 16 local brewers now. We all make a variety of beer styles and we’re all local entrepreneurs.”

On Thursday, True North announced the main tenants at the Hargrave St. Market will include Winnipeg’s Miss Browns and Fools + Horses, along with Lake of the Woods Brewing Company, based in Kenora, Ont.

Jim Ludlow, president of True North Real Estate Development, says he considers Lake of the Woods a local company.

“Local in the context of what it means to be someone experiencing the summer in Manitoba. Much like you would see Granville Island [Brewing] in Vancouver or Muskoka [Brewery] in Ontario as a craft brew operation, Lake of the Woods as a brewery appeals to a lot of Manitobans,” he said.

“There’s wonderful craft operators here in Winnipeg as well but Lake of the Woods just happens to have a brand that connotes the feeling of summer.”

Granville Island is owned by Molson Coors but Muskoka Brewery remains an independent brewer, like Lake of the Woods.

True North Square is a $400-million development driven by the owners of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets. The first tower opened in July 2018 and the second a year later. When fully completed, the entire development will feature more than 1.5 million square feet of office, hotel, residential, retail, parking and public plaza space in five towers. (Darren Bernhardt/CBC)

While it would have been a challenge to come up with the capital to build a brewery at the new downtown food hall, Heim thinks Winnipeg-based companies could have swung it. 

“I would think that, collectively, we could have done something. Perhaps a few of the bigger brewers might have been able to create a destination,” he said.

Lake of the Woods president Taras Manzie told CBC Thunder Bay the company plans to build a “nano brewery” at the new downtown food hall and sell beer made on-site, starting in September. 

Manzie says Manitoba customers have always been an important to the company.

“From our first fall, we’ve been exploring and working and playing in the Manitoba marketplace,” he said. 

Heim, a former president of the Manitoba Brewers Association, says he is not aware of any local company being offered a chance to bid on the new market before True North announced the Lake of the Woods deal.

“We didn’t get anything sent to us formally nor did Torque have any opportunity to find out [about the deal],” he said. 

The Hargrave St. Market is expected to open in fall 2019.