TARAS MANZIE loves beer, but he loves his family and Kenora even more.
That combination led the 41-year-old entrepreneur to dust off an old brand and breathe new life into the long-dormant Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.
He follows the industry and knew the craft beer segment continues to gain in popularity and sales, but opening up a brewery could do more than just produce tasty lagers and ales.
"We thought it would be great for the community, help stimulate the economy and employ people. Our kids love Kenora and we needed to find a reason to help keep the community vibrant. One way is to be an employer and help the place grow," he said.
"With craft beer continually on the rise and taking a bigger piece (of market share) from the major breweries and without anybody else (brewing) in this geographic region, it made sense for us."
The last incarnation of LOTWBC went under more than a half-century ago and plans to resurrect it were in the works for more than three years.
In 2010, Manzie was the successful bidder for a soon-to-be decommissioned fire hall. After moving in near the end of 2011, the first batch of beer from brewmaster Bernie Weiland -- an alumnus from the Fort Garry Brewing Co. who got his start in Germany -- was ready to be poured at the end of June.
The brewery currently has three flagship recipes -- Sultana Gold, a North American blond ale with 4.5 per cent alcohol (and named after one of the local gold mines at the turn of the 20th century); a Czech-style pilsner with five per cent alcohol called Paper Maker Pilsner and Big Timber IPA, which has 5.6 per cent alcohol.
Part of its fire-hall space was transformed into a restaurant/pub called the Tap Room, which serves the beer that's made next door to a capacity of 275. During the summer, 83 people were on the company's payroll.
Manzie has already had discussions with Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries about getting listed in the province, but he's also exploring possibilities east to Thunder Bay and south to Minnesota.
"It makes total sense for Manitoba to be our next market. There are 800,000 people two hours from (Kenora) and a lot of them use Kenora as their playground area, so there will be some brand familiarity," he said.
LOTWBC operates its own off-sale store and is currently selling its beers in a "growler" format in 64-ounce bottles that look like moonshine jugs with big handles on them. These jugs can be refilled at the brewery.
Manzie hopes to install a canning line shortly.
He said the goal with bringing out Sultana was to dispel any myths microbrewery beer was too different from the mainstream with too much hops and a less-than-smooth taste.
"It's a really easy-drinking beer and it's not overpowering. We're hoping the local community embraces it as their beer instead of Budweiser, Blue and Canadian," he said.
See Saturday's 49.8 section for Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson's review of Lake of the Woods suds.