They’re betting the farm on estate brewery

Luxalune owners choose Neepawa for ground-breaking tourism venture

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The owners of Luxalune Gastropub are taking the changes to provincial liquor laws and running with them -- all the way to Neepawa.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/06/2011 (4077 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The owners of Luxalune Gastropub are taking the changes to provincial liquor laws and running with them — all the way to Neepawa.

That’s where Chris and Lawrence Warwaruk are planning to build Canada’s first estate brewery — The Farmery.

“It’s no different than the estate wineries in Kelowna, B.C.,” Chris Warwaruk said. “We’re going to be growing the raw products, barley and hops, at the farm. We shouldn’t have to buy hops from (growers in) Washington state that supply Miller, Busch and Coors.”

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS From left: Chris Warwaruk, Rob McCaig and Lawrence Warwaruk expect to lure thirsty tourists to The Farmery next year.

Estate breweries are different from traditional breweries because the ingredients that go into the bottles are grown on the estate or farm.

Warwaruk said changes to Manitoba liquor laws, which passed last week, have opened the door for him and his brother to explore the estate brewery concept. The two biggest changes from the new legislation, which will take effect in November, enable restaurateurs to brew beer on-site by creating brew pubs and allow customers to take their own bottle of wine to participating restaurants.

The Warwaruks — who grew up on a farm near Minnedosa — plan to cut the ribbon on their brewery next spring. It will include a finished building and a plant. The hope is that it will attract beer-loving tourists from near and far for tours, too.

The adjoining fields used to be home to a U-pick strawberry farm but Lawrence Warwaruk has experimented with malt barley and hops this year and has plowed under some of his strawberries.

In the meantime, they’re already doing test brews and soliciting customer feedback. Their initial beer will be a consumer-friendly ale.

“It’s not going to be a crazy stout or porter. All the beer will be unique. We won’t be competing with Kokanee or Labatt Light, where we’d need to produce 10 semi-trailer loads a week. We want to produce a premium-quality product with locally grown barley and hops. We’re not interested in brewing a beer that only two per cent of the population will want to drink,” he said.

The pair has been working with Rob McCaig, managing director of The Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, a Winnipeg non-profit organization that provides technical assistance to the malting barley and brewing industries.

“It’s a great idea,” said McCaig, a former brewmaster with Molson. “Producing an estate-type beer using locally grown hops and barley is taking off around the U.S. and Europe. It gives you a point of differentiation. We’ve got Half Pints and Fort Garry (breweries) in town but producing an estate beer will set them apart right from the start.”

And just in case anybody might get the Warwaruks’ product confused with a mass-produced one, they plan to sell their beers in larger bottles than those used by the major breweries.

“We want to have a piece of market share that we can bite off and be really successful at. As the market grows, we’ll grow with it,” he said.

The initiative is news to Neepawa’s mayor, Ron Forsman, who said he hadn’t heard of plans for the new estate brewery, but he welcomed the idea just the same.

“It sounds like a positive thing to me, but so far it’s never come to council,” Forsman said.

Craft brewing is the fastest-growing segment of the beer industry. Luxalune, a four-year-old pub on Osborne Street, offers 150 different beers in both bottles and draught.

“People want more than just the domestics. An estate brewery is the next evolution. We’re not trying to make beer for Luxalune alone. We want to be in hotels, liquor stores and beer vendors,” he said.

If they want to add Saskatoons or blueberries to the mix, they’ll grow them on site, too. Warwaruk said the next ripple in the beer industry is fruit beers. Luxalune recently received a shipment of Pump House Blueberry Ale, which is made in New Brunswick, and Fruli, a strawberry beer imported from Belgium. “Fruit beers are an entry-level beer for women,” he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

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