Can a craft brewery offer cheesy kale chips and maple-spiced cashews on its snack board without sounding hoity-toity? Yes, it can, if it’s London Brewing Co-operative, the four-year-old Old East Village microbrewer that’s doing its bit to help change a neighbourhood. The tasty snacks, an upgrade on peanuts, pretzels and potato chips, underscore the brewery’s determination to be different.
London Brewing Co-operative started inside The Root Cellar on Dundas Street, brewing small batches of beer featuring local ingredients and selling it in 64-ounce growlers and 32-ounce Boston rounds during monthly pop-ups. The beers — notably Local 117, which is a sessionable amber, and Tolpuddle Porter — proved such a success that the worker-owners quickly started plans to relocate LBC into its own space. The move was made last winter when LBC opened in a former industrial building on Burbrook Place.
David Thuss, secretary-director, said the move has accomplished many things. There is now an increased brewing capacity and a “proper” bottle shop open regular hours. It also established LBC as a neighbourhood meeting spot with indoor and outdoor seating for pub-style gatherings, where lingering over complimentary board games or trying your luck on restored retro pinball machines is part of the experience. The space is also available for meetings and private gatherings.
Still, the heart of the place is the brewing and the focus of the brew is local.
A map on the wall opposite the bar indicates where the LBC beer ingredients are sourced — all within about 100 kilometres of the brewery. Hops come from Norfolk and Essex, malts from the Guelph area, and heritage wheats from Chatham-Kent. “It’s all local and also traceable,” Thuss said. “It’s either delivered or picked up by us. When you know the people you are buying from, it changes your mindset,” he added. “Local beer means not just made here, it means supporting local farmers by buying from them.”
Heritage wheat varieties grown with an hour of London are used in one of LBC’s newer recipes, Heritage Wit. It’s a cloudy, citrusy beer which Thuss recommends for a first-time visitor ordering a flight.
Flights can vary from craft brewery to craft brewery, but at LBC it’s four 4-ounce glasses of whatever’s on the draft board, for $8.50. It’s the sample system of choice for newcomers and craft beer explorers before committing to a growler to take home.
For a flight Thuss recommends, in addition to Heritage Wit, Local 117, the iconic LBC beer first brewed in 2014 that uses ingredients from within 117 kilometres. Its popularity comes from being a malt-forward and sessionable amber, at 4.5 per cent alcohol.
Choice three for including in a flight would be Pound Galena, an English pale ale that uses hops from the Carolina Hop Yard in Norfolk.
A well-rounded flight sampler would end with Tolpuddle Porter, a LBC beer popular with trade unionists. Tolpuddle Martyrs were agricultural workers in nineteenth century Great Britain who were arrested for taking part in an early form of trade unionism. Three of them eventually immigrated to London, Ontario.
Upcoming plans for LBC include a licence change (to allow the serving of cider and wine), tutorials on urban agriculture, and perhaps even instructions on how to play some of the more obscure board games on the shelves. “We’re part of the community,” says Thuss.
London Brewing Co-Operative
521 Burbrook Place, London