In ten words or less, what's so special about your products?
Initially, we are focusing on British-style beers that we brew on-site.
Intriguing. Tell us more.
The plan is to be a brewery that associates craft brewing with outdoor activities. We named the business after the K&P trail, which runs close to our building.
The K&P trail follows the route of the original Kingston and Pembroke railway that was closed down in the 1950s. People nicknamed it the “Kick and Push” because early trains tended to break down.
The trail is popular with hikers, ATVs and snowmobiles during winter. When we started thinking about launching a brewery in Sharbot Lake, we thought this would be a good name.
Your beers taste amazing. Where do you get your flavour inspiration from?
English-style beers are my favourite, and I also think they are a little underrepresented in Canada; very few people brew them. We’re using British malt and yeasts to get that original flavour note.
Right now, it’s really easy to get a big IPA or a sour beer, and we just wanted to focus on something unique, a little bit rare and old-school.
Many people dream about starting a food or drinks business. How did you launch yours? What's the story behind your business?
It took me 15 years of thinking about it before I made the jump. I’ve been a home brewer for nearly 25 years and always thought about launching a commercial brewery, but I never had the time. As an engineer with a construction company, I had a busy job.
But during COVID, I realized I wanted to do something different and new with my life. I registered for a brewing technician diploma course and started purchasing equipment to get us started. Once I did that, things began spiralling and then there was so much momentum that there was no stopping.
Did you launch your business from home, or from a food production facility?
I learned the basics of brewing at home, but you need a dedicated building if you want to take it commercial. We live in Kingston, but we own a property 10 minutes from Sharbot Lake, so we know the region well.
We started looking for a property close to the K&P Trail, and when this building came up for sale, we jumped on the opportunity. It’s an old cedar log cabin with a long local history. It needs some work, but there’s much to love about it.
When you first launched your business, how did you pay for everything? How much did it cost to launch your own food business?
We invested a lot of our own money. My business partner and I put in equal amounts and then took out two additional loans. Launching a brewery isn’t cheap, as you might imagine. The equipment is expensive, and the industry is highly regulated.
Did you receive any help from Frontenac Business Services?
Absolutely. Frontenac Business Services supported us with the financial aspects and helped us secure the financing we needed. They are great to work with.
They are also constantly in touch with information and support when needed, from making introductions to directing us to grant opportunities.
Where are you now? Where is your business going?
We aim to build a small, local brewery, a sustainable business that adds to the local economy. I want to make this a place where locals and cottagers can meet and gather, and we’re already planning events that will hopefully bring the community together.
What's so special about doing business in Frontenac
To me, it’s a hidden gem. Everybody always talks about Muskoka, but the lakes, the trails, the nature; there’s nothing like it. And of course, we’re close to the major cities, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto.
Finally, do you have a checklist that you could share your top three tips to keep in mind when starting a food business? Things you wished you would have known yourself.
For me, working with a partner has been great. It helped me keep the momentum going and stay motivated when things got difficult.
Then, plan, plan and plan again. Failure to plan is planning to fail, as they say, and this rings true for me as an engineer.
Finally, reach out to others in the industry for advice and to learn from them. Most mistakes have already been made; there’s no need to repeat them. The brewing industry is unique in that your competitors can be your best resource; we all work together and help each other succeed.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.