By Kenn Oliver
By the end of 2018, assuming everything goes as planned for the proponents, the province could be home to 17 microbreweries stretching from St. John’s all the way to Port Au Port East.
Among them is Landwash Brewery, which kicked off construction of its 15-barrel brewery, taproom and retail store in a Mount Pearl warehouse this week with a goal of brewing by this fall and serving up suds before 2019 rolls around.
The name comes from the term that brewery operations manager Chris Conway’s grandmother would use to describe the beach near her home in Branch on the Cape Shore.
“That’s the great thing about craft beer, it gives you so much diversity and so many different options.”
“It defines Newfoundland,” says Conway, a product of St. John’s. “It’s where the ocean meets the land. It’s this interesting meeting place with a lot of exchange happening there.”
That’s kind of what Conway and his business partners Christina Coady and Jennifer Defreyne envision for the brewer and its taproom — a comfortable environment that can be a family-friendly space and still cater to neighborhood residents who want to stop in for a drink, but also serve as a hub for community activities and a tourism destination.
“That was something we saw a lot in Toronto, and we would do a lot of travelling when we had time. We’d got to Vermont, Montreal and Ottawa and we saw a lot of that as well, these family friendly, bright, open taprooms, and we just fell in love with that and what it did for the community,” says Coady,
“The idea of bringing something like that to Newfoundland, to back home, seemed like such an amazing thing to get to do.”
Opening Landwash has been a dream of Conway and Coady’s for some time, but the craft beer boom in this province, unlike others, was slow to catch on. So, while biding time in Toronto, the accomplished homebrewers broke into the microbrewery scene in 2014 when they started a small operation inside Habits Gastropub.
After finding quick success, the owners offered Conway and Coady even more space and they became the founding brewers of the Folly Brew Pub, which ranked in the top ten breweries in Ontario in both editions of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide.
(The name Folly was inspired by the former late-night restaurant on Bates Hill in downtown St. John’s, which they would frequent.)
Recognizing the opportunity to break into the Newfoundland market and the need to do so quickly, Conway and Coady helped transition their replacement and made their way home, where they quickly made contact with Defreyne, a native of Ontario who came to the province to work with Vale in Long Harbour in 2011.
“I was convinced. Even talking to them you understand their passion for beer, and that’s what you look for, people with passion,” says Defreyne.
Like a good beer, a brewery needs the right ingredients.
In Landwash’s case, Defreyne brings what Coady and Conway lack in project management skills.
“It’s a $1-million project, it takes a lot of management to actually get it done. That is completely invaluable. We would not be making a brewery that will run as well as this one without her,” says Conway.
“I think we’re going to be a lot stronger because we’ve done it so organized and we’re going to be a lot closer to budget.”
Because most of the microbreweries in the works are producing small amounts of beer on small systems, the team of Chris Conway, Christina Coady and Jennifer Defreyne isn’t concerned with the market saturation as a result of the craft beer boom.
In truth, their concern is the opposite.
“I don’t know who’s going to be the first to actually have enough beer to sell to the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation,” says Conway, noting it will be some time before Landwash hits that kind capacity, but the plans to brew over 1,000 hectolitres per year would make theirs the second largest microbrewery in the province behind only Quidi Vidi.
“Even though we have a lot of these breweries coming, I think it’s going to be a year or two, still, before you start seeing any of these breweries even having NLC SKUs. I want that to happen faster because I want to be able to go out on a Friday night and pick up a six pack of N.L. craft beer.”
As for the types of beer the Landwash brew crew will pump out, Conway says the plan is to fill the hoppy ale niche that’s underserved, while continuing to play with the sour beers that they became known for at Folly.
“That’s the great thing about craft beer, it gives you so much diversity and so many different options,” says Conway.
“It’s been so long that you would go to the corner store and buy eight different beers that all taste the same. We want to do eight different beers that all taste completely different and they rotate and change.”
Beer will be available on tap, in take-home growlers and in 473-millilitre cans, and the plan is to get some products — taps and cans — in local bars and restaurants.