The Niagara Brewing Company has big plans for downtown Niagara Falls. The brewery opened its doors in June 2015, right in the middle of the carnival fun of Clifton Hill. This latest addition to Niagara’s craft brewing route offers a varied roster of innovative and smooth drinking brews created with traditional practices and locally sourced produce.
Residing in the former site of the legendary Foxhead Inn – one of the first luxury hotels in Niagara Falls – and the once WWE store, Niagara Brewing Company plans to honour the spirit of the fox by employing daring processes, bold flavours, and a strong desire to create the perfect beer. The multi-level on-site brewery offers a comprehensive craft brewing experience with a stand up tasting bar, outdoor patio, retail store and seated restaurant – featuring beer paired sharing plates like charcuteries and small plates including fan favourites like sliders and tacos.
Guiding the team is legendary Brewmaster Gord Slater. An avid member of the craft brewing industry since 1969, he has held an essential part in the design and commissioning of more than 60 breweries in North America; lending his wealth of experience and passion to breweries worldwide for over 35 years.
“I came out of the University of Guelph from the Agriculture program and one of my professors that I got along best with was in research with Molson,” says Slater. “So he forced me into their business straight out of school. In 1984 when the craft brewery business was legalized by the Ontario Government, is when I swung into developing brew pubs, breweries and brewing premises as a consultant.”
Slater says the company focuses on traditional brewing practices to produce canned, kegged, bottled, cask-conditioned and barrel-aged beer. Focusing on four established brands – their Honeymoon Peach Ginger Radler, a premium blonde Lager, a versatile Amber Ale and a high-hop IPA – along with four floating taps that will feature seasonal and inspirational brews crafted on whim. The brewery can produce 15 cans per minute and 20 kegs per hour – an incredible volume for a new craft brewery.
“Our beers are not going to be your ordinary beers; they are going to be clean, smooth and easily drinkable,” said Slater. “The Radler will be a ginger peach instead of your traditional citrus base; the IPA will be more East Coast than West Coast. Some will say it’s too much of an IPA while beer geeks will find it not enough.”
The floating taps will focus on promoting Niagara flavours, drawing inspiration from the areas diverse and lush agriculture.
“One of our missions here is to try and pull the regional agriculture into our plan in order to promote both the region and our brand,” said Slater. “We are using a Summer Wheat beer as our base. It’s a great base beer – it could be run either as is or have local fruit added to it depending on the season. We could add strawberries, cherries, pumpkin, whatever we decide and whatever the season permits.”
Along with clean and balanced beers, Slater plans to bring new concepts to the Niagara Brewing Company in the forms of eco-friendly brewing and an established water conservation system.
“There is a great concern generally in the industry, by the Ministry of the Environment,” said Slater. “The breweries are asked to partake in consulting work in order to check their discharge into the atmosphere. And some people say that is being fostered by the large breweries – which tend to be a controversy among craft brewers. So what we are doing is that we are going to take technology involved in condensing vapors. It is fairly common in many industries but not so common in the craft beer industry. So we are taking that technology and advancing it as much as we can here so that we will not be discharging into the atmosphere outside of our doors.
“With the cost of energy and water and heat, we are trying to be a little more eco-friendly in conservation of our water use as well,” said Slater. “Whenever we cool anything, that heat will be recovered from the cooling process and put back into the system to be reused. Anytime that we can minimize the discharge down the drain we will have a process put in place. Water is a precious item and beer is 95 per cent water. So we have to be conscious of it.”
Niagara Brewing Company hopes to grow not only as a tourist favourite but as a favourite amongst locals and fellow craft brewers in Niagara, with the goal of promoting the local brewing industry as a unit.
“It’s not our intention to be the lone wolf over here,” said Slater. “The trouble with a growing industry is that you have a lot of people who are great brewers that don’t have management experience. I have been in the industry long enough to gain some of that so I am open to answering questions from anybody.”
“During the summer months our focus will be whoever comes through the doors and in the fall we hope to draw people from the local area: Special dinner nights, brewmaster dinners, events and educational seminars. All of those to encourage both the home brewers and the people who want to learn about the brewing industry to come down here.”
By Gabrielle Tieman