More than friendship is brewing at the Blue Elephant these days.
Two couples – Craig Watkins and Sarah Fritch, John Harris and Barb Rideout – bonded over a love of beer and have opened their own craft brewery.
Backyard Brewing opened Friday and was selling suds through the drive-through window at the Blue Elephant and the owners are looking forward to serving customers in the restaurant.
“We were going to open in March (2020) and then COVID came along and then we thought ‘wow, talk about bad timing,’” Fritch, the brewmaster of the group, said.
Instead, the brewery has opened at the same time the rest of the province is coming out of a lockdown.
“Maybe our timing will work out after all,” Fritch said.
The brewery is located in the Blue Elephant, a popular Simcoe restaurant, under a ‘tenant-brewing’ arrangement with Heather Pond Manorome, the restaurant’s owner and operator.
Fritch began as a home brewer before attending Niagara College for the brewmaster and brewery operations program. She worked as brewery technician while going to school and upon graduation joined the Blue Elephant.
But she and her friends wanted to start their own brewery and between them they have experience in business, hotel management and content creation. Harris is in charge of operations, Rideout handles administration and Watkins takes care of marketing.
The group has their own equipment and get their own ingredients to get established without having to put money into a bricks and mortar building.
“It works out really well for all of us because Heather is all about bringing in local and supporting local businesses and this is another local business starting up that also wants to incorporate the local community as much as possible,” Fritch said. “
Craft breweries serve a niche market, people who are interested in trying different brews. Backyard Brewing is looking to establish a niche within that niche by never making the same beer twice.
“Most breweries brew a couple of beers but it’s the same beers day in and day out and that’s OK,” Fritch said. “But people who really like craft beer are always looking for something different.
“Others may have flagship beers, we have flagship styles.”
Backyard will always have a brew that’s easy drinking, another that’s ‘hoppy’, another that’s dark and another that’s a little funky. But they’ll never make the same beer twice to ensure no one ever gets bored with their brews.
Their beer comes in 355ml cans and includes one called Chocolate Banana Milkshake Porter and a Vienna Kveik.
A couple of others are a tropical IPA and a wood-aged Rye Wit.
“I really believe the name of the beer should reflect its ingredients,” Fritch said when asked about the chocolate banana beer.
They get their ingredients, as much as is possible, from local suppliers including Cider Keg Farm Market and Great Canadian Hops, both of Vittoria, and Traynor’s Bakery Wholesale in Hamilton.