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Photo from Dominion City's Facebook page.

Dominion City: Brewing with a sense of purpose

By Apartment613 on December 26, 2016

Post by Geneviève Gazaille (@GenGazaille)

15167458_1144294528989211_5578773841270469292_oThe Ottawa brewing scene has been on fire for the past couple of months with some major announcements and the launch of more new breweries. Dominion City Brewing Co. is no exception and recently unveiled a major expansion plan and a new look for 2017, less than three years after opening. We chatted with co-founder Josh McJannett to find out more about what they’ve got in store.

Apt613: What does your expansion represent for your brewery?

JM: New equipment and more tanks mean we can brew more beer and a wider range of styles while sharing them more widely. We’re also banking on doing even more boundary-pushing things than we’ve managed in the past. We’re building a stand-alone funk and sour fermentation space that will focus on wood-fermented beers with wild yeasts and really compelling flavours

But what we’re really excited about is that growth will empower us to do more of the things we believe in; the sorts of things behind the vision of Dominion City. We love making beers that emphasize a sense of place; we do it by designing them around quality local ingredients that we think impart terroir to the beer. Brewing at a larger capacity means being able to double-down on the relationships we’ve built with local hop growers and Ontario’s emerging micro-maltsters. In a tangible sense, our customers have driven not only the brewery’s success but the success of a range of small, family-owned farms and traditional industries that are re-emerging after having disappeared due to prohibition and consolidation. 

15541002_1179813488770648_7049504141077936788_oHow do these changes benefit us beer fanatics?

Brewing more beer and canning it for the first time means our customers will be able to find Dominion City more easily. Our mainstay offerings will be distributed through the LCBO, local Beer Stores and groceries.  

Our customers will also benefit from a reimagined space at our brewery. We’ll renovate the bottleshop throughout the cold month of January to make it even more inviting – new seating, food offerings and a vibe that will encourage folks to come by more often and hang out.

Understanding you are in expansion mode, how will you maintain your relationships with local producers while ensuring consistency and quality?

When we opened two years ago it was almost impossible to source base grain (the bulk of the malted barley that goes into most beers) in Ontario. Today, we’re a huge purchaser of Ontario-grown malted barley through a new micro-maltster located in Northumberland. Our relationship with a number of local hop producers has led to a number of expansions. The story of Dominion City has been one of a small but important role in reinvigorating some agricultural industries that historically had a home in Ontario but faded out through much of the 20th century.

What’s the funkiest ingredient you’ve used so far to brew a beer? 

While we love brewing super traditional styles, we’re also open to the kind of experimentation that’s made craft beer so compelling over the last decade in North America. 

Out of the gate we brewed an Earl Grey Marmalade Saison made of organic tea from Bridgehead that takes days to prep through hand peeling and zesting oranges. Recently, we brewed an all-Ontario sourced beer that featured roasted pumpkin and squash from a local farm. But the strangest ingredients we probably used were flour and a whole cake, when we collaborated with Holland’s Cake and Shake on a cake beer for a charity dinner. The result was surprisingly delicious. Think rich raspberry notes with sweet lactose, ground flour and lots of berry-forward hops. It was a lot of fun.

Which one of your beers is the most “Ottawan“? 

This is a tough one. We love finding ways to tell stories through beer and often rely on stories we source from the city we love.

One of the beers that probably best reflects this tradition is our Lost Train Oatmeal. It’s a stout named for a lost beer train buried somewhere under Lebreton Flats. The site used to house the Bradings Brewery, an icon of 20th century Canadian brewing and an Ottawa landmark. When the factory closed in the late 1950s, a train used for shipping bottled beer from the brewery to a distribution hub was left nearby, buried underground, in the dark. This beer itself is rich, creamy and roasty. We make it with local organic oats

Where will Dominion City be in 5 years?

Dominion City is two and half years old and I don’t think we predicted being where we are today, even in our most optimistic forecasts. The one thing I know is that five years from now, we’ll still be committed to the philosophy that got us here. Doing things the right way, making great beer that emphasizes a sense of place and supporting the people and community that makes it possible. 

For more on Dominion City, visit their website, or find them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.