Bellwoods began as a small brewery, and pub in downtown Toronto. We officially opened our doors to the public in April 2012, and spent the majority of the first few years working increasingly unhealthy schedules to avoid running out of beer. Spoiler alert: we often failed.
After heading into our third or fourth busy summer season with the heavy realization that we couldn’t keep up – with demand, our punishing production schedule, or our very bad habit of working through lunch and arriving at peak hanger crises – we decided to begin the thorough planning and bureaucratic hoop jumping that would result in a second production facility. Those were some long, busy, stressful years, and it’s only because we’ve been able to put some time between now and then that we can laugh at the trials, triumphs, mental breakdowns, breakthroughs, near-fatal caffeine consumption, exciting releases, hyperbolic lows, barely concealed panic attacks, calculated risks, and inescapable insomnia that characterized much of them.
Bellwoods post expansion is not suddenly a stress-free operation, nor was the growth spurt all that exponential, but today we are able to keep beer on shelves, special releases flowing, and 40 odd people employed. That makes us feel really grateful. And at the end of the day, even days that involve jackhammering up our new concrete floors to fix collapsed pipes, or days where our sanity is tested by the unending error messages on our super fancy bottler, or days where we rip the back end of our newest truck off with a forklift in the eleventh hour, we don’t lose perspective of the fact that our daily grind is a creative one, and it results in delicious beer.
These days, with our supply slightly boosted, we’re working to send our beer out a little further into the world, and that means wholesaling to more places within Ontario, exporting small volumes outside Ontario, and travelling to festivals all over the world to spread the word.
A genuine thank you for joining us on the ride, and we hope you’ll bask in the veritable fruit bowl of our labour.
When it comes to our beers, these have evolved and will continue to evolve over time – which makes sense, because we’ve travelled, collaborated, and learned a lot since we opened. We make a variety of bright, fresh, hoppy styles ranging from hazy pale ales with lactose, to fruity double IPAs. Our enthusiasm for imperial stouts is undeniable, and recreating our big releases each year like Bring Out Your Dead, Skeleton Key, or 3 Minutes to Midnight, is always a fun challenge. Of course, we also recognize that most of what we brew these days is to our preference rather than a style outlined by arbitrary guidelines.
An additional area of focus is in the production of farmhouse and/or wild ales, and we often utilize various strains of Brettanomyces and house bacteria blends. We've noticed a lot of people have no info, some info, or incorrect info about how these microorganisms work. That’s fine, but we’d love to clarify which types of flavours each of these forces are capable of creating. (See our FAQs).
Though our barrel-aging efforts began very early, it took us a couple of years to develop the organization and volume necessary for regular releases. We’ve honed our processes, created a custom database for monitoring every conceivable detail along the way, and designed barrel blend series like Motley Cru and Barn Owl that are constantly changing, highlighting the best of what’s emerging from oak in that particular season. Barrel-aging is a laborious and risky undertaking for many reasons, but it has also yielded some of our most rewarding beers – complex, layered, tart, sour, funky, dry, refreshing, yeast-forward, occasionally fruited, and often bottle conditioned styles that remain memorable long after the final drop is gone. As we move forward with our koelschip and growing foudre collection, we’re finally getting the opportunity to create the breadth and volume of excellent beer we’ve been envisioning for years.
Mike Clark and Luke Pestl spent several years brewing in the Toronto beer industry before branching off to open their own place.
Neither is too comfortable with the ‘brewmaster’ title – Smoothie Master, Bottling Machine Error Message Slayer, Bureaucracy Wrangler, and Long String of Numbers Memorizer are fair game – but they’re the ones responsible for much of what goes on behind the scenes. Their aim is to make the most delicious beers that ever existed, and to share those with beer lovers in Toronto and beyond.