Located at 181 Commonwealth Avenue in Mount Pearl, Landwash Brewery is opening their brewery, taproom, and retail location this Thursday at 4 PM. This brings the number of breweries open in Newfoundland and Labrador to an even dozen. While they may be the newest brewery on the island, those involved in opening Landwash have a long history of brewing elsewhere in the country. We caught up with co-owner Chris Conway, who should already be familiar to readers, as he is the author of NewfoundlandBeer.org (formerly Newfoundland Beer History), which documents the past, present, and future of breweries in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Landwash Brewery is a three person partnership of myself (Chris Conway), Christina Coady, and Jennifer Defreyne. Christina and I were the founding brewers at Toronto’s Folly Brewpub which we helped launch back in 2015. We had a lot of fun working there and brewing various mixed fermentation saisons and funky barrel aged sours, but always wanted to eventually return to our home province of Newfoundland to brew here. We met Jen through Christina’s family and started chatting. Jen was, at the time, an engineer at Vale in Long Harbour and heard we wanted to open a brewery. Originally from Ontario, she met with us a few times in Toronto (at the legendary C’est What, no less) and we just kinda went from talking about building a brewery to actually putting together a business plan. We worked on that together long distance for a few months and then made the jump, quitting our brewing and engineering jobs, and got going. Christina and I are in charge of day-to-day operations, with Jen as a mentor and engineering expert helping with the big picture.
Let’s rewind, how did you get started in the world of beer?
We all have slightly different paths to how we found beer. I’ve always been a lover of great drinks… as a kid I was super into trying new sodas and then when I came of age, I just kind started exploring beer, which in Newfoundland wasn’t much. When I traveled, I always tried new breweries and started to see the unfolding of craft beer in Canada in the early 2000s. Similarly, Christina was big into wine, even getting some of her WSET certifications, before getting the homebrewing bug and making the switch over to beer (though we still love wine!). And Jen has always been a true beer drinker and loved beer enough to want to get involved with the madness of opening a brewery!
What made you decide to take the step into opening a brewery?
For Christina and I, we had made that step before by giving up our other careers (a PhD in History at the University of Toronto for me and marketing for Christina) to start Folly, so this was a step toward having more creative control over the whole brand vision and, particularly, the service, hospitality, and vibe side of the business. And coming home was always the idea, but with the crazy boom of breweries happening here the timing was looked right to make our return. And for Jen, I think the idea of opening a brewery was always on her mind and when she saw our enthusiasm she jumped at the opportunity
What is the ethos of Landwash Brewery?
Somewhere between the romantic Newfoundland notion found in the paintings of Christopher Pratt and the fun of eating hot dogs while jamming out to nineties hip hop. A little bit of that icy, stark stoicism of a grey, foggy, cold day in a rustic Newfoundland cabin sipping warm tea and a little bit of crushing out New England IPAs while planning future visits to hype food trucks.
Can you tell us about the beers you will be offering?
Yes! We’re opening with four beers that offer a little of everything but in our own way. We have a somewhat modern Blonde ale called One Wave which uses pilsner and wheat malts and a good helping of oats that’s fermented with Escarpment Labs’ Vermont yeast and healthy hopped with Saaz and our forever friend Strisselspalt. We’ve got a New England IPA called That Much Ocean which is a hazy, oat laden IPA with lots and lots of Mosaic and Azacca with a little Columbus for good measure. Our dark offering is a breakfast stout – again with oats – called Hazures’ Rock (the name is from the “Hare’s Ears” rock formation off the coast of Branch, NL, my mom’s hometown) that we’re using locally roasted Jumping Bean Tanzanian Roast Coffee (which was Christina’s go-to coffee from back when Hava Java was the hot spot on Water Street). And finally we have Brackish, a take on a German Gose that is using Newfoundland Salt Company sea salt for the salinity and Citra hops instead of Coriander or Orange Peel. Our other beers we hope to launch before Christmas are Home and Away, a classic American Pale Ale and Smiling Land, our Kolsch-inspired lagered ale. Other one-offs are in the works including an Oat Cream IPA and some Saisons and Belgian-inspired things that are more in our Folly wheelhouse.
How can folks get their hands on your beer?
We’ve got a fifty person tap room that will be starting with winter/soft launch hours (Thurs & Fri 4 – 10 PM, Sat 12 – 10 PM, Sun 12 – 6 PM). We’ll be selling cans and growlers at our retail counter during those hours as well. We’ve got some kegs earmarked for a few of our favourite restaurants and bars too (keep an eye on our Social Media!). We’ll be sending cans out to local NLCs and gas stations/corner stores in the future, once we get our in-house side sorted.
Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
I’m a “know my song well before I start singing” kind of guy, so we’ve not reached out to accounts too much yet. We’ve been in conversation with Chinched Bistro (where Christina used to work as a server when they first opened), the Merchant Tavern, and Jack Axes just because we frequent those places (or did before the brewery took over everything!). As I said, we’ll be letting everyone know when and where we hit their taps.
You know better than most how important the community of local breweries can be. Have you had any assistance from folks in Atlantic Canada or beyond?
In Newfoundland, Port Rexton has been both a help in showing that craft beer can exist here, and in personally helping with scouting spaces when we were in Ontario, and just in more ways than I can really express. We had a bit of a reciprocal helping with Quidi Vidi where I helped out with brewing down there over the winter, giving me something fun to do while we closed out our lease. With us, Ninepenny in CBS, and Bannerman Brewing on Duckworth Street in St. John’s all opening around the same time with the same systems, there have been a lot of very useful conversations about pretty much everything along the way. Back in Ontario, Mark at Left Field and Jordan at Rainhard have been great for quick questions and just general squad goals. And, last but not least, our good friend Eric Portelance formerly from Halo in Toronto has been our sounding board for a long time and has been so valuable to have along for this whole process.
Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next few years?
Growing. We have a five year plan for our buildout that involves expanding tank capacity and distribution of cans. I want to be able to go to an NLC in Newfoundland and be able to buy an American Pale Ale that was brewed in the province. If not having a local APA option in this province seems strange for the craft beer world of 2018… welcome to Newfoundland! At our current size I believe we’re going to be close to the second largest brewery in the province, so getting to and keeping second largest in terms of production (behind Quidi Vidi) is a goal.
Additionally, we will be building out a barrel program, or “wood program” as Christina calls it. This program will involve different types of barrels and foeders so we can age sour, mixed fermentation, and stronger beers. This way we can flex our Folly muscles, but we want our stainless program to be on point before we get started on that!
OK, time to nerd out: tell us about the brewhouse and equipment.
We have a 15 BBL (1750 Litre) steam-fired system from DME Brewing with a really shiny Fulton Edge Boiler. Rakes, touch screen, hard piping, the whole nine yards. I’m hoping for around 1000 hL of production over our first year with a plan to ramp that to 5000 hL/year over the next few years.
Tell us about your previous brewing history, at home and professionally.
Sure! I started homebrewing in 2010 and Christina started around then too. I went a little nuts with it for the first few years, at certain points brewing once a week. When we first went pro with running the brewery aspect of Habits Gastropub (which became Folly Brewpub), we ended up brewing a lot of different beers in the farmhouse/saison tradition and a lot of barrel aged beer and sours. We did over 100 unique beers at Folly over the years we were there, so it almost was a combination pilot system and brewpub, so it was a really valuable experience! We were lucky enough to brew with some great people at The Exchange, Block 3, Burdock (that one didn’t quite turn out…), and Rainhard up in Ontario and bummed around enough breweries in the last few years to really see what was working in terms of both beer and the business side of it.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Right now I’m all New England IPA and Northern German Pilsner. Bellwoods has been my go-to since before they opened, so they are the brewery I always tend to enjoy. More locally, Stillwell crushes it, Trailway is always a treat, and Unfiltered and 2 Crows are different vibes but such fun breweries.
How about favourite style to brew or ingredient to brew with?
Oats and interesting mineral profiles are probably our two big attractions right now. Vermont Yeast and Simcoe are also things that we’re happy to be brewing with more now. And all French hops. Hoping for some Barbe Rouge in the future. [ed note: That’s a new one to us, looks cool!]
Growlers! Can you tell us about how you’ll be treating those at Landwash?
We’ll be offering both the 32 oz and 64 oz (0.95 and 1.89 litre) growlers for sale and filling. They are yours once you buy them, so treat them carefully! 🙂 No special restrictions on type or which brewery they’re from, but because every beer package size and format must be a listing at the NLC, we will only be doing the 0.95L and the 1.89L growlers with marked volume indication (none of those nice stainless ones without a volume marking, sorry, that’s the regulation). If it has a marked volume that lines up with our NLC listings, we’ll fill it. We are considering a listing for these crazy supersized GrowlerWerks Canada 128 oz growlers that someone is importing to Newfoundland, but we haven’t quite got those set up yet.
Thank you very much to Chris, Christina and Jen for the great information. As mentioned above, the taproom and retail location at 181 Commonwealth Ave in Mount Pearl opens Thursday at 4 PM, and will be open normal hours for the rest of the weekend. Keep an eye on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for changes and the details on the newest beers and tap accounts around the city (and beyond!). In case you were not aware, Mount Pearl is its own city, basically fully surrounded by St. John’s and the town of Paradise at the heart of the north-east Avalon. It’s a 10 minute drive from downtown St. John’s, just a bit longer on the bus (but it does go there, fear not!). We’ll be sure to keep you all up to date with the latest news and happenings from Landwash as they keep putting out exciting beers, and keep the wave of great local and independent beer growing.