Farm to be integral in Blyth Cowbell Brewing plans
BY DENNY SCOTT
This article was published as part of The Citizen's 2016 Salute to Agriculture, which can be viewed in its entirety here.
Part of the announcement of the Cowbell Brewing Company was that an on-site farm would be providing ingredients not only for the beer to be brewed there but for the food on the menu of the on-site brew pub.
The company, which is a Sparling family venture, seeks to put a brewery, brew-pub and farm on the property at the corner of County Road 25 and London Road, just south of Blyth.
According to Vice-President and General Manager Grant Sparling, having the opportunity for a farm to be on site was always a big part of the plan.
“The site where the brewery is going to be has been a farm for its entire life,” he said. “It was a cattle farm and a crop farm. It’s important for us, as a rural destination, with the goal of remaining authentic, that we have some sort of farm aspect at the brewery. The components that are grown there will be used for the foods and the beer and it seemed like a natural thing to incorporate into our destination facility.”
While the specifics are still being ironed out, the farm will be a place where fruits and vegetables are grown, alongside barley and hops.
Unfortunately, having the best brews will mean reaching a little further afield than the back 40 for the best ingredients.
“As far as the brewing side, the supply chain in Huron County for brewing ingredients is pretty much non-existent,” Sparling said. “The closest maltster would be in Guelph, but they don’t have the capacity to provide for us.”
Moving forward, Sparling said, the Guelph site might be used for the company’s malting, but they didn’t have enough stock to provide the company with the vital brewing ingredient now.
“The mandate is to have as much as possible sourced or processed locally,” he said. “When that doesn’t apply, however, we will get the best in the world.
“Right now, our malt is coming from Germany and the hops will be coming from all over the world,” Sparling said. “For those ingredients, we can’t source anything in Huron County. For the restaurant and other things we plan, we’re working with a list of 30 to 40 Huron County vendors and suppliers and will be speaking with them shortly. We’re getting as much for the restaurant as we can from Huron County.”
Sparling said specific dishes or ingredients haven’t been discussed yet, however one of the things that the company is proud to announce is its on-site wood-fired pizza oven.
“It would be a differentiator for our restaurant from the area,” he said. “It’s neat from a visual perspective as well as making excellent pizzas. The menu hasn’t been confirmed, but we will have the pizza as well as quite a few different burger options, as it all pairs great with beer.”
As far as Blyth’s existing community agricultural program, the community garden at the Canadian Centre for Rural Creativity, or the former Blyth Public School, Sparling said he didn’t know if the two ventures would work together.
“We’re not sure how the garden is going to play into our plan,” he said. “Some of the restaurant owners around town were excited about fresh fruits and vegetables coming from there and having them in the kitchen, but we will have our own set of fruits and vegetables at the farm.”
Farming isn’t something that anyone can just decide to take up, so it has been an experience, according to Sparling, getting ready to have a farm be such an integral part of the company.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “Rick [Elliott, who was announced as being in charge of the farm] is very excited about getting involved in the project. He loves digging into something and getting hands on with it. Whatever he looks after will be done well.
“For me, it’s very interesting as I’ve seen barley and visited hopyards before,” he said. “For us to have the opportunity and space to grow our own crops and use them is something pretty special.”
The company will be looking, in the future, to acquire a range of equipment to look after both the urban part of the property, around the brewery and restaurant, and to accompany the farm operations.
“That will be in the next year to two years for us,” Sparling said. “The brewery is the focus and the restaurant as well. Once that’s up and running, we will look at having the farm ready and having it available for tours as an educational component. People will be able to experience the farm and then enjoy the final product made there.”
For more information, visit
cowbellbrewing.com or look for the Cowbell Brewing Company on Facebook or Twitter.