Sparling family announces destination craft brewery in Blyth
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company presented the details of one of the most ambitious projects the village has seen in recent memory on Thursday night at a special invitation-only event.
The event, held at the Emergency Services Training Centre, was hosted by Steven, David and Grant Sparling and The Citizen was granted an exclusive media preview.
At the event, dubbed “The Home Opener” on its invitations, the trio laid out their plans to open a craft brewery, brew pub, extensive event space and on-site farm at the southeast corner of London Road and County Road 25. Invited to the event were local business owners, neighbours of the future project and local municipal and Huron County councillors.
Grant Sparling, General Manager and Vice-President of the project, as well as investors Steven and David Sparling, and members of the team, led by brewmaster Stephen Rich, whose résumé includes Toronto’s Beer Academy, were also on hand to answer any questions.
The conversation that led to the creation of Cowbell Brewing began over five years ago when the foundation was laid to establish a craft brewery in Blyth. The village was identified as a perfect marriage between untapped economic potential in Huron County and craft beer, the LCBO’s fastest growing category.
While development was put on hold for various reasons, the process picked up again just over two years ago when Grant returned to Blyth for a summer and led a team to build a business case for a craft brewery in the village. Grant graduated from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire in 2015 and 10 days later started the program at BrewLab in Sunderland, England, where he learned about the industry, from ingredients and pairing beer with food to the business aspects of running a craft brewery. Grant completed this intensive brewer’s program in September, graduating as a Brewer.
From there, Grant and Steven began their research, extensively touring craft breweries across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, identifying best practices and formulating a vision for the Blyth project.
The home of Cowbell Brewing will be situated on the land between the Emergency Services Training Centre and the soccer fields north of Sparling’s Propane in Central Huron.
The building will rely heavily on stone and wood in its design with a large window facing London Road, allowing passers-by the chance to see into the brewhouse. The entrance to Cowbell Brewing will be located on County Road 25, where visitors will cross a stone bridge to reach the building.
Several beer ingredients will be grown on site, which will be part of the location’s tour component, and local ingredients and products will be sourced whenever possible through agreements with over 30 local producers and organizations.
Cowbell Brewing also aims to be as “smart” a location as possible, utilizing several forms of renewable energy, including solar, geo-thermal and steam recovery, while also recovering and recycling its greywater.
The group will begin contract brewing (brewing its recipe under guidance of its brewmaster through a co-packing agreement with a brewery in Hamilton) soon with its first batch of beer ready for sale in LCBO stores this May.
The company’s first beer will be called The Absent Landlord, a nod to Henry D. Blyth, the man who bought and named Blyth in the mid-1800s, but never travelled to see it with his own eyes.
Grant and the brand development team led by Robin Honey of Arcane in London have been working with local historians Brock and Janis Vodden to uncover interesting stories and characters, which will become the face of Cowbell’s products.
The Absent Landlord will be the first of eight products the company hopes to produce at any given time, depending on the season and on available ingredients.
As for the structure, the Sparlings hope to break ground this April, followed by a grand opening in 2017.
For a full story detailing the specifics of the project, the team behind it and the exhaustive journey that led to Cowbell Brewing, see next week’s issue of The Citizen. For more information and to see the company's video, produced by Goderich's FauxPop Media, visit cowbellbrewing.com