The Story of Side Launch Brewing Co.
The Early Days
If you have ever been lucky enough to visit Side Launch Brewing Company, you may find it hard to imagine a time when their 27,000 square foot space on Mountain Road did not have wall to wall fermentation tanks. Even for those outside of Collingwood, Side Launch beers have become a familiar site in LCBOs across the province, putting into perspective just how impressive it is that they have only been around since 2014. The idea for the brewery came about many years before this, and in typical Canadian fashion, started with a group of friends in the dressing room of a hockey arena. Evan Siddal was the driving force behind building the brewery and although the global financial crisis stopped their planning at the time, Evan made sure to keep the dream alive and got the gang back together in 2011.
Evan and friends started by partnering with Michael Hancock, who was head brewer at Denison’s Brewery in Toronto. Michael brought with him a wealth of experience, and some very tasty beer recipes to boot. The next big step was finding a space to brew out of, and after scrapping the idea of building from the ground up, the Side Launch team secured their current location on Mountain Road. Finally, they had to choose a name that would represent their project. In the end, they chose to call it Side Launch in recognition of Collingwood’s ship building history. For over a century, the Town of Collingwood built lake freighters that were launched in Georgian Bay. However, because of the geographical character of the bay, these huge ships had to be launched sideways or “side launched”, as opposed to leaving the bay bow or stern first. Just as the ship building industry supported the local economy in Collingwood, so too did Side Launch aspire to support Collingwood by creating local opportunities for employment. The brewery now employs over 25 people, including several summer students who come to learn about brewery operations ever year.
Another goal for the brewery was to create a space where the community could simply be together. On a regular weekend, it is not unusual to see groups of friends huddled around a table playing cards, while another group plays cornhole in the corner, and a yellow lab lays snoring next to a bar stool. “We wanted it to be a space that people could come to, whether after work or on a Saturday or Sunday and just feel at home. We’re pet friendly, have games for people to play and we’re not open extremely late. It’s just a really relaxed environment for people to come to” said Taryn Baker, who is the Senior Marketing Manager at Side Launch. The brewery also has a new beer garden, offering their guests even more space to sprawl out with their friends and enjoy a beer.
Side Launch has seen enormous success since it opened its doors in 2014, boasting 5 core beers in LCBOs around Ontario, with a rotating seasonal beer offering as well. Their smaller batch and experimental beers are reserved for those who make the trip to the brewery though (just in case you needed another excuse to go).
As the plans for Side Launch became more detailed, a big decision had to be made about where to build the brewery. For many in the group Collingwood was either home or their home away from home. It was the perfect place that represented escaping their busy life and being able to relax either on the ski hills, hiking trails or just with friends and family. This was their way to give back to a community that meant so much to them.
They also saw an opportunity to contribute to Collingwood’s burgeoning reputation as a tourism destination beyond its affiliations to Blue Mountain, and in the end, they took it. Nearly a decade later, Collingwood has earned its reputation as Ontario’s craft beverage capital, with several other breweries, distilleries, and Kombucha producers all contributing to its strong craft community.
“We’re definitely excited to work with the [craft] community whenever possible. Recently the Town of Collingwood developed a Craft Beverage Capital Tour, which is a self-guided tour through the breweries and distilleries in Collingwood. It gave us the opportunity to connect with some of the other breweries and distilleries again. And we really want to continue developing those relationships.” Said Taryn. Collingwood’s reputation as a welcoming business community also provided a strong incentive for Side Launch to locate in the town.
Looking to the Future
Now that the brewery has become well established in Collingwood and has expanded its reach into LCBOs and restaurants across the province, they want to focus on innovating and continuing to improve the quality of their products. “I think innovation is the biggest goal. We’re always trying to come up with something exciting and fresh for people to try. We generally start with our small batch programs just here in the taproom, and then from there we can decide whether we want to sell that beer in the LCBO or through licensees. But really, we just want to offer people the flexibility to try new things” explained Taryn. The brewery recently upgraded their canning line and acquired a centrifuge, with the hopes of fine tuning their operations. Some will know how exciting a centrifuge is, but for those who do not, just imagine a really expensive salad spinner for brewing beer that makes your beer smell better, taste better and last longer.
Like many other breweries, Side Launch also started selling their beer online recently, which means you can now order a case of your favourite beer to your doorstep (like…right now, even). To learn more about Side Launch Brewing Company and order that case of beer we just talked about, check out their website at Sidelaunchbrewing.com.