The Collingwood Brewery brews more than just great beer. Inspired by classic styles of brewing traditions, the brewery’s purpose-built production uses water from Georgian Bay and locally sourced hops. Its brewers blend their passion for craft beer with deep pride in their local roots. The end result is a beer with a depth of flavour that taps into something unique and essential about Collingwood.
The Collingwood Brewery describes itself as a “dream that has come to life.” For Chris Freeman, its cofounder and head brewer, the dream of opening up his own brewery has been in the works long before it came to life. Freeman graduated from Niagara College’s first Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program and honed his craft making lagers at Creemore Springs Brewery.
Through mutual connections, Freeman met with his cofounders who shared his passion for craft breweries. Believing that he could turn the dream into reality, Freeman moved with his family to Collingwood, and the brewery opened its doors in 2014. The timing coincided with the heyday of the craft beer boom. According to Beer Canada, the number of breweries in Canada more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. Kyle Weston, the sales manager of the Collingwood Brewery, recalls that the brewery registered its name just within weeks of two other local breweries, Side Launch Brewing Company and Northwinds Brewery Limited.
Honouring its local roots
The Collingwood Brewery is a fitting name for the local brewery. As a gateway to the South Georgian Bay region, Collingwood holds a unique social, cultural and economic position in Ontario. From its four-season weather to its ski resorts to its vibrant local economy, Collingwood is a major attraction for families and business owners alike. For the founders of the Collingwood Brewery, the energetic yet relaxed spirit of the small-town harbourfront community aligned with what the brewery sought to capture.
True to its ski club roots where its cofounders first met, the brewery’s first beer was named Downhill – a full-flavoured pale ale with distinct citrus notes. Now, more than eight years since its opening, the brewery has vastly expanded its offerings and made a name for itself through its high-quality beers. In addition to Downhill, the brewery produces five more core beers, including flavour-packed lagers to IPAs, that have become its signature. With names such as Sunset Point and White’s Bay, the core beers proudly celebrate their Collingwood roots.
Beyond just making its signature beers, the brewery also produces quarterly seasonal and one-off ‘freestyle’ beers. Depending on the season of the year, there are six to eight freestyle beers. From tart and light flavours with grapefruit and lime to rich and smooth flavours with oats and cocoa, the Collingwood Brewery provides a range of options that offer something for everyone. Every spring, the brewery also releases a new freestyle beer in commemoration of its original namesake, which was founded in 1854.
The team behind the success
The Collingwood Brewery is powered by a team who works hard to keep the beer flowing and the beer-loving folks coming back. As the head brewer, Chris Freeman brews up the magic on the production floor while the production team rolls up their sleeves to get the beers out the doors to the customers. The brewery’s retail manager Scott Smith heads the hospitality team, while Kyle Weston manages the day-to-day operations as the sales manager.
Weston, who has been working at the brewery for the last several years, notes that it has been gratifying to see so many people come to the area not just to ski but also to support the local craft breweries. He states:
“It’s been awesome to see the growth of people’s love and support for craft breweries.” — Kyle Weston, Sales Manager, The Collingwood Brewery
Weston is a local who grew up skiing and playing hockey in the area. Like many other professionals, Weston moved back to the Collingwood area from Toronto after seeing that the local economy was creating new career opportunities. When Weston left his corporate job, the stars were aligned for the next step in his career. He recalls that one day he came upon the job posting at the Collingwood Brewery and went in to meet the team. Weston joined the team shortly after and has been one of its key team members ever since.
Reflecting on his decision to move to Collingwood, Weston says: “When I saw that the economy was getting better and that I could manifest a career opportunity, it made sense for me to move back to the Collingwood area. I’ve been here for the last several years, and I’ve been really enjoying myself here.”
Strengthening the fabric of community
Since opening its doors eight years ago, the Collingwood Brewery has been transforming itself into a vibrant social and cultural hub. From its production process to its partnership with local organizations, the Collingwood Brewery has woven a rich tapestry of community in the town and beyond.
In the face of the lockdowns and certainties brought on by the pandemic, the Collingwood Brewery has carved out an opportunity to bring together the community in new ways. In the summer of 2021, the brewery opened a new one-acre beer garden that features an outdoor bar, picnic table seating and various games. From hosting Summer Concert Series to Paint Night to Craft Beer Yoga sessions, the beer garden has turned into a destination for a wide range of social and cultural events.
Weston emphasizes that the success of the brewery is thanks, in large part, to the support of the local community as well as collaboration with the local partners. He states that the brewery team always leaves some discretionary event tickets for its community partners.
“We believe in showing our appreciation to the community whenever we get the chance. It’s also about being friendly and knowing we’re all stronger together.” — Kyle Weston, Sales Manager, The Collingwood Brewery
Visit their website.
For more stories like this one straight to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly Collingwood 60-Second Business Update.
Photo Credits: Dave West Photography