After years of planning, research and development, the wheels of Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company are now officially in motion with a plan to construct a craft brewery in Blyth at the southeast corner of London Road and County Road 25.
Phase one construction at the site will include the brewhouse, a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, an over-20,000-square-foot multi-use space and a retail store, as well as an on-site farm.
Several beer ingredients, including hops and barley, will be grown on 23 acres of farmland to the south of the main building. Fruit, berries and vegetables will also be grown on the farm, all for use in the company’s beer and food.
Through several interviews with General Manager and Vice-President Grant Sparling and investors Steven and David Sparling, along with several other members of the team over the past two months, The Citizen has been granted exclusive access to the genesis of the concept, the process and the future of the company.
The process began, Steven said, five years ago when various economic development-themed discussions identified the potential for a union between Blyth and the booming craft brewery industry.
“That led to a conversation about what people look for on such ‘destination’ trips,” Steven said. “There is an unprecedented effort in Blyth to understand the ‘creative economy’ and in Huron County to support real opportunities for building destination tourism. Cowbell is pleased to be one part of the solution. We are clear in our support. We will work together and we will win together.”
Talks were initiated by Blyth’s Rick Elliott, who was instrumental in the early stages of the concept, and who led the group through the earliest fact-finding stages.
Along the way, plans for the brewery were put on hold until Grant returned to Blyth several years later and, over the course of a summer, he led a business development team to build and test the case for a craft brewery in the village. Grant graduated from New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College last June and just 10 days later he began a comprehensive program at BrewLab of Sunderland, England. Through this program, Grant learned about the craft brewing industry – from ingredients and pairing beer with food to the business side of running a craft brewery.
The program also included work placements in a variety of breweries in the region. He graduated from BrewLab in September as a Brewer and soon after returned to Blyth.
Since the process began, those behind the project have reminded themselves the world doesn’t need another brewery and it doesn’t need another beer, so the goal very early was to provide a different kind of product and experience.
Building upon that foundation, Grant and the team have extensively toured locations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, visiting over 100 craft breweries from which they hoped to learn. Along the way, the pair identified a number of practices and concepts they liked and hoped to integrate into Cowbell Brewing and others that were interesting, but could be made unique and specific to a project in Huron County.
Meanwhile in Ontario, they were busy “identifying pathways to market” with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) while also building Cowbell’s individuality along the way.
Read more about Blyth Cowbell Brewery project…
By Shawn Loughlin, The Citizen, March 3, 2016