Brewing landscape changing in Whitby and Oshawa with three breweries sold or for sale

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Published March 30, 2023 at 10:14 am

Little Beasts Brewing owner and head brewer Erin Brandson

It’s bittersweet days in the brewing industry in Whitby and Oshawa as three breweries – two of them iconic and the other a fan favourite after less than two years in the business – have sold or are in the process of selling, with many of principals also saying goodbye to the brewing life.

5 Paddles, the oldest of the three and the OG of public breweries in Durham Region, recently sold after ten years in Whitby and more than 350 unique brews that made them one of the region’s most popular breweries.

Founded by five brewers, each with their own brewing style, 5 Paddles reached a conditional deal to sell its operations early this year, with the i’s still to be dotted and the t’s still to be crossed.

The 5 Paddles team isn’t giving a reason for the sale just yet but it’s clear the COVID pandemic broke a bunch of people in the industry. It’s a difficult task, both mentally as well as financially, to find the energy to regrow the businesses.

5 Paddles in Whitby

Perhaps after ten years it was just time.

The exit for Oshawa brewery New Ritual was more abrupt. Founded by two couples – Tim Ferriman and Melanie Martins and Jim and Molly Gorry – the brewery, located in an industrial plaza in the city’s south-east area – had quickly fashioned a reputation as a go-to place for stellar IPAs and pale ales brewed by Ferriman, an award-winning brewer with a background at Town Brewery in Whitby and Toronto breweries Mascot and Great Lakes.

It has now been sold and will re-open as Lightcaster Brewing, though no timeline has been set and the website – beyond the words ‘Lightcaster Brewing’ at the top – is simply the old New Ritual site with no new messages.

A social media post in January saying the brewery was closed “temporarily” was the first public sign there was changes coming, with that post followed by the disappearance of their social media presence.

None of the parties involved have returned messages but sources in the industry say Jim Gorry – who was a co-founder and head brewer at the former Manantler Brewery and the founding brewer at Chronicle Brewing (both in Bowmanville) is staying on as a brewer for Lightcaster, at least for the short-term.

The new owners are reported to be business people, not brewers, with one having ties to the Pita Pit franchise.

No word on the other three New Ritual partners, though there are reports that Ferriman is stepping away from the beer business after a decade brewing.

The Oshawa New Ritual team

‘Award Winning Small Brewing for Sale in Newer Leased Premises. Top of the line equipment, boiler, glycol chiller, walk-in cooler. All professionally installed. Bright and Spacious with Room to Expand. Includes all equipment required to Brew except Kegs.’

The impending sale of Little Beasts in Whitby – it is listed at $650,000 if you are at all interested – is more of an open process and co-founder, head brewer and sole proprietor Erin Brandson has gone public with the reasons for the sale.

The end of an abusive marriage is why she is forced to sell the business, Brandson said, adding that her ex-partner’s best friend is also her main investor. “This is not something I wanted to do.”

Brandson, who opened the brewery in 2017 after a couple of years of planning, made it official to her staff at the beginning of the month in a social media post. “I’m completely heart broken, but ready for a new journey. A more peaceful one. a kinder one.”

Brandson, who has a background in microbiology and women’s health and honed her homebrewing skills at a short stint with 5 Paddles, became known for two things at Little Beasts: brewing top quality Belgian-inspired saisons as good or better than anything from Brussels, and as a social justice champion and advocate for breweries being a safe haven for everyone, particularly women, people of colour and the LGBQT+ community.

Brandson won multiple awards for her beer and also famously opened up her social media channels last year for women to share stories of abuse in the craft beer sector. She also co-founded the Craft Beer Safety Network, a place where people can find statements of accountability, along with a toolkit for brewers to make their spaces welcoming to all.

“I am standing up,” she said of her advocacy work, “so others can too.”

Eir. Erin Brandson’s last beer at Whitby’s Little Beasts

Brandson is slowly easing herself out of the day-to-day operations at the brewery while the sale process is going on and just finished brewing what is likely her last new beer for Little Beasts, a Bier de Garde named Eir for the Norse goddess of healing.

“If there was a beer to go out on, it’s definitely this one. Five years spent working towards this,” she said on Facebook. “Sorting out barrel balances, malt blends and the perfect blend of bugs. There are so many more beers that I wanted to make, but I’m grateful that at least this one found its way out.”

“It’s a bit bittersweet, but I couldn’t be more grateful that it came out exactly how I wanted it to.”

 

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