Cowbell set to open to Blyth residents
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
On Saturday, Cowbell Brewing Co. will open its doors to Blyth residents for the first time with a barbecue and all six of its Founders’ Series beers on tap.
The Citizen was granted an early-access tour of the facility ahead of the grand opening exclusively for Blyth residents on Aug. 5, exactly 425 days after construction began. The general public will first be allowed into the building on Monday, Aug. 7.
In the weeks leading up to the grand opening, dozens of contractors of all stripes were working daily to ensure the site will be ready to open on time. This included everything from putting the finishing touches on the interior design and brewing equipment to paving the parking lot to planting dozens of trees along the east side of the property.
The Sparling family – Steven as the company’s CEO, his brother David as its Vice-President and COO and Steven’s son Grant as its Vice-President of Operations and General Manager – have made every effort to construct the building in as sustainable a manner as possible. Not only has the construction been done sustainably, but Cowbell will be North America’s first-ever carbon-neutral brewery.
First, the 650 Douglas Fir beams that were used to construct the building were harvested from sustainably-managed forests in British Columbia and then finished in Mount Forest.
Working with Allan Avis Architects, the building has been oriented to take advantage of the daily movement of the sun – ensuring that most heat gain is in the winter months and the least in the summer months. In addition, the west-facing glass wall is coated with a film that reduces the greenhouse effect by 80 per cent, allowing for light, but not heat to enter the brewery’s cellar side of the building.
As well, Cowbell will be making use of a living roof on the second floor of the building just to the left of the entrance. This roof will be covered in greenery and sit just above extensive landscaping on the ground floor near the building’s main entrance.
Four historically-accurate cupolas positioned along the roof allow for natural light and ventilation throughout the summer months. The ceiling is also equipped with seven massive, strategically-placed fans that decrease heating and cooling requirements by 20 per cent.
Thanks to numerous efficiencies throughout the building and in the brewing process, the company is aiming for a 4:1 water-to-beer consumption ratio, which is far below the industry standard of 10:1 that, in some cases, can be as high as 20:1.
The company has gone to great lengths to ensure the Cowbell grounds are accessible, bringing in local consultants to ensure the location exceeds all current standards. Outdoors, the building has high-contrast curbs and design, while inside the bathrooms are accessible and there is an elevator to the second-floor event space.
Around the back of the building a large oak tree will be planted on the building’s rear patio, which will be available to those using the restaurant.
The main dining hall has been dubbed Henry’s Hall, after Henry Blyth and the Henry family who previously owned the farm, and the bar has been called Doc’s Bar after Doc Perdue. The building also features Thresher’s Hall and the Loft on the second floor, which can be used for weddings and other group events.
Outdoors is Mil’s Verandah named after Mildred “Pat” Sparling. The area will feature a social gathering area around an outdoor fireplace, a setting in which Steven says his mother was always familiar, spending time with friends.
There are also plans to expand and include an estate brewhouse on the grounds that will use fruit and vegetables from an accessible restaurant garden and a working farm complete with barley, hops and an orchard. The grounds will also include a unique natural amphitheatre for live music, cultural events and sports with a capacity of 15,000.
As the Sparlings look ahead to Aug. 5, Grant says it was important for him and his family to host an event for Blyth residents so they could get a first look inside the building before the rest of the world. He says that the project is very literally a dream come true for him.
Giving the people of Blyth a “hometown advantage” Grant said is important to continue the tradition of events like the Home Opener and the First Batch Party that were held in Blyth and open first to locals. He says the company is proud to be from Blyth and wears that fact like a badge of honour.
The Aug. 5 event will feature a barbecue and the general store will be open for the first time, selling everything from beer to t-shirts. The store has been largely constructed out of reclaimed wood from 414 Queen Street, the former home of The Gift Cupboard, which has recently undergone a major renovation.
However, the real bonus for Blyth residents and those who will be visiting the Cowbell farm going forward will be the number of different beers on tap at the company’s headquarters that will not be available anywhere else.
The bar will feature 30 taps, 25 of which will be dedicated to Cowbell beers. That includes various beers in the company’s experimental Renegade Series of beers – which have been available in limited quantities at select locations across Ontario over the last year – other special brews and the entire Founders’ Series, which includes Cowbell’s three released, canned beers that are already available across the province: Absent Landlord, Doc Perdue’s Bobcat and the newly-released Kelly’s Contraption. To round out the Founders’ Series, the farm will also feature the three as-of-yet unreleased additions, available on tap and in growlers on site, which are filled through a state-of-the-art CO2 system that preserves the draft style of the beer, ensuring a longer shelf life.
The bar will showcase the work of renowned brewmaster Stephen Rich, while the state-of-the-art kitchen will feature a wood-fired pizza oven and a layout that allows restaurant patrons to watch the kitchen staff in action. It will serve as a stage for the skills of recently-named executive chef Alexandre Lussier.
While the plan is to eventually release these installments in cans to Ontarians, they will be available at Cowbell headquarters from Aug. 5 on. The beers are:
• Lorna Bray Fly Girl: A nitro oatmeal stout named after Blyth native Lorna Bray who, at the age of 14, made her first solo flight and at 16 became the youngest Canadian woman to make a parachute jump. Throughout her career, Bray would fly everything from helicopters to bush planes.
• McNall’s Mission: A honey brown ale, this beer is named after George McNall, a company scout in World War I. After winning a medal for bravery behind enemy lines, he enlisted again in World War II at the age of 45 as a dispatch rider.
• Doc Perdue’s Boxing Bruin: An India pale ale, this beer is the second named after Doc Perdue, who was known for his office, which was also known as Blyth’s unofficial zoo. The veterinarian rescued and cared for a variety of animals in the 1880s, including a bear cub, which he would eventually feature in impromptu boxing exhibitions.
Of the remaining five taps at the bar, two will be dedicated to one-of-a-kind craft sodas, two to unique nitro coffee and the final tap will be reserved for another Huron County beer on a rotating basis.
The world’s first closed-loop brewery and North America’s first carbon-neutral brewery opens to Blyth residents on Aug. 5 and to the rest of the world on Aug. 7.
While invitations were distributed to all of those with a Blyth postal code, if you live in Blyth and did not receive an invitation, come to the brewery sometime between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Aug. 5 and you will be granted entry.
For more information, visit www.cowbellbrewing.com.