Four Fathers joins Cambridge’s craft brewery boom

Posted by Dean Rowan on

Buck-a-beer doesn't fly here.

"Not in this craft world," said Mike Hruden, one of the Centre Wellington hockey dads behind the Four Fathers Brewing Co. in Hespeler.

"This is small-batch brewing and it comes at a price."

More than the single loonie that some who are seeking power in the provincial election would have you distil for a bland can of assembly-line suds.

It's more like five bucks for a pint-sized pour of ingenuity that puts the invigorating fizz in a fine India pale ale.

"In a good IPA, you go crazy with the hops," said Hruden, who quit his day job in telecommunications sales to become general manager at Four Fathers. "And they're not cheap."

Cheap is not the creative game plan for the future of Four Fathers with its endless evolution of experimental flavours under head brewer Curtis Jeffrey, a college-educated brewmaster and new father himself.

The business, which hopes to open to the public within the next few weeks, has grown beyond the small operation in the renovated Rockwood barn of Martin Castellan, one of the brewery's founding fathers and a partner in a Guelph commercial investment firm.

They're not concocting tasty brews around the kitchen stovetop of John Kissick, a fine arts professor at the University of Guelph. It's no longer a frivolous flight of fancy for Hruden, Kissick, Castellan and James Tyo, the president of a large video games retailer.

The four, who are connected by hockey (their sons have been shinny teammates for nine years), spent two years making beer in a barn. Almost a year ago, they bought their brewery's new home in Hespeler.

They set up operations in an old washer-and-dryer factory that was filled with old cars, abandoned presses and 77,000 square feet of lost engines and musty industrial mementos.

The Speed River flows just down the street where an old tub factory is being refitted for condos beside a new 10-storey apartment building. Railway tracks, where a pair of daily trains rumble by, run along the brewery's flank where a patio will stretch under a pergola one day soon.

"We were always interested in something with an industrial feel to it," Kissick said. "A space that could be transformed."

An indoor event space for hundreds is envisioned. Lounges, artistic nooks and a barber's shop are on the drawing board.

Some beer, for bars and liquor stores, has been made in the new location since January. Large stainless steel vats are in place. Bigger ones are being unwrapped. A retail store area and a tasting room with bar and band stage are soon to open. Father's Day, naturally, is the target.

"We are aching to open," Kissick said.


Across Highway 401, another craft brewery with musical ambitions has already done just that. Rhythm & Brews, across Bishop Street from a potato chip factory, can hold about 140 people as it hosts live bands and pours music-themed craft beers. It opened about two week ago.

Their certified beer judge owners, Andrew Byer and Craig Schindler, are firefighters in Brampton and Cambridge, respectively.

The buck-a-beer notion doesn't play here, either. A 12-ounce pour of something cold and crafty from their tap room will run you $5.50.

"Discounting a brand doesn't make it better," said Rhythm & Brews manager Matt Sieradzki, a Prudhomme master sommelier for beer.

"We sort of do our own thing. We're going to be making sure we price our beers competitively. We're also not going to cheapen our product and give a lesser-quality experience to our consumers."

So the craft beer boom appears to roll on. Beer Canada says 260 breweries were operating in the province in 2017. Four years earlier, there were just 100.

And this six-kilometre slice of Cambridge is a hot spot for crafty cold ones.

There's Four Fathers, just north of the highway in Hespeler. North Works Brewery is south of the 401 on Stafford Court, about a kilometre and a half from Jackass Brewing, opened on Sheldon Drive by two brothers in February. Barncat Artisan Ales is nearby on Industrial Road. And Rhythm and Brews is just off the golden mile of Hespeler Road.

At Four Fathers, workers were hustling around the old factory last week. Opening day seemed so distant and yet so close.

"Some days it looks like nothing is happening," Kissick said. "Other days ..."



Jeff Hicks is a reporter with the Waterloo Region Record. 
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