Rob Hern’s business has grown like a hop bush, but there is a definite limit.
“I have absolutely no interest in full production,” said Hern, the owner of the three-year-old Short Finger Brewing Company in Kitchener.
Focusing on small batches over the last couple months — it took years to get provincial approval for the brewery — Hern has played to the tune of his own horn when it comes to brewing the suds.
“This one is like a gin and tonic,” said Hern, a former brewery shop hand at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Toronto, pointing to a batch of bottles in the 6,500 square foot brewery and homebrew shop.
What originally started as an idea to brew and sell small batches quickly turned into a niche for Hern. He started selling a few homebrew supplies for those who wanted to try it on their own and now, the homebrew supplies represent about 90 per cent of his business.
It started in a small unit in the building they currently occupy, then it expanded into another unit and eventually into the warehouse-sized space he has now.
The homebrew supplies are not only hoses, heaters and kettles, but the supplies that it takes to actually make the beer, from imported hops to various grains to develop the perfect flavour profile.
Hops from different regions, Hern explained, have different flavour profiles, much like grapes in wine.
The startup cost, Hern said, is as low as $200 to create your first batch of homebrew suds.
On the brewery side, Hern is unapologetically different. Most of his beers are aged in different used or unused liquor barrels. The used barrels typically contain the flavours of gin, chardonnay or whatever other liquors or spirits Hern can get his hands on.
“Every time you come in here, you will probably find something different,” said Hern. “Some people may not like that, but every batch is going to be different.”
Some batches are stored in the barrels for as little as two months, while others are held for a year or more to create the perfect flavour profile.
While the shop — and the demand for his beer — has grown, Hern said he’s going to keep the production small-scale.
“It takes away from the experience,” said Hern when asked why he’s not willing to become larger. “It keeps it interesting.”
The brewery side may be larger than a stock pot on the stove, but it still keeps the charm of a homemade brew system.
"It's like homebrew on steroids," said Hern.
The business has plans to improve the current space, however. A retail site will soon become a tasting bar, where patrons can try before they buy, or just come and enjoy a pint of beer through an open garage door.
Tuesday to Friday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.