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Tradition Returns to Olde Walkerville (April/May 2000)
Once Upon A Brewery (November 2000)
Tradition Returns to Olde Walkerville
build a successful new business, many events must come together
in harmony, including choosing a site, getting equipment, finding
staff, raising capital- and much more.
story of The Walkerville Brewing Company is a study in perseverance
and makes true the adage: the harder you work, the luckier you get.
concept for the Walkerville Brewing Company formulated about five
years ago when Karen Behune Plunkett and her husband Michael Plunkett,
proprietors of the popular downtown eatery Plunketts, initiated
market research on the feasibility of establishing a micro brewery
in the Windsor area.
the turn of the century, Walkerville was home to one of the largest
and oldest breweries in Ontario. Its celebrated beers were delivered
in wagons stoked with oak kegs and drawn by stately draft horses.
Plunkett appreciated Walkerville's deep roots in the beer brewing
industry, with the original Walkerville Brewery located at the corner
of Walker Road and Wyandotte.
Plunkett was lured to Walkerville, but found it difficult to locate
a building to house a brewery- one that would allow for expansion
should the venture prove out.
was once the industrial capital of Canada, with many fine warehouses
and factories. Sadly, when I was searching for a historical building,
I couldn't find any in the area."
entrepreneurs had to consider locations outside Walkerville. "We
thought we had to settle on a location in South Windsor; obviously,
this would require a rethinking of our marketing, which was focused
on Walkerville's unique heritage. But then, fate stepped in."
close friend learned that the Canadian Club blending house on Argyle
north of Wyandotte was coming on the market. As soon as Karen entered
the building, she fell in love with the site. "It had this incredible
aura, and we knew it was right."
lengthy negotiations, an arrangement was made. Instead of Walkerville
Brewing Company purchasing the building, Mike Brkovich would
buy the old blending house and two big Walker warehouses, and Walkerville
Brewing Company would be a long-term tenant.
next challenge was to remove the old Canadian Club distilling equipment
from the building. As it turned out, the only way to accomplish
this was by crane through the roof.
next event that shaped the new venture was securing brewing equipment.
While negotiating to purchase new equipment from the manufacturer,
Behune Plunkett learned that a brewery in Waco, Texas had entered
equipment was virtually brand new and perfectly suited the needs
of The Walkerville Brewing Company. This was a turn-key brewing
system, and after some negotiations, the equipment found its way
into the old distillery on Argyle Rd.- at a great savings compared
to new equipment.
next step was to secure the services of a Master Brewer. Doug
Babcock, an internationally famous Master Brewer, was hired exclusively
to design the recipe for the signature beer, Walkerville Lager.
Jason Briton, head brewer at the Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto, assumed
the role of Head Brewer/Brewery Manager. The goal was to create
an all-natural beer with high integrity and a soft finish.
December, 1998, the first shipment of Walkerville Lager was delivered
in kegs to The Old Victoria Tavern in Walkerville.
came the task of building the brand. The education process has spread
through word and mouth and aggressive sales into local drinking
Walkerville Lager is like the difference between mass-produced and
fresh baked local bread," says Behune Plunkett. "Once people try
it, they become fans and our best sales force."
people assumed Walkerville Brewing Company was a U-Brew outfit,
where one could brew their own beer. But once they figured out this
was a legitimate operation, brewing a distinctive beer right here
in Walkerville, acceptance was swift.
months after the first keg was tapped, the beer is in great demand
locally, available in over 100 establishments. Coupled with an aggressive
local sales force, the company supports numerous charitable events
and is the official beer of the Epicure Festival held at the Riverfront
Plaza in the summer.
company's 1943 Dodge Fargo truck, built in Windsor, has served as
the company's mascot, promoting the distinctive stylized logo throughout
Brewing Company sales reps have worked hard to build inroads into
drinking establishments that typically prefer to deal with the large
breweries such as Molson's and Labatt. But the local reaction to
the heritage of Walkerville, and a sense of civic pride, coupled
with the lager's smooth taste, has led to its success.
bottling beer is an expensive process requiring a high sales volume
to justify the production costs, the company decided to sell beer
to restaurants and drinking establishments in large kegs.
the public demanded a way to take the fresh amber nectar home- thus
the Growler Jug was born. Growlers are an American tradition, resembling
moonshine jugs. Rumour has it that when the beer sloshed around
the jug, it created a rumbling sound as the C02 escaped, created
a growling sound.
Lager Growlers have become exceedingly popular and are available
exclusively at the brewery on Argyle Rd.
of taste, what gives the beer its distinctive flavour lies in its
all natural process known as hand-crafting. "We use only four ingredients,"
says Behune Plunkett. "Water, yeast, hops and malt. The amber colour
is a trade secret-we have developed a beer that has lots of character,
is very fresh and has a soft finish."
the future, Behune Plunkett would like to expand the base of support
for the product. "We'd like to have a greater presence in Essex
County, and also expand into Chatham-Kent Counties. We are also
exploring the Michigan market but the distribution of beer is tightly
controlled, so it makes it a little more challenging for us."
to History of Walkerville Brewing