In this month’s newsletter, we catch up with Aaron Lawrence from London Brewing Cooperative, in London, Ontario. You can learn more about LBC at https://www.londonbrewing.ca/
OHGA: When did you open the brewery?
Aaron Lawrence: We first opened in 2014, starting on a 1 barrel system operating out of the back The Root Cellar. Given that it was a tiny system there, we could only serve on the taps at the restaurant and an occasional pop-up facility. But right from the beginning, we used locally grown malt and hops. Our commitment to use and be local was built into the brand right from the start.
In 2017 we opened at our current location, which includes our 18 hect system which we have been using since then.
OHGA: Why did you decide to launch a brewery?
Aaron Lawrence: As a group, we had been brewing since 2000 as homebrewers. In 2007 we started sharing space as a cooperative. We always had the dream of starting a brewery and making our brews commercially. We wanted to take them to market and see what the response would be. When we did the response was great, which inspired us to open the brewery.
OHGA: How did you come up with brewery name?
Aaron Lawrence: We have always said that we are brewers, not necessarily great marketers. So the name is really a practical combination of who we are. We live in London. We brew beer. We are a Co-operative. It’s really that simple.
OHGA: What’s the cool factor/unique about your brewery?
- Local focus: We were the first, and likely still are the only, craft malt-certified brewer in the province. That means that we use at least 10% locally malted and grown in all of our brews. In addition, we use local hops as much as possible in all of our brews. Lots of us live in the community, nearby. It’s an awesome commute to work!
- We are 1 of 2 that are certified organic brewers in the province
- We are worker-owned co-operative. Everyone who works at the brewery has the opportunity to be an owner. Despite the word “co-operative” we run it as a business; revenues must exceed expenses!
OHGA: Which brews are selling best?
Aaron Lawrence: 60% of our volume comes from the two fulltime listings at LCBO; London Organic lager, Front Porch Session IPA.
OHGA: How do you decide which recipes to offer?
Aaron Lawrence: Two inspirations – what do I want to brew and what does the local market want. For example, at first we didn’t make any Lagers. But for some reason, London is a Lager town, so we now have a Lager. People would come in and ask “what do you have that’s similar to Bud Light?” So we had to create a gateway beer to help folks shift into craft beers.
OHGA: Where do you sell your beer?
Aaron Lawrence: Brewery retail store and tap room, LCBO (London, KW, Sarnia), local area beer stores, some local bars and restaurants.
OHGA: What is your favourite part of being with the brewery?
Aaron Lawrence: It’s dynamic. There is always a new challenge and opportunity. I also love shovelling out the mash ton. I like seeing in my head the relationship between what goes into my cans and the acreage it must take to produce that grain.
OHGA: What part of your job do you not like?
Aaron Lawrence: Marketing. That said, the nice thing about being a cooperative means that there are others have those skills.
OHGA: Do you buy Ontario Hops?
Aaron Lawrence: Yes; all the time.
OHGA: What factors do you consider when you are buying hops?
- Quality. If the quality is not there it shows up in the final product.
- Relationship. We like working with the growers that we do and have done so for a long period of time.
OHGA: What advice would you have for Ontario Hop Growers?
Aaron Lawrence: Keep your quality high and build on the relationships. I know it’s a tough business. Good luck and stick with it!