THUNDER BAY – Lake of the Woods Brewery is finalizing expansion plans that will see the Kenora-based company also set up shop in Manitoba and Minnesota.
Co-owner Taras Manzie said he expects the growth will take about three years to complete.
“We are looking at multiple brewing sites,” Manzie said on Friday at a news conference at Sleeping Giant Brewing Company, where local Liberal MPPs were touting $5.2 million in spending to boost Ontario’s craft beer industry over the past half-decade or more, making the announcement in a pre-election campaign-style stop.
“We’ll see one in Manitoba and we’ll see one in Minnesota through a partnership and expanded facilities in Kenora over the next 36 months.”
The brewery, which opened five years ago, is best known for its flagship beers, including Firehouse, Sultana Gold, Forgotten Lakes and Big Timber, as well as seasonal products like Tippy Canoe.
Manzie said it’s exciting times, explaining why they’ve chosen to expand westward and to the south into the United States.
“We want to service the lake and the lake is touched and surrounded by Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario,” he said. “That’s sort of our wheelhouse. That’s our backyard. That’s where we’ll play and operate and work to develop communities.
“For us to have brewing facilities, big or small, in those locations is sort of core to how we’ll operate our company.”
The company in the past has dabbled in specialized coffee and is on record with CBC as saying they want to get into the distilling business.
Manzie said while their flagship beers will remain a staple of their brewery operations, they’re always playing around with flavours and could try to localize them in Manitoba and Minnesota to fit the local palate.
“What we’ll see more and more of is hyper regionalized products, specific to those brewing facilities, that utilize local ingredients, employ locally and our main production brewery will then continue to brew our core products, which will continue to distribute across Northern Ontario and Manitoba,” Manzie said.
“Minnesota for us will be key because it gives us direct access to that state. As well we’ll also look at North Dakota. It’s all based on consumption. It’s all based on sales and we hope we’re embraced as a local brewery in all of the communities that we operate in.”
The company will be seeking Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation funding to help cover some of the expansion costs at their Kenora facility.
Lake of the Woods Brewery employs 80 people year round and 140 during the peak summer season.