Spirits were high at Cambrian College's inaugural Northern Ontario Craft Brewing and Distilling Summit on Nov. 7.
The Sudbury college's research and development division welcomed brewers and distillers from across Northern Ontario as well as two guest speakers from Niagara College and representatives from NSERC and FedNor.
The purpose of the summit was to begin to create partnerships between northern and southern innovation centres in the tourism, culinary, and beverages sector.
Guests were exposed to the programs and services offered at the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre (CFWI) at Niagara College, which supports industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes.
In terms of facilities, the southern Ontario college boasts a commercial brewery and hopyard, a commercial winery and vineyard, commercial kitchens, and four different labs.
They offer industry partners an array of services including recipe and product development, sensory evaluation, liquid prototyping and market information and competitive analysis.
Cambrian R&D organized the event to make sure that regional craft brewers and distillers are aware of the opportunities available to them, especially at Cambrian College.
“We understand that from a geographical standpoint, it's very difficult for Northern Ontario brewers and distillers to make the trek to southern Ontario to either explore R&D or to partake in those corporate training opportunities,” said Cody Cacciotti, business developer in applied research at Cambrian.
“If, through an event like this, we can identify what their needs are, perhaps Cambrian can act as a satellite.”
Keynote speakers included Lyndon Ashton, centre manager for the CFWI, and Brad Barta, assistant brewer at the Niagara College Teaching Brewery.
In his address, Barta discussed a few opportunities that might be available to Northern Ontario brewers and distillers, including branching out into different beverage markets, using ingredients unique to the North, including spruce and birch syrup, and supporting the provincial hops market.
Troy Lajambe, Ontario account manager at Stack Brewing, believes that working with Ontario colleges has already proven beneficial to the industry.
Stack Brewing recently hired an assistant brewer that graduated from Niagara College's program.
“He's been incredible. It's completely shifted a lot of our techniques and our mindset on how to do things. To implement a lot of systems that maybe we didn't think were as important in the past has proven to be extremely beneficial in terms of production volume.”
Joet Dhatt, partner at Manitoulin Brewing Co., thinks that being aware of the opportunities out there is especially beneficial for smaller brewers.
“For a lot of us, we're small. We have inefficiencies in our processes and a lot of things could be done better,” he said.
“This ability to see what applied research can do, and by utilizing their staff and students in a way that can benefit us in the long term, it's a great marriage.”
One of the most important aspects of working with an innovation centre is access to funding. Smaller brewers and distillers might not have a lot of employees or access to funds, but could actively benefit from applied research.
Colleges across the province can help smaller enterprises fill out paperwork to apply for grants and help address company challenges.
Many brewers from around the country have also identified difficulties in finding trained staff. Niagara College offers week-long courses that certain industry professionals and entrepreneurs might benefit from.
Guests participated in a series of breakout sessions and guided group discussions covering topics from Tapping Into Funding Opportunities to Capping Your Environmental Output.