My relationship with Arch Brewing began like so many do these days – with a tweet. As I was perusing Twitter, I came across a new brewery announcing it was setting up a location in Newmarket (which is essentially my hometown.) A couple of years ago, it had seemed like that part of York Region was a craft beer “dead zone,” with nary a bar or brewery to be found. But with Arch’s arrival (in addition to a lively craft beer pub called Hungry Brew Hops) it appears to be (mercifully) picking up.
It wasn’t only Arch Brewing Company’s proximity to me that fostered my interest, but their beer. Dinner Jacket O’Red IPA was a lush, texturally orgasmic IPA with a sturdy malt foundation in addition to its liberal hops. It only took a few sips before I was harassing Bill King, owner and founder of Arch Brewing for an interview.
“We may seem new to the industry but we’ve actually been working in [it] for seven years” King explains to me when I met with him at the new Arch Brewing headquarters (which, at the time of this interview, was an empty warehouse.)
“The spark was lit when we went on a guided tasting at a beer show. We weren’t even beer fans at the time and it was quite an eye opener.”
Prior to their new location in Newmarket, Arch Brewing was contracting out of Wellington Brewery in Guelph. After King and his wife/partner Suzie discovered their passion for beer they proceeded to look for a way to ease into the industry.
“We realized that drive and desire weren’t enough. And because brewing equipment is very expensive we took a baby step into the industry, which is contract brewing,” King explains. “It worked out well for us, as well as the brewery we were working with.”
Perhaps contract brewing was a “baby step” as King said, but regardless, it certainly took a lot of gumption. Not every brewery allows it, which is part of the reason King, based out of York Region, began brewing out of Guelph.
But what happens after one leaves their day job to pursue the pie-in-the-sky brewing dream? What was life like before?
“Life was… a lot simpler,” King laughs. “Less stressful, but less interesting. Less fun, that’s for sure.”
Arch Brewing Company’s flagship, the aforementioned Dinner Jacket¸ was a slam dunk first beer. Created in tandem with his wife and a freelance brewer, it went through several trials before it became the beer you’ll find on shelves.
“We probably went through five or six test batches before we got it the way we like it, and through that process we also came up with the idea to add oatmeal,” King explains. “We knew it wouldn’t add much flavour wise, it would just give it the texture that no other IPA at the time had.”
But the show doesn’t stop there for Arch Brewing. They’ve recently hired a young new brewer to work full-time, helping them implement what King wants to be a highly rotational line-up of beer, with only a few mainstays. King elected to leave the brewer’s identity and future beer ideas anonymous, so you’ll have to wait with same bated breath as me.
“I think the person we’ve hired will be very good at taking the ideas and work on it together, and come up with lots of interesting things,” King says.
If Arch Brewing can bring the kind of clever innovation it did to Dinner Jacket, I think its lineup stands to be very exciting. I look forward to visiting their warehouse when, instead of vacant, it’s teeming with activity. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for another Dinner Jacket, a beer that I’m more than happy to keep sipping slow.