Drinking Hops and Robbers 0
Hops and Robbers is the flagship beer for Canada's Double Trouble Brewing Company. (Supplied)
When a brewery launches a brand nationally, there are usually a number of hurdles to contend with. If you're a large craft brewery, it might be years before you build up enough volume to be able to spread your beer into another province.
Take a look at Steam Whistle and Flying Monkeys, which have been able to expand recently into Manitoba due to their increased volumes and new equipment. Steam Whistle's new canning line has enabled them to reach all the way to Alberta to expand their customer base, partially because cans are so much easier to ship than bottles.
If you only brew in one location, it can be difficult to make the decision to expand. Infrequently, though, people have tried to come up with another solution to this problem. If you brew in more than one location, it becomes easier to contend with markets across the country. This has been tried with limited success in the past.
In the early 1990s, Pacific Western Brewing from British Columbia expanded into Ontario by starting a second brewing location in St. Catharines. This was not a bad idea, but setting up a brewery can be expensive both in terms of time and capital and ultimately the project was abandoned.
Due to the rise of contract brewing in Ontario, one beer company is attempting to change the rules and launch a brand in several provinces at once. Claude LeFebvre and Nathan Dunsmoor are the brains behind Double Trouble Brewing Company and they are trying a novel approach: launching a brand in several provinces at once without the difficulty or expense of starting their own brewery. They are essentially producing their beer by renting space at breweries across the country.
Hops and Robbers is their flagship beer and is touted as an "extra delicious IPA." It is something of a hybrid between the English and American IPA styles, meaning that it has some of the light, biscuit malt character of an English style IPA and draws on the American style for its hopping, with some notes of tropical fruit and citrus. It's a casual but high-quality introduction to the style for people who are not used to India Pale Ale. Designed by Paul Dickey, it has his typical hallmarks of refinement and gentility.
It's what beer nerds refer to as a gateway beer.
The impressive thing is that the beer will be launching in Ontario next week and across Western Canada over the next several weeks. This is made possible by the fact that it will be brewed in more than one location by more than one brewery. Cans of Hops and Robbers are being produced at the Wellington Brewery in Guelph, while bottles of the IPA will be produced in Saskatchewan by Paddock Wood.
It's a good system for everyone involved. For Double Trouble Brewing Company, it means that they will be able to start and maintain a national brand. For the breweries involved in the production of the beer, it means that none of their equipment sits idle and they are constantly producing beer. For consumers, it means that there will be one more high-quality choice on the shelves when they go looking for a hoppy, refreshing beer to enjoy this summer.
It remains to be seen whether this contract brewing approach will work in a national setting, but I can see no reason that it shouldn't, especially with the enthusiasm and energy brought to bear on the project by LeFebvre, who, as far as I can tell, never stops moving and may not actually sleep.