New beer on tap
RURBAN BREW: Andy Rorabeck stands in front of the fermentors at his fledgling brewery in Cornwall. The Green Valley resident and Char-Lan District High School teacher hopes to have his brewery, which he will call Rurban, up and running this spring.
Beer lovers rejoice. A brand new brewery is starting up in Cornwall and it’s being overseen by a popular science teacher at Char-Lan District High School.
Andy Rorabeck, 42, says he’s been dreaming about opening his own brewery for a number of years but he only got serious about it in 2013 when, he determined, the market was ready for a new brewery in Cornwall. He got a loan from Business Development Canada, added that to his savings, and set out to chase his dream.
So far, the 2,500-square-foot shop on Cumberland Street is a work in progress. He’s got most of his machinery in place – four fermentors, two brite tanks and a three-vessel brewhouse (all custom made in China) – but there’s still plenty of work to be done. Other pieces, like a canning unit, will arrive soon.
If all things go according to plan, he hopes to have the brewery up and running in April.
“There’s still a lot of work to do,” he says. “I need to get some permits, have some construction and go through two levels of government.”
One thing’s for sure though, he won’t be lacking for people interested in his product. Ask him how many restaurant and pub owners have expressed interest in his product and he’ll reply that the more pertinent question is how many draft accounts will he be able to take on.
“I should be able to take on half a dozen draft accounts,” he says.
The brewery will sell canned beer at the store and also ship kegs to various restaurants. And what’s the name of this brewery? “Rurban,” Mr. Rorabeck says, explaining that the name is a portmanteau of rural and urban.
As for what the beer itself will be called, Mr. Rorabeck says he hasn’t decided yet. He is planning on brewing 16 different kinds of beer every year – four for each season – although he doesn’t plan on using spices or sugars to flavour his beer as other breweries do. His beermaking philosophy is more traditional; he plans on emphasizing beer’s basic ingredients.
“There are dozens of types of hops and yeast,” he explains. “And there’s plenty of things you can do with your water too.”
At the onset, Mr. Rorabeck will be the brewery’s sole employee. He has the skillset to do it, he says, as he ran a small brewery from his home in Green Valley and he’s also completed the Beer Judge Certification Program out of the United States.
Even so, he’s not too eager to do any prognosticating, saying he just wants to get the brewery up and running before he concerns himself too much with the future.
“More than 95 per cent of the beer market is controlled by the conglomerates,” he says. “Craft breweries have less than five per cent.”
Tapping a growth market
But despite this small market share, these small craft breweries account for almost 30 per cent of the brewing industry jobs in Ontario.
According to Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), the industry has created more than 5,000 jobs – both directly and indirectly – and has an annual economic impact of more than $400 million.
OCB media contact Christine Mulkins says craft beer continues to be the fastest growing segment within the LCBO’s beer category, growing at anywhere from 20 to 30 per cent per year.
Mr. Rorabeck is optimistic about the future. He says that the community has been very supportive of his new initiative and that a number of people even stepped forward to help move the equipment into his new home and, in his words, “keep me sane.”