In ten short years, a rudimentary backyard brewing experiment by a handful of Sarnia friends has grown exponentially and achieved status with the LCBO as Small Supplier Partner of the Year.
The success of the Refined Fool Brewing Company in winning the coveted “Elsie” this month from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is indeed exceptional, as is the contribution of every one of the craft brewery’s 40 employees.
Company directors Matthew Barnes, Nathan Colquhoun, Brandon Huybers and Tony Alexander were at the LCBO gala in Vaughan May 16 with about 500 of their peers from Ontario’s beverage alcohol industry.
When they were named this year’s winners in their category, Tony says they were euphoric.
“We’re very blown away,” he said. “It’s pretty wild for us and it says a lot about the Refined Fool that we can foster a good relationship with the LCBO.
“But to be a good supplier, takes a full team with everyone operating at a high level.
“We’re super proud of everyone who works at Refined Fool. The entire team should be considered exceptional,” he said.
The Refined Fool’s story is a classic one. It started at a get-together in Nathan’s backyard in 2013 when he and his buddies attempted brewing beer with some stock pots, propane burners and garden hoses.
The first batch was better than expected, as the story goes, and so the group delved into research on how to set up a microbrewery and come up with appealing styles of craft beer.
Fast forward one decade, and the Refined Fool has three locations in Sarnia. One is the original Davis Street location where the brew team works on pilot batches. It was just renovated and now has a full kitchen and large outdoor sitting area.
More quickly than anticipated, the group’s dream of expanding happened in 2018 when the London Road taproom opened. It is dominated by three large brew tanks that produce about 600,000 litres of suds a year.
Finally, a third location called “Sports” opened during the pandemic just behind the London Road taproom and offers big-screen TVs, indoor games and has capacity for about 100.
In 2015, just two years after that backyard get-together, the first Refined Fool products began appearing on LCBO shelves. As its popularity grew, so did the number of varieties. There are now six Refined Fool products for sale at more than 300 LCBO outlets, including the top selling Refined Fool IPA Fun Box that gets changed up every six months or so.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Tony. “Our brew team does an amazing job trying different flavour profiles.”
Aside from the four company directors, The Refined Fool has another 30 silent investors.
The company isn’t strictly about making good beer and generating profit, Nathan added.
Every month, a charity night is held that has raised approximately $30,000 for local charities.
“We won the LCBO Elsie for meeting and often exceeding our sales objectives, but also for the strong working relationship we have with them,” said Tony.
“We feel we have a world-class facility with a world-class team making some of the best IPAs in Ontario.”
Who do you consider an exceptional person in Sarnia-Lambton? Nominate someone you know and explain why you think they should be The Journal’s Exceptional Person of the Week. Email [email protected]