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Brewing up success: Refined Fool celebrates expansion

Cathy Dobson Ten LCBO stores in London, Strathroy, Toronto and Sarnia now offer craft beer from the Refined Fool Brewing Company here on Davis Street.
Staff and owners at the growing Refined Fool Brewing Company. From left: Daniel Slade, Celeste Dueck, Nathan Colquhoun, Matthew Barnes and Chris Lewis. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Ten LCBO stores in London, Strathroy, Toronto and Sarnia now offer craft beer from the Refined Fool Brewing Company here on Davis Street.

LCBO sales are a coup for the 10 originators of Sarnia’s only craft brewery who began production of their unique suds just one year ago.

“Demand has just taken off,” says Nathan Colquhoun who teamed up with some 20 and 30-something buddies with a vision to get their beer into Ontario liquor stores within five years.

The fact that it’s happened much faster is spurring on a lot more change, said Colquhoun, who tends to handle the company’s HR issues while his partners divide up other responsibilities like sales, financial negotiations and, of course, brewing.

“When we put our first business plan together, we thought we’d do one batch of beer a week, or 1,200 litres a month in the first year,” he said. “We’re now able to make 8,000 litres a month.”

Over the winter, the 137 Davis St. location underwent major renovations to accommodate a higher volume of brewing and create a bar/restaurant.

What was once a tasting room is now about to become a full-fledged bar with space for live bands. The partners have applied for a licence to accommodate 100 and are waiting on the city for approval. Colquhoun hopes that will come through this month.

On May 1, Refined Fool opened its doors to show off its new industrial-style décor, including a wood and corrugated steel sheet bar, barn board and brick walls, and a large window that opens in warm weather to serve about 25 on the patio.

There’s no kitchen. Instead, the owners have come up with a unique restaurant concept for Sarnia that involves ordering from other local eateries.

“Basically, we’re using Sarnia as our kitchen. There’s so many really great restaurants already here,” said Colquhoun.

Menus from restaurants all over the city are available for patrons to order from. They can bring food in themselves or get it delivered while they sip on the six regular beer varieties and two seasonal styles.

The Noble Oaf, which is stocked by the LCBO, is a rye saison beer with 7.3% alcohol.

“It surprises a lot of people because it’s such a unique flavour,” said Colquhoun, explaining that Noble Oaf is made with wild yeast that creates spicy notes. Talks are ongoing to bring in more seasonal beers to the LCBO and two permanent listings later this year.

“Our goal is to focus on the LCBO, not necessarily get into more restaurants,” said Colquhoun. Already, Refined Fool beer is served at 13 restaurants across Sarnia-Lambton.

The expansion has meant job creation too with the addition of two production workers and six bartenders.

The Refined Fool is open seven days a week; Noon – 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. on Sundays.  Once the new licence is approved for 100 customers, hours will be extended.


First Speed Networking

Registration is ongoing for the first Speed Networking event in Sarnia to be held May 21 at Memorable Moments on Front Street. Check it out at Cost is $25.


Network at the Research Park

This month’s Chamber of Commerce Business After 5 event is at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park on May 20.

Tours will feature the Bluewater Technology Access Centre’s 3D printer in action,

KMX, GreenCore Composites’ wood fibre pellets that can be molded into car parts, the Lambton Water Centre and the Woodland Biolfuels demonstration plant.

Business After 5 is free to members and $10 for non-members. Pre-register for the tour by contacting the Chamber at 519-336-2400.


Got an interesting business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at [email protected] or 226-932-0985.

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