Luke Pestl, who in 2012 co-founded Bellwoods in Toronto, Canada, talks about starting the brewery in the early days of Ontario’s craft beer scene.
With Mike Clark, the other co-owner, the brewer went in early for sours, did not shy away from big, hoppy styles, and blew the barriers away from what was at the time a conservative beer region (at least in Ontario).
Consumer tastes in the province have wakened to the possibilities of craft, and the brewpub and restaurant on Ossington Avenue continues to serve them up from a strip in the west end of Toronto that has become a trendy part of the city.
Hoppy beers are on tap and Belgian-inspired beers and they were early users of Brettanomyces to bring new tastes to the market.
Bellwoods is named after a nearby Trinty-Bellwoods park and Pestl remembers the lack of options compared to the exploding US craft scene or neighbouring province Quebec.
A sour to wake the market up
There were a few early microbrewers around, such as Granite and Amsterdam among others. Bellwoods woke the market up with good double IPAs and solid sours.
Various ranges of their tart, hoppy and sour Jelly King is a mainstay in that range along with a Brett saison Farmageddon.
They now have three brewing areas in the city to focus on producing enough to meet the demand for their most popular brews, while keeping their barrel ageing programme and the experimental brews on tap. Pestl has cited Cantillon, 3 Fonteinen, and Tilquin as inspiration for their sours.
Pestl was at the BxlBeerFest in Brussels this August, during Belgium Beer Week.