Not long ago, Wellington, Ontario was a much quieter town. Now, with great restaurants, wineries nearby and its very own brewery, it has arrived.
The founders of Midtown Brewery, Mark Andrewsky and Paul ‘Spike’ Lees, haven’t known each other long. They met in Wellington a few years ago when their wives made the introduction. The ladies joke that Mark and Paul, “should never be in a room together,” having an inkling that the two would get along. The establishment of Midtown Brewery has confirmed their suspicions.
Originally from Montreal, Mark spent time in Belleville before moving to Vancouver, BC where the West Coast craft beers were revolutionizing the beer industry in the 1990s and he went from drinking Molson Export to a wider range of beers rather quickly. After working in the beer industry for years, Mark and his wife decided to return to the Belleville area to get out of the big city, and chose Wellington.
Paul ‘Spike’ Lees, Head Brewer, hails from the Manchester area and came to Wellington via Toronto. He had lost his passion for the film industry, but his interest in brewing had grown over the years. He began brewing when he was 14 years old and recalls, “it was biology class,” that really sparked his interest.
Midtown Brewery opened in June of this year in the old Midtown Meats facility. The building had been vacant since 2008 after a fire caused significant damage. When they discovered that the building was for sale, Mark and Paul had to check it out. After looking at many potential venues for their brewery, they both knew right away that the Midtown building was the perfect space for their new venture. “It’s a vocation,” said Paul. When it’s more than a career, the space has to be perfect. “Even the floors were insulated.”
With thousands of square footage to work with, the brewery is able to become much more than a source for great beer. Midtown Brewery is a locally-minded hub serving the Wellington community. The Shop at Midtown, influenced by Mark’s time living on the West Coast, carries local produce and items from around Prince Edward County.
The brewpub itself is worth the trip. “We have a full restaurant menu, sourced locally and regionally – using the same philosophy as our brewing. Traditional methods showcasing ingredients. Pasta made by hand, in-house 50-day dry-aged steaks from a cow we hand-selected locally. We make our own cheese and ice cream right now, as well as many other things,” said Paul.
“We want to brew beer that is representative of us,” agrees Mark.
Right now you can find their Extra Special Bitter on tap in the brewpub along with 11 other taps that rotate and focus on beers from the area. Their end game is to have six of their own beers pouring along with six from other breweries. Paul explains that he wants to focus on representing certain classic styles of beers, too. He references German lagers and pilsners, sessionable English ales and more complex Belgian styles for the future. Although they will be experimenting, they are both on the same page when it comes to what their focus will be: “Well-balanced, sessionable, palatable and hopefully you’ll want a second.”
Mark Andrewsky and Paul Lees have been overwhelmed by the support in the County. Their first customers were from Barley Days, Humble Bread and 555 Brewing Co. “They were waiting before we even opened the doors… I think I’m gonna tear up. There has been a lot of support and warm fuzzies,” said Mark.
“We went from tool belts, to aprons, to open and closed signs. We are exhausted and totally blown away.”