HOMEBREWING CLASSES are on tap at the massive new Northern Maverick Restaurant and Brewery, at 115 Bathurst Street, Toronto.
– Gloria Martin
Excitement and anticipation animate the faces of Northern Maverick’s founder and owner Jason Kaptyn and Brewmaster Andrew Crowder as they show me the big things brewing in the sprawling 11,000 sq. ft. space in Toronto’s trendy King West Village- a 400-seat restaurant, mammoth street-front patio and second-floor beer school – all slated to open this summer.
The name “Northern Maverick” pays homage to Jason’s late uncle, Ron Dysart, a woodsman who lived in northern Ontario near Dorset. He inspired Jason by doing things in an original and unorthodox way, regardless of other people’s opinions. Jason calls him ‘a true maverick.’
“Initiating a homebrewing school is part of that ‘maverick’ approach,” says Jason, “Doing things differently. We’ve also rolled out a very aggressive house-made food program, rare in a restaurant this size, making everything in-house including house-made bacon, charcuterie, house-aged cheese, house-ground burgers, taking the same passion for ingredients that Andrew has for his beer and extending it to our food program.”
Brewmaster Andrew Crowder will be rolling out eight or nine different beers from the 10-hectolitre brewhouse with eight 20-hl fermenters.
“I have a big passion for quality. It’s something that needs to be pushed a little more in the industry, bringing out really high-quality beers.”
Andrew worked at Muskoka Brewery for five years, holding positions in Quality Control, Brewing and most recently, as the Brewing Operations Manager. He’s looking forward to inspiring novice brewers.
“Both Jason and I did homebrewing. That’s how we got our passion for the craft and the industry. It’s an awesome opportunity to be able to pass that knowledge and passion on to other people. I think homebrewing is an excellent hobby. You really have control over everything. Anything you want in a beer, you don’t have to rely on trying to find it, you can just go and make it.”
“When I started homebrewing there wasn’t much out there so I made lighter beer and lagers with a little more malt flavour. I was very interested in the process and the science. I’m a science geek. It was like having a lab in my parent’s garage in Delaware Ontario.”
Andrew won’t be the only teacher at this school.
“We’ll bring in experts from the industry and the homebrewing community. There are great experts on specific styles. We’ll offer courses, not only in homebrewing, but beer and food pairings, beer tasting and recipe development.”
“It’s great having the space that we have and being able to offer classes. We can instill the passion we have into other people so they can go and do it themselves. We want this to be a great community learning environment.”
Jason and Andrew want the school to be approachable for beginners as well as the “go-to” place for seasoned homebrewers looking to up their game.
Jason goes on to say, “We’re going to show them the ingredients that we’re using and bring in Zack Weinberg from Toronto Brewing who’s going to explain the equipment needed as well as the packages you need to homebrew. Even if someone walks in the door and says ‘I don’t even know what craft beer is,’ we can start there and get them into it. We’re building a library in the school. We’re already up to about 200 books so that homebrewers at all levels of expertise can come in, have a pint, read a book, talk to each other and come up with new ideas and hopefully come back and share their creations with us!”
Jason knows first-hand the challenge of DIY brews.
“I discovered craft beer in my early 20s and homebrewed a few years later on the back deck of my university abode. Sometimes it’s tough to get your friends to drink them. They’re very afraid at first. You have this homemade beer in stubby bottles that’s unfiltered and doesn’t pour clear. But it gets better by about the third or fourth time and you get somewhere near the vision of what you set out to make. It’s infectious to people around you and they want to know how to do it.
At first, it won’t matter if you make the next greatest beer. It’s an expression of self, an expression of passion and we hope to share that with people.”
Jason and Andrew are definitely bringing the “maverick” spirit to King West. Uncle Ron would be proud.