Yonge Street Media

Toronto taps craft beer market

By: Andrew Seale

In a worn pair of jeans and a t-shirt labeled Hopman, Doug Pengelly doesn’t look much like a de facto mad chemist.

Sure, his unruly tuft of auburn hair and ginger scruff divided by a pair of spectacles might hint at some mild form of hidden madness, but for the most part the brewmaster—who deals less in the realm of chemistry and more in the delicate balancing act of malts and hops at Junction Craft Brewery—is a low-key guy, his mind on the next batch.

Launched by Pengelly, Tom Paterson, the founder of Queen West Mexican joint La Hacienda, and David Hayes, the founder of graphic design studio Hayes+Company, the Junction Craft Brewery has whet hopheads’ palates for the past three years with its staple brew, Conductor’s American Pale Ale. Tucked in an industrial park in the Junction, the brewery has become a symbol of Toronto’s craft brew rapture.

The art of branding

Bob Russell, co-founder of Hamilton-based Collective Arts, has also built his craft brew around a strong narrative, tying the brews to Toronto bands like July Talk and Hands and Teeth as well as global acts, artists and photographers.

“We wanted to create an upside down brand where instead of having that one label, we give it to the art and music community four times a year and let them constantly reinvent the brand so we’re ever evolving,” says Russell.

Since it launched last year, Collective Arts has used over 300 labels picked from 3000 submissions and 28 countries.

“It has become much bigger than [co-founder] Matt Johnston and I had ever dreamed of,” says Russell.

Collective Arts and craft beers in general are an answer to something. Maybe it’s that feeling of exclusivity when you crack open a cold one from a block away—that organic energy that comes from knowing something is handmade. Sure, drinking is social, but maybe there’s more to the story than beer commercials let on, says Russell.

“I think people are tired of this over-branded non-relevant approach to beer, almost a caricature of what people think a crowd would be” says Russell, referencing the fraternity-like image of mainstream beer. “It’s become such an abstraction of reality, but craft beer provides this very authentic, embracing world that people can enter and really connect with.”

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Collective Arts Brewing