By Mark Arike
The Haliburton Highlands will soon to be home to another brewing company.
On Feb. 11, cottagers-turned-residents Michael and Jewelle Schiedel-Webb announced that their new venture, Haliburton Highlands Brewing, has entered the Ontario craft beer market and the local food scene.
“We’ve always loved the north,” said Jewelle in an interview. “We were thrilled when we started exploring this idea of opening our own craft brewery operation.”
The married couple started cottaging on Cruiser Lake 10 years ago. They thought of getting into the craft beer market in 2012.
“The scene is really growing in Ontario, the market really seemed like an ideal opportunity in this community,” she said. “So we were really interested in exploring that.”
They began researching the market and learning about the industry before deciding to take things further. Michael completed the brewing technology program at the Siebel Institute and World Brewing Academy and developed hands-on experience in brewery production through internships at Shades of Pale in Park City, Utah and Rahr & Sons Brewing in Fort Worth, Texas.
As head brewer, Michael will be responsible for brewery productions and systems. Jewelle will draw on her 20-plus years of management and operations experience to manage all of the business, regulatory and financial aspects of operating the brewery.
When looking for a suitable location for the brewery, Dysart et al reeve Murray Fearrey pointed the couple to Abbey Gardens in West Guilford.
“We started reaching out to different people, we talked to the reeve… they definitely liked the idea,” said Michael, who ended up meeting with John Patterson, president of Abbey Gardens, and board member Barb Bolin.
In a press release, Michael said that the partnership is a meaningful one because “Abbey Gardens’ objectives and operating principles and our vision and goals for Haliburton Highlands Brewing are deeply aligned.”
For example, Abbey Gardens will compost spent grains from the brewing process to augment the production of soil for the gardens. The 900-square-foot production facility – which has already been built courtesy of Abbey Gardens – will incorporate a closed-loop system to recycle the cooling water used in the production process. This is expected to reduce the amount of waste water produced by the brewery.
“When you produce beer, it’s a very water-intensive process,” explained Jewelle. “If you’re doing a good job, your ratio of water used to beer produced is 5:1. It can be as bad as 10:1.”
She added that they are looking at other possibilities, including utilizing items that are produced in the gardens in their beers.
This summer the Schiedel-Webb’s plan to test the market with their pilot production system.
“Our expectation for this summer is that we’re basically testing the market to determine how big our production should be for phase two. The advantage of having a smaller pilot system, initially, is it gives us flexibility to be able to do smaller batches, try different things… [there’s] less risk,” said Jewelle.
But first, they must complete all of the requisite legal paperwork needed to bring their plans to fruition.
“We have to get through our licensing process, which is the big thing,” said Michael. “That’s probably [going to take] six weeks to two months.”
They currently have three beers in the works – a blonde, pale ale and Abbey ale.
“We expect that we would probably have a couple of standard beers… and then a rotation of seasonals,” said Jewelle.
“We want to brew what Haliburton wants to drink.”
The pair has initiated focus group testing and expects to start selling their selections to the public this summer.