Kingston Heritage - Nineteenth century Kingston could be described as a sudsy utopia. The city played host to up to four breweries at one time (and seven in total over the course of the century), with everybody from the lowest chimney sweeps to the top political brass imbibing locally-brewed beer and whiskey.
Through his new craft brewery, Stone City Ales, Ron Shore hopes to reclaim a part of this past, while at the same time embracing the new craft beer movement that’s sweeping across North America.
“Kingston was long overdue for this”, he says, explaining the idea of opening up a craft brewery had been in his head for quite some time, but didn’t really seem like something that could become a reality until he lost his long-time job in the healthcare field quite suddenly last year.
“When I lost my job at three days notice it took me a little while to lick my wounds and then I thought, ‘this is my opportunity’. And it’s been really good. From a business model perspective it was such a big open market, and we knew that there was a thirst for it and a really strong demographic in Kingston between the students and the downtown professionals and the increasing number of women drinking beer because of craft beer.”
Along with business partners Eric and Rebecca Dinelle, Shore will open Stone City Ales at 275 Princess St. this July. In tribute to the return, of sorts, to Kingston’s brewing tradition, the name of the business is intended to be both a nod to the past and a look to the future.
“We’re returning to the tradition of local brewers and lots of different recipes,” says Shore, noting that the craft beer movement is a conscious step away from the big, mass-produced brands that have been mainstays in Canadian coolers for decades.
“I didn’t want another ‘Limestone City’ business. I didn’t want another ‘First Capitol’. We wanted to send the message that the brewery is a different kind of business. One of our missions is to [bridge the economic and cultural divides in Kingston]. Craft beer brings people together because the demographics are so diverse. That’s what we need.”
Shore adds that these days, “people like knowing how and where something is made,” and as such customers at the brewery will be able to witness their beer being brewed through glass walls.
“You will see how this beer is made, for better or worse,” he laughs, noting that it can be quite a messy process.
The brewery will also include a tap room, where customers can drink beer and order meals made with food sourced from local farmers. People will also be able to purchase beer in reusable bottles and growlers.
Of course, the beer itself is the star of the show. To make sure he got the recipes just right, Shore hired Justin daSilva, who comes from Beyond the Pale craft brewery in Ottawa.
“He’s a very skilled craft brewer and be brings a lot of really neat ideas. When I met him he said, ‘I want us to make beer that stands out not just in Kingston, but anywhere’.”
Stone City will start out with four different styles of beer, each with its own logo and branding: a stout called “Ships in the Night”; a pale ale called “12 Stars Session Ale” (a reference to the 12 stars that still grace the old Kingston Brewery building on Wellington Street); an IPA called “Uncharted”; and a Belgian wheat beer called “Whitecaps” (in tribute to Lake Ontario on a windy day).
“People will be able to buy t-shirts with the logos on them,” Shore says. “They’ll have nice graphics. A large part of craft beer is people love the merchandise. People connect with it and it’s more than the beer. It’s the whole identification with what it signifies.”
He remarks that he’s already been overwhelmed by the community’s response to and support for the brewery.
“I think that the overwhelming attraction is that it’s a connection to something real and simple,” he says, adding that “Kingston, for better or for worse, has a reputation of being fairly conservative. People new to Kingston have a hard time fitting in and feeling accepted and I think that needs to change. There’s a whole bunch of local food and local craft people who are beginning to change all of that and we want to be part of this larger movement.”
To learn more, find Stone City Ales on Twitter at @StoneCityAles, like them on Facebook and visit www.stonecityales.com.