Jimmy, his brother John and longtime friend Seb founded Longslice Brewery in 2014. The award-winning brewery has gone on to win the hearts of local beer lovers near and far and can be found in watering holes across the West End (including ours!).
To kick off the launch of Tall Can Tuesdays in the Melody Bar on Nov 8, Jimmy will be in the house handing out free samples and chatting about the brew from 5-7pm. In an effort to get to know our local producers a little better, we sat down with Jimmy to find out what it’s really like to start a brewery in Toronto.
Longslice at 12 Beers of Summer in 2016. They’ll be back for 12 Beers of Xmas on Dec 9!
Legend has it, you started brewing in your basement with your brother and dad in high school. How has Longslice evolved over the years into a bonafide brewery?
Yeah, we started making home brew in high school. Our old man had a bunch of old bottle trees and fermenting buckets in the basement so we had some hand-me-down equipment to get started. We’d just buy those tins of liquid malt to make beer. Basically you’d just add water, sprinkle yeast on the top, and a couple weeks later you’d have beer. It wasn’t very good beer, but it did the trick.
We definitely got a bit more serious about things in our mid-twenties. I think part of that was that the internet was a thing now, and so all these home brewers could post their recipes online, or make videos on how to build a mash tun out of stuff you can buy at the hardware store. Information was a lot easier to get. And craft beer was really starting to pick up steam.
Right now we’re contract brewing out of a couple of spots here in Ontario (essentially renting tank space). We’re definitely taking active steps these days to procure some property and get a facility up and running. It’ll be somewhere here in the city and if all things go to plan it’ll be up and running sometime next year. When we have that, then I’ll say we’re bona fide.
For our second beer Loose Lips, we decided to brew a Vienna Lager. Vienna malt is one of his favourite malts to use while brewing beer. The maltsters (people who make malt) kiln the barley slightly longer, which gives it this distinctive toasted breadiness and a beautiful copper hue. Jon did small home brews and threw them on our mini kegerator here at Longslice HQ. Seb and I would drink them and tell him what we liked and didn’t like about each batch. He probably brewed ten different versions of the lager and Seb and I would keep sending him back to the drawing board to tweak it slightly (I think secretly, we were just happy to have a lager on tap all the time, which was a nice change from only drinking IPA’s).
(Home brewing experiments is the early days)
Do you have a beer philosophy?
It’s tough to build a brewery anywhere. Period. They are very capital intensive up front, and you need a big building to put one in. Being in the city it’s a bit harder since big warehouses aren’t always easy to come by, and property value is a lot higher. Not to mention that unlike more rural areas, building a brewery here may result in being close to residential neighbourhoods and you may run into zoning issues.
Our goal for the next few years is to have a cool neighbourhood spot where people can come hang out and have a couple pints, then take a few beers home with them. Like I said before, we love Toronto. And this is where we want our home to be.