Original Published on Jul 07, 2022 at 21:17

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — If you are a new business, there is no better place to be than in the waterfront district these days and for Lakehead Beer Company, the timing was everything. Last October, Lucas Goerzen and his brother Aaron opened their brewing company in the heart of the waterfront district with a plan to use their brewery in a way that would bring people into the space to explore more than eight varieties of their brews, straight from the bright tanks.

“We actually just snuck in at the right time with the City when they were changing the zoning. . . . It was right on the line, basically, where they wouldn’t have allowed us downtown,” said Aaron. “Then finally they said ‘OK.’ So in a way, we were almost a trial project for the City.”

What sets the brewery apart from others is they don’t produce canned beer at the site with their impressive brewing system that rivals other microbrewery facilities.

“We like people to come into our space and try our beer in its freshest form and we actually have lines directly connected to our tanks. When you come into our space, you see the big stainless steel tanks behind the bar and that’s where the beer is directly being served from,” said Aaron who referred to the tanks as “bright” tanks.

“Bright, because it helps clarify a part of the process after fermentation and when we shoot it up into this tank, this is where it starts to clarify and becomes brighter, you could say. We also add the carbonation in this step,” he said.

Like most local micro breweries, Lakehead Beer uses Canada Malting Co. for their malt and fresh Lake Superior water to create their own unique brew recipes. Spent grain is distributed among local farmers for nutritious cattle feed.

“We started off with very traditional styles and got those right to make sure that they’re extremely satisfying, thirst-quenching and being true to the nature of the way that beers are intended to be presented,” said Aaron. “We wanted to make a bunch of those as our flagships and then start to get more creative and play off from there.

“It’s been said that ‘if you can make a very light beer taste good, generally that expresses that you have a good recipe and you’re showing that you have big tech skills.’”

The brewery always features eight different beers on tap at one time and will be expanding with another set of taps for more flavours. To date, they have conceived 10 different authentic recipes.

Winter or Octoberfest types of specialty brews are styles that are “ever evolving” he says. By keeping objective, they consider new things they might try, what will complement certain beer and what is the public really enjoying right now.

 The brewery is currently expanding into what Aaron called, “an array of different styles of beer,” and has just released their lemon grass-flavoured grisette.

“We had a bunch of lemongrass that we spent hours and hours chopping and added to this style of beer. It’s a very low alcohol, refreshing summer style of beer and yeah, the lemongrass gave an extra little summary taste to it.”

Also on the menu are some draft alternatives and wine from southern wineries.

“Q Winery is the first winery that we started getting kegs from and we are also starting to work with some cideries,” he said, adding that they will receive an array of unique ciders that they will have on tap which they hope excites people to try new things that aren’t available at the LCBO.

Lucas, who has studied in the brewery operations management program at Niagara College Teaching Brewery, worked for both the Sleeping Giant and Dawson Trail breweries before venturing out on his own.

Today, his Lakehead Beer Company remains in close contact with the Dawson Trail Craft brewery.

“We’re all good friends. We enjoy hanging out with one another,” said Lucas. “They’ve supported us while we were getting up and running whether it’s borrowing ingredients, tools, that kind of thing. They are currently cleaning our kegs for us, which is great. And in turn, we’re also letting them use our equipment.”

Connections run deep in the waterfront eatery sector as well. 

Nestled in the building that houses the Chanterelle and Tomlin Subdivision Pizza, Lakehead Beer is part of a two-bar, open concept set up with Tomlin Subdivision. Also connected is the Howe Street Barbeque (which is temporarily closed).

“The collaboration with Tomlin and Dawson Trail honestly, has just become a very amazing holistic space in that everything kind of cycles around. We can easily just walk down the road and give Tomlin some kegs and Subdivision was a trial for just fun experimental food for them,” says Aaron.

“That was something that we got really excited about. We kind of fell into each other’s interests when we were looking for a place to rent out downtown and the mutual interest of the space is kind of how we realized, ‘Hey, we’re focused on beer, you’re focused on food, we can do both these things really well.’”

The Goerzen brothers are working on building their patio at the side of their building to welcome guests through the summer. Patrons are welcome to order pizza at Tomlin Subdivision, enjoy a beer while waiting for it at the Lakehead Beer Company tap bar, then enjoy the meal on the shared patio.

This item reprinted with permission from The Chronicle Journal, Thunder Bay, Ontario