Three committed families and a big vision can accomplish a lot. That is the case of Town Square Brewing, opening this summer in south Edmonton. Three sets of couples (and their young kids) are the people behind Edmonton’s newest brewing project. The Boutins (Megan and Brandon), McNaughtons (Tyler and Katrina) and Nordins are longtime friends and (for some of them) family who have long been beer enthusiasts who longed for something more.
Like many young couples, they have been busy working to support their families, raising their kids and generally living life. Their current careers cover the range of occupations, including mechanic, designer, pipefitter, teacher, real estate agent and hairstylist – many of which might prove quite useful to opening a brewery (Lord knows more brewers could stand a good haircut). But they talked regularly about other dreams and plans.
“The original dream was to open a pizza shop that offered good beer,” says Brandon Boutin, considered by the group to be the driving force behind the project. “But as we developed our business plan we started to think ‘why not make our own beer?’.” Not much after Town Square Brewing was born. The three men had been homebrewing for a few years and saw how much the Alberta beer scene was changing, giving them the courage to explore a brewery.
Town Square will still offer pizza – that part of the plan did not go away. “We see ourselves as a brewery and eatery,” says Boutin. “Not full service food. Lighter fare food – charcuterie boards, pizza, that kind of thing.” Boutin says they are planning a “flexible” menu.
The goal is to create an inviting space where people can meet up, talk and re-connect. “The Millennial generation, we are connected via phone, text, social media. We can do all that but still be alone, more than ever before,” observes Boutin. “We want to build a place where we can bring people together to connect, eliminate what distracts them.” That means no televisions or loud music – they want to create a place where people come to talk.
The space itself is in south Edmonton on Ellwood Drive near Ellerslie Road and 91 Street – so when I say south, I mean it. The location was intentional. “We come from the south side,” notes Boutin. “We wanted to stay away from central Edmonton and all the stuff going on there. We want to offer something different, offer something to the growing communities of south Edmonton.”
Being located in the burgeoning neighbourhoods of south Edmonton (the fastest growing area of the city) is important to the group, as giving back to the community is a core value for the brewery. “We are community-based. We want to give back to the community that we hope will support us.” They will have a permanent charity beer and pizza where proceeds of every sale go to a different charity every month. But for the group it is about more than raising money; they plan on getting their hands dirty helping out. “We will organize community garbage pick-up drives, bottle drives for local charities,” and generally become engaged with the area’s community groups.
As for the beer, their vision is “to express some artistic spirit, be adventurous, incorporate weird concepts but always go with what our customers want.” Boutin mentions a recent experiment to make a lavender and cucumber beer: “didn’t work out they way I hoped, but we will try again,” which might give you a sense of the kind of adventure he is referring.
The regular line-up is still in development, but they are currently looking at offering a Pilsner, a Red Ale, an IPA and a Saison as their year-round, along with ongoing seasonals and one-offs. They also plan on brewing craft sodas for a non-alcoholic option. “We will have 12 taps,” says Boutin, giving them flexibility. In addition to their own beer and soda offerings, they will always have a few guest taps onoffer from other Edmonton and area breweries.
They ordered their brewhouse in December, a 10-Barrel system with four-20BBL fermenters and 2 bright tanks. Construction on the space has started and they expect delivery of the brewing equipment soon. They hope to have the system installed and ready to roll in May, with a soft opening in June or July. While the primary focus is the eatery, they intend on selling kegs to other restaurants and bars in town. They will also have a growler station at the brewery, “one that is set up right, with CO2 injection, counter-pressure – we want to make sure we do it right,” notes Boutin.
The also plan on hiring a professional brewer, recognizing the demands of a commercial brewery are very different than homebrewing. “We want to stay focused on the vision and on the business.”
The reason for the name is rather obvious, but I ask Boutin anyway. “The town square is the centre part of town where people gather, build relationships, have debates and go back home with a sense of community unity,” he responds. “We want our place to be a place where people come together and leave feeling like they belong.”
They are launching an Indiegogo campaign to help “build out the space and create an inviting environment”. Rewards will include the usual growlers, merchandise, helping design a beer or a pizza, but also might an opportunity to shave Boutin’s substantial beard (he thinks his mother may snatch that one up!)
Boutin and his partners believe this is an exciting time to open a brewery in Edmonton. “We are coming in at a good time, you can really feel the shift. We want to do our bit to educate beer drinkers about local beer.” Boutin says the cooperation and camaraderie among the local breweries has been amazing. “In oil and gas [where Boutin worked] people are cutting throats for a dollar. We have been amazed how generous other breweries have been with guidance and advice.”
This town square won’t be in the centre of town, but if things go well it will be a centre where good beer happens on the southside.