Part Two: Steel Wheel Brewery
Brantford – Breweries in the province have been allowed to remain open since the non-essential businesses and services were forced to close on March 17th. Many have still faced challenges and changes to their operations.
Steel Wheel Brewery, located at 105 Powerline Road, has continued to offer their brews for sale in the form of growlers and bottles since the State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic was instituted. However, their signature ‘farm to glass’ experience has changed drastically.
Owners, Harold Kuret and Cindy Blair, begin the process of brewing Steel Wheel beer by growing a variety of hops on their property.
“We were growing hops before we had the brewery notion,” Kuret says. “We had this house here on the property and we decided to approach the county about opening a craft brewery and they were supportive of the idea. Two years of jumping through hoops and we were able to open our doors.”
Blair explains, approximately 85 percent of the hops in the beer brewed on site are from the farm.
“It’s been different,” Kuret says, referring to business operations over the last two months. “We’re so used to having a group of customers that want to hear about the brewery and about hop farming. People that come in fairly often, chatting with them about what’s going on in their lives, what they’re doing, how their kids are and things like that. Now you get a couple minutes with someone and they are anxious to get out of here because quite often there is someone waiting behind them to come in. We’ve lost that big connection with the community that we had.”
“People are generally coming here for a pause in life. They’ll bring their kids. They’ll bring their dogs. They’ll eat with friends. Play a game. Have a bite together. Have a pint. Spend an hour or two here. So that has really changed.”Harold Kuret, Steel Wheel Brewery
Kuret and Blair have been contemplating how their business will operate to adequately meet social distancing guidelines once they are given a green light to re-open.
“Fortunately, a large portion of our property is licensed – our hop yard, our back yard – so there is the option to put tables out in the hop yard or back yard so we can keep social distancing in play and accommodate a number of people.”Harold Kuret, Steel Wheel Brewery
“Going forward I’m not sure how things will be,” Kuret says. “Our whole thing was based on large community tables and the chairs at the bar are in close proximity, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the province dictates and adapt to it.”