FROM HOMEBREWERS TO PROFESSIONALS
Sometimes worlds collide, but with the very best of results. At least that’s bubbly Gretta Barnwell’s perspective. One of three owners behind the operation of Meyers Creek Brewing Company in Belleville, Barnwell happily reports both her co-partners, husband Bill and good friend Rick Stinchcombe, first became captivated by the beer-making process as young men, long before they knew each other.
Along the way, life happened: marriage, kids, jobs. Everyone got a little older, but that initial delight in attempting to make the very best beer possible never lost its shine. When the trio happened to chat over some of the Barnwells’ homebrew at a gathering with friends, the idea of making beer professionally began to take shape.
“And the rest is history,” she laughs, reporting Bill’s main role revolves around the brewing process, while Rick, a former industrial engineer/millwright, oversees all the massive renovation projects that naturally occur when one decides to open a brewery in one of the city’s beautiful older buildings. “We’re all Jacks of all trades, masters of none, but the partnership is truly one hundred percent between the three of us, with decisions made by all.”
EVOLVING THROUGH A PANDEMIC
Perhaps it’s the business partners’ steady friendship, now evolved to something resembling more like family, that makes overcoming tough challenges possible. When Covid struck in 2020, the new entrepreneurs scrambled to pivot. Due to lockdown restrictions, they suddenly needed to set up their operation for curbside sales only. Meanwhile, they arranged to brew their unique Back Roads Vanilla Porter at a bigger brewery in order to stock it at the LCBO. Next came a lovely patio in what originally served as a parking lot. Live outdoor entertainment provided by local musicians regularly took centre stage on weekends. No kitchen yet available to serve food? Why not let patrons bring their own? Dodging and weaving became a necessary skill set.
“But dumping beer into someone’s trunk doesn’t exactly provide the experience of talking and sharing a love of beer,” admits Barnwell.
And all three brewery owners enjoy talking about beer. Aside from discussing the actual beverage, Barnwell is also keen to describe steps the three business partners have put in place to minimize their carbon footprint. A one tank brewing process means Meyers Creek requires no floor drains as there is no spill. Everything from boiling to fermentation to carbonation all occur within the same tank while high heat efficiently sterilizes the equipment. No harsh or harmful chemicals ever come into play. It’s clear that making good beer is important, but so is being a good citizen.
COME JOIN THEM FOR A PINT!
Now that their taproom is officially open, Barnwell hopes to serve up draft in their small-batch brewery and enjoy an old-fashioned chinwag about beer and the joys of making it with anyone happy to participate. The kitchen might have to wait a while longer, but plans for that are firmly in the mix, too. One thing these three brewery owners know well: dreaming big pays off when you’re prepared to work for it.
BREWED IN THE BoQ SERIES
Check out our blog on Flyby Brewing Company to meet another local brewery!