Red Barn set to begin beer sales July 1
By Bruce Corcoran
There will soon be a new craft beer player on the brewing field in Chatham-Kent, as Red Barn Brewing Co. is set to begin selling beer July 1.
The Charing Cross area craft brewery is the brainchild of founders Denny and Sandy Vervaet and Dan English, and it’s a family affair.
Located on Lagoon Road just off Middle Line, Red Barn will sell beer right out of its brewery room in the short term, Denny Vervaet said.
“AGCO gave us permission to have the brew retail store right in our brewery,” he said.
It will be a temporary take-out style store, as Red Barn is still finalizing its tasting room, which, with an outdoor patio factored in, will have seating for 150 patrons. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the room is still closed to the public regardless.
The company only received its manufacturer’s licence this past spring, but the brewery has been in the works for years.
Some might say it goes back to the home brewing days of Vervaet’s grandfather, Denis Vervaet.
He said his grandfather came to Canada from Belgium and home brewed his entire life.
“I remember going downstairs and seeing him doing his thing. I didn’t understand it, as I was a kid.”
But his grandfather passed away back in 2001. At that time, Vervaet said he went looking for a piece of nostalgia from the home brew kit.
“There was none. I went into the back fridge and there was one last stubby bottle of his home brew sitting right in the middle of the fridge with nothing else there,” Vervaet said. “I kept it. I had it all these years before we started talking about brewing. I found it again and said, ‘Maybe Pepe wants someone to take this to the next level.’ Here we are now, and the inspiration is because of him.”
Vervaet said he and English, his brother-in-law, began taking an interest in home brewing six or seven years ago, after touring a number of craft breweries.
With advice from members of the Maple City Brewers’ Alliance, a home brew club, Vervaet said he and English improved their brew quality and made the decision to start the business.
In fact, their home-brew unit is now their testing station where they can create two mini-kegs worth of beer at a time.
“This is our test system. We can play with seasonals or tweak recipes before we take them to the big level,” he said.
That “big level” are the stainless steel batch kettles in the brew room.
With a great deal of family support, the Vervaets and English are set to open their doors to sell to the public.
Vervaet said a lot went into the process, and it is not a get-rich-quick scheme.
“This is a lifestyle business. I think people get the wrong idea that there is a lot of money in beer,” he said. “This has turned into a way of life – the people, the atmosphere, just the enjoyment of it.”
Beers that will be for sale initially include Home Farm Blonde Ale, Harwich Moon Chocolate Porter, Last Pass Session IPA, Five Acre Island Citrus Blonde, and The Sharecropper, named and brewed in honour of Vervaet’s grandfather.
“When he came to Norfolk County, he share growed tobacco,” Vervaet said. “It’s a Belgian-style wheat beer.”
“We are offering a few different beers while we launch in these unprecedented times. There will be a few of our ‘Farm Four’ beers available in cans as well as our first batch ever brewed on the big system that will be sold in growlers,” English said in a release.
The diversity of flavours for the brewery is a trademark of craft brewers and something Vervaet loves.
“There are a lot of cool beers that brewers are doing with fruit and different spices and herbs. The cool thing with beer is the evolution. Ten years ago, there was never fruit in beer before. Now, brewers are getting very creative,” he said. “Craft breweries may get a bad rap that we’re adventurous and we try anything, but I think that’s neat. There is a beer for everybody.”
Vervaet said the goal is to show patrons the process of beer making and help them to find one they like.
In the future, the folks at Red Barn hope to have live entertainment and showcase the culinary offerings of various food trucks in the region.
Oh, and they’ll continue to experiment.
“We’re going to start playing with some sour beers – we just want to have something for everybody,” Vervaet said.
Red Barn owners said they have already received inquiries about brewery merchandise as well.
“We thank the community for all the support they have given us,” Sandy Vervaet said in a media release. “It’s still unbelievable when we are approached by different people that want to buy our merchandise and then to see it worn around town is really cool.”
Red Barn will be the first farm brewery in Chatham-Kent and will be promoted as a family friendly farm and agri-tourist destination.
The owners also would like to see a craft brewery tasting tour organized in Chatham-Kent, with stops at Red Barn, Sons of Kent and Bayside.