The community of West Lorne, part of Elgin County about…
They have blended a long friendship, a love of proper beer — and their names: former McMaster University basketball teammates Shawn Till and Ed Madronich are the co-founders of Dundas-based Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. — SHED, for short.
The brewery is about two years old now and plans continue for its growth, both in its brewing ambitions and in the way it connects with the city around it.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by how great the community has been in Hamilton and Dundas. We believe a sense of place is really important in what we do,” according to Jenna Anderson, SHED event and retail manager.
The building on Hatt Street has the history and the sense of place of which she speaks; it’s a simply magnificent structure with a high-arched roof and massive wooden beams that was the Dundas Curling and Skating Rink. “If you could imagine in the late 1800s to have a facility of this nature in such a small town was unheard of,” Anderson points out.
When its chapter as a recreation and leisure centre had concluded, the building became a facility for the Highway King Bus Line for a decade or so beginning in the early 1920s. Remnants of that era have been captured in the bus destination banners that hang on the walls in the brewery. (As a sign of the healthcare times, note the destination “Sanatorium.”)
Now the facility, with capacity for about 200, is dedicated to craft beer and the hospitality around it. That means primarily lagers and beers that are, in the jargon, “approachable.”
“We’re doing traditional style,” says SHED brewer Rob Creighton. “We’re primarily a lager brewery, which is unusual. It takes longer and doing lagers is just not part of craft world where ales are quicker. Cash flow drives the bus,” he says with a likely unintended nod to the earlier iteration of the building.
Creighton has been doing what he does for 41 years; he was formerly brewer with Grand River Brewing, and, as you can tell from his earlier comment, he’s willing to take a gentle poke at the larger industry — he calls ’em as he sees ’em. While he likes the SHED facility, he’s simply a no-nonsense guy who’s all about the beer. “This is certainly a premier showpiece for hospitality, but I want it for brewing,” he says with a smile.
In a coincidence as clear as one of Creighton’s lagers, Till and Madronich drank Upper Canada lager in their Mac roundball days, and they were determined to get Rob Creighton – the man who made that Upper Canada brew they were drinking at that time – to be their brewer. Creighton seemed to recognize that the SHED founders had a different notion about their brewery — and that was probably what drew Creighton to Dundas.
It’s delicious and the “Original” SHED lager is what Creighton calls the world’s “most expensive beer.” He’s not joking, he says. “Bar none. We use Weyermann malt from a small German maltery and the hops are from the fields around the maltery in the Hallertau region. We have to pay for that, but the owners tried the beer and that’s what they wanted.”
SHED does dozens and dozens of beers each year across the 3,500 hectoliter capacity that they produce. “We’re constantly doing seasonals too,” Creighton says. “It never ends. Four large tanks are involved with lager production and the two smaller ones are for seasonals.” He’s game to do more, adding that he’d like to be able to “knock out 5,000 with the system as it now sits.” The SHED market area continues to grow methodically and carefully, so he says that has to be taken into consideration as they expand.
Most SHED beer is sold out of their bottle shop, but Creighton says they are slowly and carefully heading into grocery stores, Beer Stores and the LCBO — “You have to be careful you don’t overpromise.” The company’s only single serve product, their flagship beer, comes in a unique 473 mL aluminum bottle that they can process on their bottle line and don’t need a costly contract for canning: it’s a game changer, he adds. “It will be a dominant factor because there is real interest from retailers. The LCBO says they want cans, so we’re giving them an alternative to the can.”
In its tactility, the bottle is nice to hold, smooth and supple. The beer inside is much the same — it indeed drinks well out of the aluminum bottle, I have to say — much better than a can, which I dislike. Aluminum bottling, apparently, is a production process which also preserves quality by avoiding oxidization of the beer that happen during canning, according to Creighton.
Looking ahead, you can expect SHED to take about five or six years to reach the operational capacity that they want, including a food component that is coming soon to the facility and will certainly make 65 Hatt Street an even more popular destination in downtown Dundas. Even Creighton agrees with that.
“It’s unique being downtown and we’re self-contained across 14,000 square feet,” he says. “It’s a neat place. People like coming here, and there’s always something new.”
SHED is part of the fabulous Brewery Discovery Routes in Ontario.