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GoodLot Farmstead: We take our beer seriously!

Posted on Wednesday July 25, 2018

GoodLot Farmstead Brewing Co., founded by Gail and Phil Winters, makes fresh, hyper-localTM, estate-quality ales and lagers.

In late 2009, Phil and Gail spent the winter doing research on small scale specialty crop farming. Phil decided to go to the U.S. to complete a course in hop production. They both decided to focus on local craft hop production.

In preparation, they began working their soil in 2010 and built their first trellis system and planted their first hops in 2011.

We recently met Phil and Gail at their home on a 28-acre lot on Shaws Creek Road in Caledon where they craft GoodLot beer. 

Why did you choose Caledon as a place to start your business? 

Gail: I was born and raised in Caledon so it was a natural step for me to come home to Caledon. 

Phil: Gail and I met in 1992 and reconnected in Toronto in 2008. We were both tethered to the city at that time; I owned a solar company and Gail was a successful independent film producer. We both knew we wanted to live in a rural environment and so we started the search for a small farm north of the city. We literally ran off in high spirits, madly in love, and purchased our 27-acre heritage farm in northwest Caledon. Caledon is the perfect fit for us as we're five minutes away from parks, hiking trails, fly fishing, biking and other outdoor activities that we love. 

Tell us about GoodLot Farmstead Brewing. Have you always wanted to have your own farm business or is it a more recent idea?

Phil: I was a political activist and environmental campaigner my entire career but had always wanted to be a farmer to be closer to the land and local food production.  Organic farming is a personal philosophical commitment, but hops are very challenging to grow organically in Ontario. The evolution of our farm was to add value to our farm by vertically integrating our hops into finished product – ales and lagers!  We take our beer and ingredients very seriously. And everything we do here reflects our personal values and commitment to a better future for our son. 

Tell us how you started and developed the product? 

Phil: Throughout this process we have been constantly evaluating our soil to make sure it is conducive to growing hops, researching the market, and testing which varieties do well in northwest Caledon. Gail focused on taking many hop and soil courses to further her training while integrating further organic strategies on the farm. We, along with nine other hop farmers, co-founded of the Ontario Hop Growers Association and since then have seen lots of growth in the hop sector, and lots of success among our fellow growers. 

We sold our first hops to the legendary Granite Brewery in downtown Toronto and received great feedback for the local flavor and aroma.  Two years later we expanded our hop yard and added 1400 rhizomes with a focus on Nugget and Cascade, two of our best flavors that now form the basis of our first beer release, GoodLot Farmstead Ale. 

Tell us about the destination approach you plan to take….

Gail: There is a lot of room to grow in the destination approach but we want to roll out the ideas organically. It’s not just going and having a beer; it’s about the experience; interacting with the chicken and the sheep, having dinner in the hop yard and enjoying the atmosphere and solitude of our farm. 

Phil: Our bottle shop and beer garden will open this summer and our official tasting room is scheduled to open spring 2019. We will host walking tours of the farm/brewery so visitors can see and learn about the whole process of growing hops and creating craft beer. We want to curate a list of things to do in the vicinity and give visitors the opportunity to have an amazing, memorable experience in this great part of Ontario.

Since the process is quite labor intensive…. how frequently do you hire? 

Gail: We host a farm intern every summer. One of our former interns is now our full-time teammate. He does office administration, deliveries and farming work. Hops are very seasonal and I look for interns through job postings on and through programs like those offered by Fleming College.  We also offer paid workshops to our interns, so they can further their skills and interests beyond the farm.

How many stores carry your product?

Phil: Farmstead Ale is available at over 65 bars and restaurants and 33 LCBO stores in the region.

What do you think about the brewery industry in Caledon? What kind potential or growth do you see in the future?

Phil: The craft beer industry has lots of room to grow over the next decade. Roughly six percent of the beer sold in Ontario comes from local craft producers, leaving 94% to the big corporate, foreign-owned breweries.  I am extremely optimistic about the growth of craft beer here.  People want an authentic local experience and with the rise of local breweries, customers can go and meet the people at the farm. There is a truly experiential aspect to the local craft brewery market.

How important is it for people to buy locally?

Phil: For us, local procurement is very important and it is being done as locally as possible so revenue stays in the community and directly benefits our neighbours. We are growing ingredients on farm and going to start buying malted barley from a nearby farm. We source all materials locally for our solar powered brewery and use local contractors whenever possible. Whatever benefits our community also benefits our farm. That is why we call our approach Hyper-localFarm Raised BeerTM.

Tell us about your future plans, what can customers look forward to this year?

Phil: Last year we expanded our beer ingredients beyond hops to include rosehip, calendula, hibiscus, fennel and peppers so that we could experiment with different flavors. It’s not guaranteed that they will come out perfectly, but we started growing and preserving those ingredients as an experiment to create different unique local flavors. We can’t wait to have our full-scale brew house in our retrofitted barn so that we can start exploring all these different ingredients and create truly unique seasonal and one-offs, that reflect what “growing” on.

Gail: We are aiming for an official launch this summer, with a little bottle shop. GoodLot’s Tasting room in a 130-year old heritage barn will open later on. We also have at least four events lined up in August this year. Stay tuned!

About: Goodlot Farmstead Brewing

The first farm-to-barrel brewery in the Greenbelt, GoodLot Farmstead Brewing makes fresh, hyper-localTM estate-quality ales & lagers. They use hops grown on their farm in combination with locally grown grains and other ingredients grown on and around their farm to create truly local Caledon beer.  Visitors can taste the brew at some of the fine local establishments in the Caledon, Greenbelt and Headwaters region.

18825 Shaws Creek Rd

Caledon, Ontario