Recently I passed by Cool Brewery in Etobicoke, Toronto and had a chance to chat with brewer Adrian Popowycz (pictured). The brewery has operated for two decades, in recent years at the south end of Islington road near the lake. Adrian has impressive professional brewing credentials and considerable experience in the industry.
The plant expanded since my last visit to encompass part of the parking area on the west side. The new space houses some of the 36 stainless steel cylindro-conical fermenters in the plant, the latest Chinese-made to Cool’s specs.
Cool is known for its Cool Lager, Stonewall Light and the darker Buzz, the last with a hemp addition. The first two are styled to the mass market, using some grain adjunct, while Buzz is more a craft style with light toasted malt and a racy edge.
Cool’s line is value-priced, which assists its sales as it does little marketing. It is easy to forget that most beer sold in Ontario (and Canada) offers a mainstream taste. Cool has a space in that market but in distinction to the “big names” is locally-owned and operated.
I tasted the lager on draft which on a 90 F day went down like no trouble, the flavours of clean malt, corn and German hop lingering in the mouth. The beer’s helles inspiration is obvious, except it’s lightened with the corn. This style of beer emerged in the U.S. in the last quarter of the 1800s and is still going strong for a large part of the market.
To my taste, and irrespective of price, Cool Lager is superior to most of the lager made by the international brewers. It just seems more beer-like, and fresher. The company makes a point of advertising that no preservatives or additives are used.
Does Cool ignore the burgeoning craft/indie market with its IPAs, saisons, stouts, and much more? Not at all, it makes all these and more but for contract brewers, under co-pack arrangements as it’s termed in the industry. Cool can make any kind of beer it wants, and to a high degree of proficiency. Beer fans in town tend to know where some of the contract beers are made, and Cool is one of the specialists in the co-pack field. Two or three other breweries in Ontario handle this market as well.
In the business of brewing, Cool has carved out its space. Any beer fan has to be impressed with many of the products it makes both for itself and others, but also simply its success in staying the course in a competitive, highly-regulated field.