Micro-brewery in the works for NOTL's main street

Robin Ridesic and her brother-in-law and business partner Haris Ridesic check out a California brewery.

Robin Ridesic and her brother-in-law and business partner Haris Ridesic check out a California brewery.

Robin Ridesic has been making beer at home for about five years, and when she realized how much she was enjoying it, she decided she would like to turn a passion and hobby of hers into a business.

Yes, she’s a beer-drinker, she admits—has been since before she should have been drinking it—and has found some of her efforts at home to be successful, others not so much.

The young mother had to put her plans on hold for a while, but last year, she decided to begin planning in earnest, and went looking for a location on Queen St. from which to start her own micro-brewery.

She didn’t find any suitable properties for sale, so she began cold-calling, and, she says, “it was just a matter of good timing.”

The owner of 7 Queen St., right next door to the historic Niagara Apothecary, wasn’t intending to sell, but he listened to what she had to say, and as a result Ridesic has an offer to purchase the property based on rezoning to allow a micro-brewery.

This week, she was able “to check another box” on her long list of things to do to fulfill her dream, with the approval from the Town’s planning committee to add a micro-brewery to the possible uses of the Queen St. retail space.

It’s a small store, but it suits her needs.

In order to sell beer, she has to make it on the premises, and she wants to begin small. Tiny, in fact, she told councillors Monday, as she indicated a tank size that would be about waist-high.

Her plan is to produce just enough on-site for tastings and retail sales.

What she will lack in quantity she hopes to make up for in quality.

“My intent was always for production to be small,” she says, while producing something much more flavourful and diverse than the big breweries.

“I want to make what I consider to be more interesting, more creative beers, beers full of character.”

And Niagara-on-the-Lake, specifically Queen St., is the place to do that, she said.

“We have a sheltered beer scene here. It’s come a long way since I first started thinking about doing this, which is great. But until recently we haven’t had a good craft beer scene.”

Locating on Queen St. will help attract tourists, she says, and with the other micro-breweries in town, will put NOTL on the map as the place to visit for craft beer as well as wine.

Despite her home-brewing experience, she plans to hire a professional brew-master, but that is a ways down the road, she says.

The building she hopes to purchase has a tenant with a lease that could take her to 2015 before she gets into the store.

When she does, she is passionate about preserving the history of the building, which is from the late 1880s.

Even the name she has chosen—The Exchange Brewery—is out of respect for its history, which included a stint as a telephone exchange from the turn of the century through to the 1950s.

Town planning staff and the planning committee are supporting her rezoning requirements, and council will have the opportunity to approve her application Monday.

“It’s been a long process, and I’m not there yet. It will be a while but eventually we will have a micro-brewery on Queen St.”

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