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Farmer plans first county-based craft brewery

Friday, December 11, 2015

 

Published by The Windsor Star | December 11, 2015
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Karl Lonsbery is putting a new twist on farming.

The seventh-generation farmer and CEO of Lonsbery Farms Brewing Co. in Harrow plans to establish the first farm-based craft brewery in Southwestern Ontario.

“We want to offer the true taste of the farm-to-table craft brewery,” said the 33-year-old Lonsbery.

One of three entrepreneurs to appear before a group of angel investors Thursday, Lonsbery said his project will capitalize on the growing popularity of craft beer and Essex County’s wine tourism.

“Beer outsells wine three to one, and the demand for craft beer in Ontario has grown by double digits every year,” said Lonsbery.

As winemaker at Mastronardi Estate Winery near Kingsville, Lonsbery has a decade of winemaking experience under his belt. His 100-acre family farm is located along the county’s wine route that draws thousands of tourists to the region. “We want to be the 100-acre winemaker,” he joked.

The county currently does not have a craft brewery that can service the local and tourist market for craft beer, he said at the event organized by the Windsor Essex Capital Angel Network. As well, many microbreweries in the region cannot keep up with demand for their product, he said.

Lonsbery Farms has the capacity to service the market as well as provide brewing options for local microbreweries, said Lonsbery, adding that he has signed an agreement with Windsor’s Craftheads Brewery to produce 65,000 litres of beer in the first year of the deal.

“Windsor and Essex County is currently underserviced with one craft brewery and four microbreweries currently operating in the region,” Lonsbery said.

He already has secured $2.35 million in financing and is seeking an additional $844,286 for the project. He has purchased $670,000 for brewing equipment, which will be installed in a 25,600-square-foot building at the home farm that also will house a restaurant and a hall designed to host such events as concerts and weddings.

The brewery is slated to open either late spring or early summer of next year, said Lonsbery. Plans call for production to reach 150,000 litres initially, although the facility has the capacity to brew 2.5 million litres annually. “On a craft scale, I could have the largest production capacity from Essex County to Toronto,” he said.

Deborah Livneh, one of about dozen potential investors at the event, said she was impressed with Lonsbery’s pitch. “The local guy is full of enthusiasm,” said Livneh, entrepreneur in residence at WEtech Alliance. “He knows his business. He’s got the technical side and he’s in a growing market.”

The investors also heard from a Toronto-based company which has developed technology designed to digitize heath-care and medical records as well as a Michigan company that has developed supplemental oxygen devices and systems.