Yesterday I sat my ass on a bike for nearly six hours, conveniently pausing for a break in Whitby, at 5 Paddles Brewing Company. The interruption was so worth it.
Co-founder Ian Mills was in for a brew day and took some time to give me a tour of the small space and the story behind it. The name “5 Paddles” refers to the five craft brewers that decided to turn their shared passion into a business. None planned to quit their day jobs – this was entirely meant as a side project – but within months the brewery was doing well enough that in addition to their own full time attention they were actually hiring.
The set-up itself is impressive, in that it’s a hodge-podge of tanks and kegs that came from other recently expanded brewers, failed wine-making suppliers and time spent scouring kijiji. The fridge – mostly hand-built – is cooled by a used, window-mount air conditioner that has run without interruption since July of 2013.
The brewers’ enthusiasm is palpable. They hadn’t planned on doing a pumpkin beer this year, but got excited thinking about possibilities and instead opted to each create a different take on gourd-infused beers.
Currently, only a basil-infused summer ale called Italian Backyard (which I’m really enjoying RIGHT NOW) and a dry-hopped saison named Le Chant des Walloons are available. The saison is part of their Sixth Paddle program, which invites other local brewers to get into the game, using 5 Paddles’ system. This one shares the handiwork of Brent Lessard and Chris Meade from Brewer’s Pantry.
From hectic beginnings – literally bottling with a Blichmann Beer Gun, capping and handing off to waiting customers – the popularity of the Durham County brewery shows no signs of waning. To keep pace the brewers invested in more equipment and opened the shop seven days a week.
To be honest, it ain’t the prettiest place, but that’s part of its appeal. You can actually see how five guys have grown into their success, sticking fermenters and bright tanks wherever the hell they can.
Tastings and tours are free, and styles rotate frequently. I strongly suggest swinging by when you’re in the area to see the makings of something pretty great. Other than a few licensees, you won’t find their beer anywhere other than at the bottle shop.
I’ll definitely be back.