Interview with Bill Coleman – Cameron’s Brewing Company

Cameron's Brewing CompanyThings seem to be in a constant state of change in the brewing scene here in Ontario.  More and more breweries are trying new and exciting brews, they’re growing, not just in portfolio, but in physical size too.  New faces are turning up, as demand increases.  All this is excellent for beer drinkers here, who will see more excellent products available, both seasonally, and in regular distribution.

I recently was able to sit down with Bill Coleman, the new president of Cameron’s Brewing Company, in Oakville.  Cameron’s hosts a monthly cask event, and I was invited with a few other beer writers to come out, meet Bill, discuss where they’re at and where they’re headed, and, of course, drink some beer.  It was a fun night, with great beer and food.  I got to hang out with Jason and some of the other Cameron’s brewers, and met some people from the Niagara College Brewing program.  As well, I got a tour of the facility with Bill, and spent a bit of time chatting in his office.

Bill is exactly the kind of guy you want running a brewery.  He’s incredibly enthusiastic and passionate.  Watching him talk about future plans makes you feel a bit giddy with excitement.  It’s worth mentioning, if you’re planning an interview, bring a recorder.  When Bill gets going, you’d be hard-pressed to keep up with a pen.  Bursting with energy and excitement, he has great ideas for one of the first micros I regularly drank.  And his excitement rubbed off on me, I’m excited too.

Chris: So have long have you been here, now?

Bill: I’m the proud new President and co-owner as of November 1st.  I was around doing the due diligence leading up to that in October when we ran a very successful sponsorship and events at the Royal Winter Fair.

C: Okay, so you’ve got the four major brands that we all know.  By the way, I haven’t looked in a  while, is the Dark still coming in sixes, or has the LCBO let you put them in nine-packs too?

B: No, we’ve got the three grandfathered-in, in the nines, but the dark is still in the six-pack.  Everyone loves those nines!

C: Yeah, I used to play in a regular poker game, and a nine of auburn was my standard choice.  A six is not quite enough and a twelve is a bit too much.  A nine, you can have a bunch through the evening, and still leave a bottle or two for the host or take one home.

B: Plus, if you walk in with a school-boy six-pack and two people want to try your awesome craft beer… you’re going to run short.

C: Exactly.  Anyways, I’ve heard you’re doing an IPA for the Volo event? [Volo’s annual Ontario IPA single knock-out tournament]

B: Absolutely.  It’s a Rye IPA and we think it is very special. [The Rye IPA made the final four, and was rated best in the “Ontario” category].

C: So you’re obviously brewing things other than the primary four brands?

B: Absolutely.  One thing I really stand for is creativity in the brewery.  We love our four beers, they’re amazing award winners, but we have had three years worth of cask-nights featuring one-off beers that have had very limited distribution. From those events, we realized we should produce some extra casks, and put them in places such as Volo, or C’est What.  There’s a great bar called The Ship in Hamilton that is desperate for cask beer, and they actually know how to serve it.  Coming very soon, we’ll be brewing small batches for larger format bottles for limited distribution.

C: Like a bomber, a 650ml?

B: Yes, we are bottling something super special in a 750ml champagne bottle this week and we’ll do some special one-off kegs as well, for those exclusive bars that can put it on as a seasonal item.  All the ideas are here, we’ve just got to make them happen!

C: Yeah, it seems to me that this event has been going for some time,

B: Cask Night is in its third year now.  36 in total, with a different one-off unique brew each time.  We haven’t repeated a beer yet!

C: See I’ve always felt that you really have two different types of breweries, here in Ontario.  There are some that just put out their beers, rock-steady.  Good beers, reliable, but not much initiative.  And then you get brewers like Mike Lackey, who are all over the map “Yeah, I’ll put garlic and pepper in my beer, see what happens…”.  So Cameron’s has been doing these one-off cask nights, and I would think, aside from the event, where is this beer going?

B: We did one event awhile back at the Berkeley Church, and we had a Ginger Ale going that night, and for a lot of people, it was the best beer of the night. That’s a great one to package for the future.  Creativity involves making new things, but it’s also figuring out which of those new things to bring to the market, and how.

C: Totally.

B: And maybe tonight will be one of those, who knows?

C: Can you say what tonight’s beer is?

B: I actually pride myself on saying this, I have no idea what it is, until they tap it!  I do know from our brewers that we have the last pound of Citra hops available in North America, and it’s in that cask. Hopefully you’ll love it. [The beer turned out to be a single-hop pale that could have been used in a teaching environment to demonstrate the Citra hops flavour profile, quite nice, nearly hinted at sauvignon blanc].

C: Yeah, I’m a hoppy guy, so here’s hoping.

B: Duncan and Ryan designed and executed tonight’s treat.  I love not knowing what it is, I love the surprise.  That’s pure R&D, letting them do their development.  It’s the antithesis of saying “I want something production ready.  I want to launch it next week”, which defeats the purpose.  On the other hand, if there’s something we think has some legs to it,  we can bottle some limited bombers and sell them out of our retail store, or create limited kegs and send them to our favoured licensees and let the public decide.

C: I guess what you’ve got to consider, is if you’ve got people who are willing to come out to the brewery for an event, to a brewery that is a bit out of the way, not on the subway line or whatever, you know they’re already a believer.  So you do get some good opinions and feedback, but you have to assume a lot of people will be like “THIS IS AWESOME, I’M GETTING A LOT OF BEER FOR NOT A LOT OF MONEY! I LOVE THIS STUFF!”

B: [Laughing] “I WOULD BUY CASES OF IT”, exactly.  This is key, for Cameron’s Brewery. I was overjoyed to be able to buy in to the brewery. Cameron’s was the one that I thought was a little gem, that just has been under promoted and under exposed, and I’m so happy to be able to invest in it.  We kept all the employees; everyone is still here.  And our numbers are dramatically up as a result of just a bit more energy and focus.

C: So, having been inside the brewery now, you’ve got a big looking set up, and yet you also have a lot of room to expand.

B: We have a great set-up, an amazing bottling line.   It’s really fast so we only have to bottle twice a week, which is great. It means we have tons of potential capacity.  Even in our existing 10 000 square feet space we have a tremendous amount of room for expansion and growth, and we have an additional 20 000 square feet waiting to be used.  The opportunities are limitless.

C: I was joking with Jordan St John a minute ago, because you walk onto your brewing floor, and there is a lot going on there.  And for a lot of micros, their brewery is more like a ramped-up garage, so I was like, there’s room for this brewery to blow-up back here, which is so cool.

I had a conversation about you guys with a friend earlier this week, and our perception of the brewery.  I was saying, that a few years ago, Amsterdam went through a bit of a renaissance, going from like a four item portfolio (not including KLB), and with some new staff and new direction really started doing some crazy new things.  And I feel like Cameron’s is about to do the same thing.

Cameron's Brewing Company Bottles

The new labels, familiar, but different. Nice.

B: Agreed, but in an organic way.  Like the evolution of our labels. We still have our four main brands, but we’re going to start to add seasonals.  And we’re looking to grow our base in the GTA and beyond, Oakville, Hamilton, etc, because there’s still so much room to grow, even in our own backyard.  For example, there’s this great golf course called Piper’s Heath nearby, and nobody had ever gone knocking at their door.  Now we’re in there, and we’re going to do weddings, host Nine and Dines, be on their draught lines and have our cans of lager in the carts.

C: The worst thing in the world is being on the 7th tee and having the cart pull up, and they’re like “We’ve got Bud light, Coors light, and Blue.  Oh yeah, and Bud Light Lime”…..  I’m like “Can I get a Gin and Tonic?…”

B: Going forward, you will see more of us around. I really do believe that the way to success is one beer drinker at a time, one bar at a time.  It’s funny, we stopped in at one of the combo agency stores in the smaller markets [LCBO/Beer Stores that are often in Grocery/Convenience stores], and we are direct delivering to the woman who runs it, and she couldn’t be happier.  She couldn’t get it before, and that was really our fault for not pushing the distribution channels.  But she kept seeing the bottles coming in through returns, and she wanted to carry our brand.  But she was having trouble getting it delivered through the LCBO or Beer Store, so she called us, and now we deliver it straight to her, and she’s selling a boat-load of the beer.  Again, demand is out there, and we need to address it, one store at a time.  It may sound too commercial, but if any of your readers are having a tough time getting Cameron’s please call us 905-849-8282  or shoot us a message (

C: Cool, so are you guys going to be at all the festivals/events this year?

B: That’s our plan.  There are a lot of opportunities, and we just want to make sure we’re getting in on all the right ones.  We’re all for spreading the good word on Cameron’s.  Look for lots of cool events including Ontario Craft Beer Week June 19-25th.

Cameron's Brewing Company New Can

The new can design. Looks good, Bill!

C: So, you mentioned cans talking about the golf course, I didn’t realize you did canning.

B: Yes, we’ve got a new product coming, we’re hoping to have it available by the end of May.  It will be a 473ml tall-boy can of Lager.  It’s already approved by the LCBO, it’s just down to production on our side now. We’re starting with the Lager, though we’re not adverse to the other brews as well eventually.  With cans of Lager, we’re targeting  golf-courses, outdoor concerts, even some music venues require the beer to be served in cans., We feel it’s a great fit.

C: And you’ve got the canning line on-site?

B: Indeed we do.  With the great team I have we can do a lot.  Cans, larger bottle limited runs, and watch for us at places like Volo’s cask events.  We’ve got something aging in an oak barrel back in the brewery, I’m really excited.  It’s a shift in thinking.  My business partner really knew engineering and production, and you can see that in the brewery.   His mandate was to invest in equipment to produce better and better beer, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  You need the other side as well, the marketing and sales.  Developing new products.  We’ve begun these initiatives, so now I’m excited because our brewers will show me something I didn’t even know they were working on.  They’re stepping outside of their comfort zone and taking risks.  We’ve got a pilot system now, which we didn’t have before.  I gave the go ahead to invest in that, it’s a great investment – we’re seeing the results of it now!

C: We definitely are! Thanks very much for your time.

B: My pleasure.

Check out to keep up with the new beers and upcoming events.
Cameron’s Brewing Co is located in Oakville Ontario, at 1165 Invicta Dr.

Plus, if you walk in with a school-boy six-pack and two people want to try your awesome craft beer… you’re going to run short.

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