Kenora beermaker brewing up second production facility to supply new microsites: Expansion to Winnipeg, Minnesota fuels growth spurt with new capacity.

Author:Ross, Ian

There's a distinct hockey-flavoured theme behind the expansion plans of Lake of the Woods Brewing (LOW) Company.

Taras Manzie, president-CEO of the popular Kenora craft brewer, is tapping into two hockey hotbeds with the opening of microbrewing sites in downtown Winnipeg and Warrod, Minn., also known as Hockeytown, U.S.A.

As the brewer marked its sixth anniversary at the end of June, Manzie was mustering capital to extend his company's reach beyond northwestern Ontario while finding ways to boost production capacity at home.

The brewer is making a splash in the Manitoba capital as part of True North Square, a major downtown development, built around the main hockey arena, the Bell MTS Centre.

Its design and purpose is as a pre- and post-game public gathering space, similar to other entertainment districts built around arenas in other major league cities.

Located between Hargrave and Carlton streets, LOW is part of the $400-million True North Square development steered by the owners of the Winnipeg Jets and is kitty-cornered from the arena.

The development includes four towers with retail, office and residential space, and a luxury hotel.

The whole idea started with True North chairman Mark Chipman, who has a cabin near Kenora and has visited the brewery numerous times as a patron.

Two years ago, Jim Ludlow, the head of True North's entertainment and real estate division, invited LOW to be part of the development project.

"Mark Chipman has a camp 20 minutes from our brewery and was on our patio our first summer. They've always kind of watched what we were doing and been fans of the beer."

They've a signed 10-year lease with True North, with two five-year extensions.

Slated to begin construction this summer, the Winnipeg location features a ground-level tasting room and retail space with an upstairs brewery connected by skywalk to a convention centre and the arena.

With on-site production of 2,000 hectolitres, Manzie knows that's not nearly enough for the traffic he anticipates.

"It's limited space but it's the best we can do. It's designed to be a showpiece for Lake of the Woods Brewing."

South of the border, LOW has opened a location 220 kilometres away on the south shore of Lake of the Woods in Warroad, known for its proclivity to send hockey players to the pros.

Their foray into Minnesota began a few years ago, when LOW considered exporting there. But it made more sense to brew instate, buy local ingredients from farmers, and introduce...

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