Proudly Brewed in the North! United Craft Moves Chooses State-of-the-Art North Bay Facility for Future Production of Highlander Beers and New Distilled Spirits Line
Proudly Brewed in the North!
United Craft Moves Chooses State-of-the-Art North Bay Facility for Future Production of Highlander Beers and New Distilled Spirits Line
Collaborative Agreement Signed with New Ontario Brew Co –
Highlander Founder Brian Wilson Will continue to Brew Highlander Beers
NORTH BAY, ON – December 2, 2020 – Great news for the North as even more craft beer production is coming to North Bay! New Ontario Brew Co and United Craft have just signed a collaborative production agreement to make distilled spirits, ready to drink low-alcohol beverages, and Highlander craft beers in New Ontario’s recently opened brewery and distillery in North Bay. This 23,000 square foot space includes a newly-built distilling facility as well as an expanded brewhouse. Production for United Craft’s Highlander Scottish Ale and Smoked Porter products is expected to begin in 2021. This will add about 50,000 litres of beer at New Ontario’s new facility opened just a few months ago. United Craft also plans to add spirits to its product line up and these will be made in North Bay.
This new collaboration came about when Mike Harrison, President of New Ontario, reached out to United Craft President Ian Macdonald, who was exploring potential production partners for new distilled spirits and ready to drink beverages it hopes to launch in 2021. New Ontario had just made the June move to its new Seymour Street facility with the addition of distilling capabilities as well as more brewing capacity and was in the process of bolstering its team. The timing was right for United Craft to shift Highlander beer production in light of the decision by Brian Wilson, Highlander’s original founder and brewmaster, to join the New Ontario team after the owners of the previously-named Highlander Brewery in South River announced they would be re-branding to South River Brewing Co.
Both Highlander Scottish Ale and Smoked Porter have experienced phenomenal growth in the past year as a result of the significant revitalization effort undertaken by United Craft, an independent craft beverage company, which acquired the Highlander brands in April, 2019. The previous owners had approached United Craft for help in reversing sales declines and revitalizing the Highlander name; they decided to sell United Craft the brands outright so it could focus on its brewery operations. United Craft has spent the past year revitalizing the iconic Highlander brand and expanding distribution of these two key products across Ontario.
Over the last 12 months, distribution and sales of Highlander Scottish Ale and Highlander Smoked Porter have skyrocketed despite the dampening impacts of the pandemic. Retail sales of Scottish Ale were + 70% and Smoked Porter was + 83%, placing increasing pressure on keeping pace with demand. United Craft invested heavily in an aggressive renewal plan and unleashed its sales team to launch both the Scottish Ale and Smoked Porter products into all Ontario regions, resulting in broadened distribution in 300+ additional LCBO and Grocery stores. Highlander products are now available in Southwestern Ontario, Toronto metro area, Ottawa/Eastern Ontario, and up into Sault Ste Marie and Thunder Bay, bringing consumers across the province a true taste of the North.
New Ontario has committed to help United Craft meet production demands, accelerate product innovation and bring out new Highlander flavours faster. As Mike explained, “We are looking forward to producing the Highlander Scottish Ale and Smoked Porter products, and we’ll be able to ensure the same great taste since Brian, the original founder of Highlander and creator of the recipes, has now joined our team.” Mike is also keen to work with United Craft on future distilled spirits. One of the first new collaborative projects will be the release of a new Highlander Blackberry Wheat beer, under development for the past year.
Ian explained that the production move to New Ontario’s expanded space will not only accelerate product innovation but allow for greater brewing flexibility to match fresh brews with growing consumer demand. “We fell in love with these tried and true Highlander recipes and saw great potential to grow the brand,” Ian explained. “The bold new packaging design celebrates Highlander’s true Northern roots – and is inspired by the clear dark nights and the spectacular wonders of the Northern Lights. We hope to engage a whole new generation of craft beer drinkers in the North and beyond.”
Ian further explained that the search for expanded production capabilities for Highlander brands was fast-tracked when the South River brewery owners decided this Fall to re-brand their brewery in South River and to produce their own local South River products. This decision led to Brain’s departure as brewmaster.
“We certainly wish the folks in South River the best in their new journey to create a South River brand,” said Ian. “We are continuing to make Highlander beers there in December until we move production to North Bay in January.” He added that there is plenty of fresh Highlander product hitting store shelves now. Ian did note that the brewery in South River is no longer allowed to sell the Highlander Scottish Ale and Smoked Porter products due to AGCO regulatory rules, but that Northern Ontario LCBO’s, Grocery stores and Agency stores have plenty of fresh product in stock.
Highlander brews are all made from local, free-flowing water and an award-winning blend of four different malts and hops. Batches are intentionally kept relatively small so that no detail is missed and the beer is always fresh. Scottish Ale is crafted with Edinburgh yeast for a slightly sweeter, mellower flavour than a typical English pale ale and produces a silky soft finish. Smoked Porter is made with dark malts that are carefully smoked over toasted beechwood, creating no bitter aftertaste.
United Craft was started in 2014 by mother-son team Pat & Ian Macdonald, who sought to celebrate Canada through great-tasting beers specifically designed for Canadian tastes when they launched their first brand - Old Tomorrow. Since then, the company has expanded its craft beer brand offerings into ciders and radlers and has plans to launch spirits-based products in the future. Intensely focused and passionate about beverage alcohol innovation, United Craft strives to create compelling new flavours and beer styles that will satisfy the thirst of craft beverage drinkers across Ontario. United Craft now also works directly with other Ontario independent craft beverage companies to provide them with sales, marketing and distribution support as well as with key retailers who support locally-made Ontario craft products.
Pat Macdonald, CEO and Co-Founder, United craft
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