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Barrie-based Barnstormer Brewing looking to expand

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Brewer Alex Dunning takes a break at the Barnstormer Brewery location in Barrie. The company is looking to expand its operations.


Brewer Alex Dunning takes a break at the Barnstormer Brewery location in Barrie. The company is looking to expand its operations. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Barrie-based Barnstormer Brewing isn’t taking off from the city.

But it does have its sights on landing at a second location.

Unfortunately, the location in Midland the suds-maker was looking into didn’t pan out, according to Barnstormer Brewing president Dustin Norlund.

Environmental concerns with the property, located across from the municipal marina, put the kibosh on the company’s plans.

For now.

“We worked with the Town of Midland to develop a property on the waterfront for a large brewery production facility and restaurant,” Norland said, adding he began looking into the site about a year ago. “Both sides have pulled back. It’s not possible with the contamination that’s there at this point in time.”

That includes concerns about industrial contamination and issues with groundwater quality.

But the brewery is still committed to remaining at its Yonge Street location, which opened in 2013.

“We’re not leaving Barrie. But Midland would’ve been a second location,” he said. “There was the availability of a beautiful waterfront to establish a showcase business. It would’ve been wonderful.”

Norlund said his company had the rights to purchase the property and discovered things during the due diligence process that made the location unacceptable.

“We’re still working with the town,” he said. “It is very pro-business and they are a very forward-thinking group, from the mayor on down to staff and council.”

While that work continues, Norland won’t be sitting on his hands, he added.

“In the meantime, we’ve been looking to establish a production facility somewhere either down in the Toronto area near Pearson International Airport or in the Innisfil-Barrie area,” he said.

Midland chief administrative officer John Skorobohacz said he understands Norlund’s concerns with the property.

“As long as they are still interested in potentially finding a home in Midland, we’re going to work with them in as positive a fashion as we possibly can to try and make that happen,” he said. “Barnstormer certainly would have been very complementary to the community given the fact that we have a strong tourism presence.”

Skorobohacz said craft breweries are starting to stake out their claim, much like the wine industry did 20 years ago.

“Having a craft brewery in your community is a positive shot in the arm in terms of tourism opportunities and employment,” he said. “It would be a real stimulus in terms of revitalization for our downtown.”

As part of their due diligence, the company did soil sampling on site as well as examining groundwater infiltration, he added.

“As a result of the study that came back, there was an indication that there was some contamination on site that would have to be remediated,” Skorobohacz said. “But the bigger concern for them was groundwater infiltration in terms of carrying some chemicals that were problematic.”

The timeliness of actually getting to a conclusion (about the concerns) under the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change regulations would have probably taken about 18 months, if not 24 months, he said.

“But also when it comes to the groundwater issue, it’s about a much broader issue and looking beyond just a municipal parking lot to determine where some of those issues may be occurring,” Skorobohacz said adding like most waterfront communities in Ontario, their waterfronts were originally used for industrial purposes.

“What we see here in Midland is typical of a lot of areas where the waterfront has now transitioned from that industrial use into more of a commercial or residential kind of use,” he said. “As that happens, these challenges of dealing with the past industrial uses come up.”

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