Short Finger Brewing in Kitchener, ON has always been a homebrew supply store, up until about a month ago that is, when it upgraded its status to “brewery”.
“To be honest, the homebrew shop was really supposed to be this really small part of Short Finger, 10-15% of the overall business just to keep me busy while I was going through the application for the brewery,” said Rob Hern, co-founder and brewer at Short Finger. “It took way longer for us to find a space, so the online store kind of grew and turned into something larger than I planned. Then once we got the space going, it took me a lot longer to go through the licensing with the city, AGCO and the CRA. In that time, the homebrew shop became this huge thing that just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And now, we just launched the brewery finally a month ago and we’ve been open for three years.”
Despite the delays in their original plans of opening a brewery, Short Finger Brewing isn’t complaining. “We’re not unhappy about what came out of it,” said Kat Rogers-Hern, co-founder, and deals with the education and communications of the company. “We did a lot of research where we thought Short Finger would be successful. We knew there was an active community out there, but we so underestimated the scoop of it. There are so many homebrewers out here.”
The research she refers to was a very in depth examination of where the best place for a brewery/ homebrew supply store would work in Ontario, thanks for Rogers-Hern’s background in digital geography. “I genuinely made a map of Ontario on our GIS, with laters for every exsting brewery, homebrew shop, U-Brew facility, wine making store that I could find anywhere in Ontario.” It was narrowed down to Kingston, Ottawa or the Kitchener-Waterloo area, and Kitchener-Waterloo was where they picked.
Hern caught the homebrewing bug when he was working at Great Lakes Brewing. “Getting in on the pilot system there really spiked my creative need, and being able to make beer really clicked for me, and I really enjoyed it. Next thing I knew, it was pretty much all I did.”
“I got into [homebrewing] through Rob mostly, said Rogers-Hern. “In our second year in Toronto, we bought a house in a predominantly Portugese neighbourhood, where very few of our neighbours spoke English. We had a few neighbours that were similar in age that did speak English that we would see all the time walking our dog. Eventually, I started stopping them on the street and asked if they wanted to brew beer together”
“I learned a ton of homebrewing just by asking strangers if they wanted to brew together, and then with our neighbour, we ended having a keg fridge set up in our backyard. I’d come home from work, and they’d be there drinking or brewing. I just kind of learned from trial and error. Rob’s interest sparked mine, and [it was] as a means to get to know people.”
In the past three years, Short Finger Brewing has moved four times before ending up in the current 6, 500 square feet space they currently occupy, which includes 12’x35’ classroom that’s yet to be renovated. “Rob was really stressed out about moving,” explained Rogers-Hern, “but he also knew that we couldn’t say no because the space is perfect for all three parts of the business—the homebrew, the education and the brewery.”
And in the true nature of homebrewing, don’t be expecting the same beer each time you visit for a growler fill up. “We have a pale ale called True Believer, and each time I do it, because of how I brew in general, I change it somehow. So I’ll do True Believer dry hopped with Citra and Simcoe, and then the next one I’m going to do is True Believer Mosaic SMaSH. My house saison is called Lando. I have versions of that in gin barrels, chardonnay barrels, whiskey barrels. I’ll blend them all together and make different things,” said Hern.
Short Finger Brewing
20 Hurst St.
CHA members receive a 5% discount in the homebrew store and on growler fills
The Canadian Homebrewers Association is a non-profit dedicated to promoting and advancing the hobby of homebrewing in Canada. Established in 2018, it currently has more than 330 members across most of Canada's provinces and territories.