I write the words “entrepreneurship” and “scaling” so often at work that I see them when I close my eyes to go to sleep. All too often, we only think about those words in the context of startups and tech. In Waterloo, a town of makers of multiple varieties, you only have to walk out the door to find entrepreneurs of all varieties.

When I walk out the front door of the Tannery, I just turn to my left (unlike Zoolander1) and I can see the fruits of a few non-tech entrepreneurs’ labour bringing the community together for great food, beer and music.

Late last December, local brewery Abe Erb opened its second location in the Tannery building on Charles Street in Kitchener. One of the entrepreneurs behind Abe Erb is Rob Theodosiou. Theodosiou spent 15 years as a teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board. During that time, Theodosiou’s entrepreneurial itch drove him to open the Waterloo franchise of breakfast destination Cora’s.

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With the experience of opening a restaurant under his belt, Theodosiou and his partners saw the demand for a place with craft beer, live music and a great vibe in uptown.

We (here at Communitech) know that Waterloo is one of the best places in Canada to build your business. The combination of the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College produce amazing talent. Large companies like Google Canada and Shopify attract people across Canada and globally to work here. Scaling companies including Miovision, Thalmic Labs, and Sortable (just to name a few) are building the next great wave of Canadian tech giants.

But with all this, we still have a problem keeping talent in town. One of the most often heard reasons is a dearth of night life actitvies.

For Theodosiou, that identified gap led to the concept of a craft brewery and restaurant – Abe Erb. The first location opened in uptown Waterloo in November, 2014.

Fast forward two years and with the continued success of the restaurant and the launch of Abe Erb canned beer in the LCBO2, Theodosiou saw an empty space in the Tannery as the spot for a second location (and first in Kitchener). If you’ve driven down Victoria Street by the Tannery, you may have noticed the three large shiny steel tanks installed on the side of the building. That’s the home of Abe Erb Kitchener.

Mural by artist Stephanie Boutari

Mural by artist Stephanie Boutari taken before the opening

I toured the new space with Brewmaster Ian Pattenden and Lead Brewer Craig Smith. Those aforementioned tanks are 40-barrel fermenters, but we’ll get back to those later.

The location is considerably larger than in Waterloo, with both an expanded brewhouse and restaurant space. The restaurant will feature similar seating to the Waterloo location, plus two new spaces. Above the restaurant and brew floor will be a private dining room that can accommodate up to 50 people. In the restaurant’s front area, the team is building a semi-private area that will include a large monitor for companies to use for off-site meetings.

Recent changes to alcohol sale laws will allow Abe Erb to sell canned and bottled beer right in the front of the store. The dream of picking up a six-pack to take home without having to make a stop is now a reality.

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You can purchase bottles and cans at the on-site beer store.

As for brewing, the brewhouse is four times the size of the Waterloo location. Pattenden and Smith now have the facilities to take grain to mash, to boil, to ferment and right into cans for your purchase. All this, right in one spot in downtown Kitchener.

The brewhouse is a 20-barrel system with a grist case for holding milled grain.The entire system can be computer controlled and includes both a 20- and 40-barrel brite tank, three 20-barrel fermenters inside and the those three specially made 40-barrel fermenters outside, mentioned earlier. The beer from the boiling tanks is sent overhead through stainless steel pipes to the outside tanks. Pattenden hopes to eventually add in clear portions so patrons can see the beer move overhead.

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It was 1 C that day, and my first question was about fermenting in the cold. Smith was quick to allay my fears. “As the yeast ferments, it produces heat,” he said, “and the alcohol content decreases the freezing point for the beer.” The outside tanks are jacketed and specifically designed for the extremes of both hot summers and cold winters.

Downtown Kitchener is now home to three craft breweries: Abe Erb, Descendants Beer and Beverage Co. and TWB Co-operative Brewing. What sets Abe Erb apart is its Wild Goose-brand canning machine. Abe Erb joins Waterloo Brewing Company as one of only two breweries with canning operations in Waterloo.

The Abe Erb Kolsch Style Lagered Ale that you can buy in the LCBO is brewed and canned right here in downtown Kitchener. “What really makes us excited here is that we’re now brewing in both uptown and downtown,” said Theodosiou. The restaurant, brewing, canning and sales operation now employees 110 people locally.

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The Abe Erb beer for purchase at the LCBO is brewed and canned on site.

Like any true entrepreneur, Theodosiou is involved in more than one project. He opened the coffee roaster and eatery Settlement Co. in uptown in December of 2015. He and his team are currently working on building out the second location at One Victoria in downtown Kitchener.

  1. In the 2001 film “Zoolander,” the protagonist, male model Derek Zoolander, is unable to turn left. During the film’s climax, Zoolander is finally able to turn left and save the life of the Malaysian Prime Minister.
  2. For those of you not in Ontario, the LCBO is the provincial agency that regulates, distributes, and sells wine, spirits, and some beer3 in Ontario. 
  3. The rest of the beer is sold at the Beer Store which is owned and operated by Brewers Retail. Brewers Retail has the sole license4 to distribute and sell beer in the province of Ontario, but is owned by three non-Canadian companies5.
  4. Except for some supermarkets, which is only a recent development.
  5. Did you know that all the Sapporo sold in North America is brewed in Guelph, Ontario?

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The fog has cleared and I see and hear that….Katy Warren, Kim Manning and Sara Hebert will be showcasing the Women In Music Showcase night at Rhapsody Barrel Bar (179 King St. W., Kitchener) on Thursday January 26th at 8pm. FlashWR is this Friday, January 27 at The Tannery Event Centre (151 Charles St. W., Kitchener). It’s an evening of celebrating photography and a talk from renowned Canadian photographer Larry Towell. The 6th edition of The Brush Off takes place Saturday, January 28 at THEMUSEUM (10 King St. W., Kitchener). Twenty artists will compete in four rounds of a friendly live-painting competition. Your votes determine who advances each round and eventually wins.