Dominion City: The brewery built by the people

Ottawa’s craft beer scene is booming and locals aren’t letting a drop go to waste.

Dominion City Brewing Co. has only been on the scene for five months and already distributes to 20 bars and restaurants across the city. It also has a bustling bottle shop open Fridays and Saturdays, and was the official brewery for the undercurrents festival.

Josh McJannett, Andrew Kent, and Alex Monk are the friends (and now business partners) behind the successful launch of Dominion City. With all the action their company has seen, the brewery has needed to expand.

“We’ve had oversubscription of bars and restaurants that would like to buy our beer,” said McJannett.

Due to the demand, they’ve brought in three new fermenters – the tanks where the fermentation process takes place. These new fermenters dwarf the four fermenters they started out with. Each new tank is individually the size of the four originals put together.

A large part of the success at Dominion City can be attributed to the fact that a significant portion of its funding came from a Kickstarter campaign. The company has bragging rights as Canada’s first ever Kickstarter-funded brewery.

The crowdfunding helped the business in a couple of ways. First, it allowed the partners to gauge the market. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it allowed them to open the business to an established customer base ready and waiting for their product.

The campaign raised just under $20,000, which they used to build the bar at the bottle shop.

“One of the rewards, the most popular one, was a tour,” explained McJannett. “We show them the place and everything we’ve done with their money and they drink a beer on the bar that they built.”

Due to the crowdfunding customers feel ownership over the product.

While the Kickstarter campaign no doubt helped the company get on its feet, starting a business is expensive and the campaign didn’t completely cover the costs of opening up shop. In order to ease the transition for themselves, the guys at Dominion City kept their full time jobs as they ventured into the entrepreneurial world.

This meant putting in a full days work, and then heading to the brewery to put in another eight or so hours. McJannett said they would typically roll out around 1 a.m. and do it all over again the next day. However, with the expansion of the company, McJannett just recently finished his last official shift at his day job and made the move to full time work at the brewery.

Another way Dominion City keeps expenses low is by maintaining a relatively small staff, at least for now. They have seven employees, including the three partners, and lots of volunteers.

Kyle Hayward, a computer systems technician student at Algonquin College, is one such volunteer.

“I was working at Rogers before and I was really sick and tired of losing my soul,” said Hayward.

Hayward had tried Dominion City’s Two Flags IPA brew, which he describes as the best beer he’s ever had. Consequently, he asked McJannett if he could volunteer.

Interestingly, Hayward had a hard time balancing school and working at Rogers, but finds it easy to volunteer at Dominion City while going to Algonquin.

“I just feel more relaxed here,” explained Hayward.

The easygoing atmosphere at Dominion City seems to be representative of the craft beer scene in general. When asked about their relationship with competing breweries, McJannett said that there is a healthy support amongst the businesses.

McJannett illustrated this camaraderie with a story about a brew day gone wrong. When a botched order of yeast threatened to ruin a batch of beer early on in their operation, a competing brewery came to the rescue.

While the business is thriving, McJannett is certainly not letting it go to his head. He and his partners are very conscious of the support they’ve received from their Kickstarter campaign as well as friends (and competitors) who have helped out.

“When someone chooses to spend their money with you it’s a big deal. We try to be grateful for that,” he said. “There’s a lot of places you can go and buy good beer in town these days, so when people choose Dominion City that’s a pretty cool thing for us.”


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