We sat down with Jason Fisher, Owner of Indie Alehouse, to learn about the story behind his brewing journey and how that led to opening Birroteca, our in-house brewery and beer shop.
In 2002, Jason Fisher opened Indie Alehouse in Toronto’s Junction neighbourhood. It was several years prior to the boom of the city’s craft beer scene, not to mention more than a decade away from Eataly opening at Bay and Bloor. Fast forward to 2019, and Jason and his team have partnered with Eataly to create Birroteca by Indie Alehouse, a unique tasting room and retail shop on the concourse level of our store, driven by a shared passion for high-quality ingredients and unique recipes. We asked him about his journey and tried to find out his favourite brew (spoiler alert: turns out this question is off-limits).
What led to your starting Indie Alehouse?
I made beer for my Grade 10 science project called “The Lifecycle of Yeast,” which was just a homebrew kit. I had a little brewery enterprise in a school lab until they shut it down, but I got an A+ and loved making beer. It took me until I was 40 to have enough money, business experience and network of friends and professional services to do this. I closely followed a number of U.S. craft breweries and learned a lot from them and wanted to do what they did.
What was your first experience visiting an Eataly?
True story, I snuck into Eataly NYC Flatiron about two months before it opened. Short version, I just showed up and said I was there to see the brewery and they let me in. I had read about the brewery on the roof, as I was – and still am – a huge Dogfishhead fan. I went back later after it had been open for 6 months and it was like a flashback to living in Italy when I was 12. I immediately knew I wanted to be part of this someday. That was four years before Indie opened, so you could say it was love at first sight.
How did Birroteca by Indie Alehouse come to be?
I reached out to Oscar and Nicola Farinetti every 4-6 months, increasing my check-ins until I got a meeting. I went to events that Nicola attended, and kept telling him Toronto would be an amazing location, and Indie Alehouse would be a good partner. Once we started meeting, it took another 18 months to get the partnership finalized. It took a lot of work, and it’s the best thing I have ever done.
What are the shared values that Indie Alehouse and Eataly have?
Eat, Shop, Learn. (We add Drink!) I joke with the staff that Eataly has done a better job of articulating our values than we have. For a long time, craft beer was intimidating to a lot of people, so the approach of having fun, taking the product and process seriously, but also being welcoming to everyone has always been our mission, and Eataly is an amazing example of how to do that very well.
Tell us about the ingredients you use in your beers and how you source them.
Everyone says they source the best ingredients, but in reality, almost no one does. We fly out to hop farms every year to select our hops – there are no breweries our size who do that. It’s expensive and time-consuming to do this, yet we do it. Same for all the other ingredients we use. We know our suppliers, their families, and business partners. This is the same way Eataly views their producers and vendors.
How did Bionda become Birroteca’s signature beer?
In the early stage of talks with Eataly, and over a few drinks with Nicola and the partners, Nicola told me about his favourite beer to drink in Italy, a beer from Birrificio Italiano called Tipopils – a rather famous beer among North American brewers widely credited with the recent resurgence in Pilsner styles. At the time Indie had never made a pilsner or lager, so we secretly set about brewing a bunch of test batches until we got something we were very happy with. We actually surprised the Eataly team during one meeting with the beer, which was very well-received. It was never a must-have part of the deal, but it made a lot of sense considering how popular the style is in Italy, and how well it pairs with pizza and many Italian foods.
Do you have a favourite beer?
No brewer ever answers this question.
Take a trip to Birroteca today! Stop on our concourse level for a drink and to take Indie Alehouse and Eataly exclusive beers home.