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Toronto's microbrewery culture is expanding rapidly, highlighting how much the locals are enjoying fresh local brews that are looking to push the envelope that much further.
One such stalwart of the beer scene, Left Field Brewery, opened its doors in 2015. Now, after all those years of garnering a loyal fanbase that is willing to line up and wait, the brewery is getting a much-awaited expansion in the form of a second location in Liberty Village. This secondary location will balance out the crowds and give the people living in the west end a spot with the same DNA much closer to home.
"We have a lot of existing fans down in that neighbourhood and on the west side of the city," Mandie Murphy, co-founder of Left Field Brewery, said. "So we're excited to bring our beer and beer experiences over there to give them a space that they can visit and hopefully not wait in line."
In an attempt to expand, Muprhy said that the team had been looking for the right location for quite some time, wanting it to be really hospitality focused, more so than production-focused. They looked for a space that could be both a brewery as well as host a large number of patrons. And boy, did they stumble upon the perfect place.
Left Field's second location will be housed at 40 Hanna Ave. in a century-old former billiard table factory containing a lot of historic charm in its natural-light-filled brick and beam space. The kicker? The space used to house a fully-functioning brewpub that shut its doors in 2019, meaning that it already houses the brewing equipment and infrastructure required for production.
Over the next few months, the team at Left Field will work toward turning the 11,000-square-foot, two-storey space into a community-focused, 300-seat tap room, kitchen and retail store that has the same feel as the current Leslieville location.
Patrons will be able to see the brewing happen in front of their eyes while sitting on either of the two floors as it will be spaced out throughout. With such a large space to play with, Murphy said that it'll be a great space to visit with large groups where you can kick back, have a brew, watch some sports and enjoy yourself.
"It'll be welcoming to everybody," she said. "We're finding ways to have really inclusive offerings in both our food and beverage programmes."
The inclusivity also extends to the way the end product will shape up. Left Field, through its website, is inviting people to submit suggestions on what they'd like the new space to look like. While the team obviously has several ideas, it is open to hearing out patrons living in the area on what kind of things they believe would work for the west end.
"Ultimately, we will only be successful if we can meet the needs of the consumers. We want to know what it is that they want," Murphy said. "We know what works here in East but we definitely still have lots to learn about what might work in that neighbourhood."
From a decor perspective, the new space will feel like the Left Field brand, having similar aspects as the current location in Toronto's east side. There is also work underway to redesign the interiors in a way that flows better for larger groups and accommodates event programming.
One major addition to the new space would be the retail store. One will be able to walk in and buy all of Left Field's products under one roof. While beers are the obvious offerings, the store will also have beer and baseball apparel and merchandise.
Another thing Left Field will introduce is partnerships within the retail store, meaning that the beers on the shelves will be complemented by locally-sourced wine, ciders and spirits.
"We will be working with like-minded businesses to expand our offering beyond beer," Murphy said. "We're not looking to get into making our own cider or making our own wine or making our own spirits so we'll be partnering with companies that kind of share our values around quality, community and sustainability."
The new location will be a little scaled back in terms of production capabilities, with a smaller brewhouse and fermentors. This is in no way a disadvantage, though, as the expansion will give the brewery more opportunities to create one-offs and collabs; and even experiment with new styles, ingredients, processes and recipes.
"We'll be brewing in both locations, nothing is really changing from what we're doing in the East End," Murphy said. "We'll just have the extra brewing capacity to do more small-scale batches, like specialty stuff."
Now, while all of that is a little further down the line with Murphy expecting the project to wrap up before the end of the year, Left Field does have some exciting new projects that people can enjoy in the near future — some even as soon as now.
This past week, the brewery launched "Piña Power," its pineapple IPA. The week before, it unveiled "Five Tool," a summer wheat ale available at the taproom in Leslieville and LCBOs all summer. As for what's coming up, Left Field is also planning a charitable beer that'll hit the shelves on June 1 to celebrate Pride Month.
With how revered Left Field Brewery is in the local craft beer scene, we are excited to see what the new location offers. To stay up to date with all developments, follow the brewery on Instagram as well as subscribe to its newsletter. Until then, make sure to check out the current space if you haven't at 36 Wagstaff Drive.
(P.S.- Looking for a job? Left Field is hiring a General Manager for its second location. Check out the job posting to see if you're a good fit!)