Tyler Ferguson’s passion for doing something he loves, and the drive to move his career forward in a new direction, will come to a head this summer.
The 30-year-old former car salesman plans to open Wishbone Brewing Co. on Alice Street in downtown Waterford.
“Next week is our big week when all the tanks show up, and the flooring goes in,” he said on May 2. “A very anxious, stressful and exciting week next week.”
Ferguson had been home brewing for many years, and worked at the Strickland’s car dealership in Brantford for eight years, where he says he learned a lot about people, customer service and managing a team.
“I upgraded my (brewing) system, and started sharing beer with family and friends,” he recalled. “I started digging into the science, and the ingredient train is just unbelievable. I really enjoy the process behind the technical side of brewing.”
Ferguson was relishing the feedback from a group of friends enjoying his home brews around the campfire at his home just outside of Waterford prior to the pandemic, when it struck him that he wanted to open a craft brewery.
He began looking for locations, and flew to Virginia to attend a beer accelerator program.
“We met ingredient suppliers, accountants and lawyers who specialize in the brewing industry, and went to eight or nine breweries to taste, experience and learn,” he said. I learned so much about recipe creation, science, how yeast works, and rubbing hops with your hands to smell the aromas.”
Wishbone Brewing Co. will occupy 2,000 square feet at 80 Alice Street, adjacent to the Waterford Antique Market, in a portion of the building being restored and repurposed by Sentry Property Group, for whom his childhood friend Darrin Knill works.
“I grew up in Burford playing hockey and going to school with Darrin,” Ferguson reflected. “It was such a coincidence that his company took this building over and wanted to bring it back to use, because the area is just beautiful.”
He says the building, originally constructed in 1909 for the Dominion Telephone Company, will feature one-bedroom apartments on the second floor.
The brew house will feature four 1,200-litre fermenting tanks, a bright tank, keg washer and mini-commercial canning system.
A walk-in cooler will accommodate 5,000 cans of beer and 100 kegs, with short-draw lines through the wall to the bar’s 12 taps, opposite an 18-foot long bar.
“We want bar space, but we’re trying to look to the future and still have safe practices for when we hope to open,” Ferguson said.
Once the equipment is in place and commissioned, he said it would be a matter of how much time it takes to get a couple of brands from start to finish before announcing an opening date, likely in July or August.
Ferguson shared that he is just past the half-million dollar point of investment, and is encouraged by messages of support from townsfolk.
“As a new business it’s stressful enough financially, in the middle of a pandemic,” he admitted. “You need that support sometimes just to keep you going.”
The name for the company came to him when he and fiancée Ashley Hoag snapped a wishbone his mother had saved from a Thanksgiving dinner.
He plans to have four or five core brands, some seasonal brews, and experiment with other styles in a town perhaps best known for Pumpkinfest.
“I’ve had a million people ask if we’re going to do a pumpkin beer,” the brewer said. “Yes, we have to!”
You can follow the brewery’s progress on Facebook and Instagram @wishbonebrews.