Raise your glass! It’s the first anniversary of Tooth and Nail Brewing Company

By Shauna McGinn – 

Matt Tweedy doesn’t care if you don’t like beer. He believes there’s a craft brew out there for everyone – all it takes is an expert to show you the way.

“There’s nothing I’m more passionate about in the world,” he proclaims. Matt recently celebrated the first anniversary of Hintonburg brew pub Tooth and Nail, so it would seem that passion has clearly paid off.

Tooth and Nail Brewing Company owner Matt Tweedy pours a fresh sample. Photo by Shauna McGinn
Tooth and Nail Brewing Company owner Matt Tweedy pours a fresh sample of beer. Photo by Shauna McGinn

In his entrance essay for brewery school, Matt wrote that he thought Canada’s craft beer market lagged ten years behind the U.S. – and he wanted to fix that. After completing his education, Matt and his wife, Dana, looked to Ottawa to realize their dream of owning their own brewery. He says it’s been an exciting year, one that was equally rewarding and challenging.

“There’s a certain part of you that gets addicted to the chaos of it all,” he says with a smile. The 40-year-old was born in Ottawa and is the father of two toddlers. His approachable nature is embodied in the brewery’s atmosphere; a trendy yet unpretentious space that already seems to be a neighbourhood staple.

The building houses brewing equipment, a retail section and a large bar area, complete with long wooden picnic tables and strings of glowing Edison lights.

Matt says the close-knit feel of Hintonburg matches that of the craft beer circle.

“If you look at the bar on any given day, you’ll have different races, different ages, different income brackets, all having beer together and shooting the breeze –that’s what craft beer represents to us.”

It’s no secret that the craft beer market has been growing steadily in the last few years. Matt says the unique, diverse flavours are what keep people coming back for more. The uniform, bland formulas large beer companies use doesn’t compare, he argues, adding that after trying quality craft beer, “You will start to develop a taste. Nobody goes back.”

Matt says young people push him to be more creative. “These 19 and 20-year-olds, they’re not even picking up a Budweiser – they’re starting with craft beer.” Still, there are definite challenges, like having to compete with larger beer companies. Matt estimates that craft beer has eaten up 12 to 13 per cent of the market, pushing beer conglomerates to buy up small craft breweries in order to protect profit.

Matt says this creates a moral dilemma for many small breweries because ‘selling out’ can mean risking quality and compromising the core values of craft beer. “I don’t judge anyone for selling out,” he says. “Business is business…. But where is your money really going?”

Despite all of this, he wants people to know one thing about craft beer: “It’s not going anywhere.” For now, he’s focused on keeping his bar full and his regulars happy.

Oh, and about that name? Matt says it’s an homage to the forefathers of craft beer, the ones who fought “tooth and nail” in the 1970s just to get one can of their creative, handmade product on shelves. “We wouldn’t be able to exist without them,” he says.

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