Aonghus Kealy/Metro Toronto
Todd Fowler gulps down a mouthful of Rickards Pale Ale at Lord Stanley’s Mug bar, 20 feet away from where he brewed it.
"This is an ode-to-Sundin brew, No. 13 of the year," the 29-year-old says at the Air Canada Centre’s wall-less bar by the rink. He’s the head brewer at the Etobicoke Pilot/R&D brewery, and Rickards Brewhouse at the ACC.
You may have noticed the little brewery’s stainless-steel brew tanks glistening in the ACC window from the Bay Street sidewalk.
Or they may have caught your eye as you wrestled with hundreds of Leafs fans during the first-period intermission as you jockeyed for a $12 glass of Red, Pale or Gold a swig away from the tanks. "All Rickards is fresh from here," he says. The kegs have "a finite shelf life of 40 days."
He caught the brew bug at University of Guelph, majoring in food science for his Bachelor of Science. In his industrial microbiology course, he made German-style wheat beer for an assignment and was hooked. He went on to do a co-op program with Molson in 1998, became an assistant brewer at Etobicoke in April 2000 and has been head brewer since 2002.
But it’s his microbrewing job that puts him close to his beloved Maple Leafs and the thousands of fans that drink his suds at the ACC’s Lord Stanley’s Mug bar.
At35 kegs per brew (about2,000 litres), they brew two batches every three weeks. "It’s three weeks from grain to glass," Fowler says. Up to 400 hectalitres (100 litres=one hectalitre) will be brewed at the Leafs’ home rink this season. "This year, we’re expecting to go all the way to June." Compare that with the Etobicoke brewery: One batch there is about 666 hectalitres, "double our annual production."
That beer is made up with city water without chlorine, imported hops, yeast, malted barley, and some corn syrup to add alcohol. "We’re making high-quality sugar water," Fowler gushes. "Basically, I work for the yeast." But don’t we all?