Magnotta Brewery

Magnotta battles LCBO

By Robert Hughey

It is evident from the large, bright retail space, a cathedral to wine which brackets the front of the Magnotta Winery and Brewery in Vaughan, all 60,000 square foot of it, that the space is keenly dedicated to the production and sale of quality wines.

That the Magnotta Brewery is dwarfed by a massive winery operation does not diminish the brewery side of things in the least. While Magnotta is foremost a winery, there's no shortage of quality equipment at use in the brewery. A 20 metric ton grain silo has load cells in the foot pads which guarantees a full shipment of malted barley every time and it makes weighing grain, milling and mashing-in a breeze, taking just 10 to 12 minutes. The malted barley, augered in quite some distance from the silo to the malt mill above the brewery, passes through an automatically triggered malt mill directly into the combination mash/lauter tun. The highly efficient brewkettle is usually on the boil before the sparging of wort is completed. A one hour boil follows for all Magnotta beers: a Light, Lager, Cream Ale, Strong, Alt.

In all beers but the Cream Ale, Magnotta uses a German method of first wort hopping, that is, adding 1/3 of the finishing hops, noble hops only, to the kettle before the start of the sparge, which produces fine aromatic results. Magnotta Strong Ale is dry-hopped during aging to add aroma, creating a unique flavor profile for a strong beer.

Thermo probes in the hot liquor tank, cold water tank, mash tun and the brewkettle guarantee precise temperatures throughout the brewhouse. Similar controls ensure beer in the 4 45 hectoliter unitank fermentation vessels and the 4 89 hectoliter aging tanks is always spot on temperature specs.

A Della-Toffold filter, GAI-monoblock bottler and a Kosme labeller capable of running at an output of 5,500 labels per hour round out the front ranks of the automated brewery. Triple parallel bottling lines for beer, wine and juices, which are bottled, boxed, palletized and then slid onto a steel conveyor for removal to their respective storage areas certainly impress.

But there is a definite payoff in having top flight equipment as a double brew of 20 hectoliter length each was zipped off in a nifty 6 and 1/2 hours total, which is surely the envy of any brewer who has labored through a 12 to 14 hour brew day just to produce a single 10 hectoliter batch. The addition of a whirlpool tank with speed control allows the first brew to be pumped over for hop separation, and the second brew to quickly follow on the heels of the first into the highly efficient kettle.

The Magnotta Winery and Brewery is immaculately clean, even owner Gabe Magnotta has to dip his footwear in a sterile solution if he wants to enter his brewery. It's all part of the Magnotta approach of leaving nothing to chance. Mike Ligas, head brewer, taking his cue, has positive pressure filtered air delivered directly to the brewery to ensure a clean, uncontaminated brewing environment.

Clearly there is a substantial investment in the Magnotta Winery and Brewery in Vaughan, and owner Gabe Magnotta, as the accompanying article will attest, has not only the will but the resources to do battle with both bureaucracy and monopolistic-driven operations such as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, LCBO.