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Spencer McCormack, Player/Coach @ 5 Paddles Brewing Co

Spencer McCormack, Player/Coach @ 5 Paddles Brewing Co

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Presented x Mondial de la Bière [June 14-18, 2017 – Montréal]

Who are you: 

Spencer McCormack

Your current job: 

Player/Coach @ 5 Paddles Brewing Co

In which city are you located? 

Whitby, Ontario

A word to define what kind of worker you are: 


What tools are essential to your life (app, software, etc..) 

Random scraps of paper – all of my workspaces (my car, the “office” & my dining room are littered with scraps of paper that have the unknowable ramblings and codes of a madman… I need all of those notes, though. They are the inner workings of 5 Paddles.

What does your office space look like? 

Well, I’m writing this next to a half-finished semi-automatic HDP bottler from the 80s on a laptop plugged into a printer. All of this sitting on a table covered in notes, invitations, bills & CDN Tire money. All of this overlooks the brewery from this vantage point I can yell at everyone and be yelled at. 

How large is the brewery? 

We started 4 years ago as a nano brewery with 5 300L fermentors and a 300L brew system in a tiny little space. We have never stopped growing and now have 3 2500L fermentors, 3 1200L fermentors and a buttload of small (300-500L) fermentors with our OG brew system and a 1200L brew system. 2 years ago we moved into our current much larger space.

So I guess we are small but, we feel huge considering where we came from.

The reason you started brewing? 

my brewing journey started 12 years ago when I was 19. A few weeks before my first batch of homebrew my roommate Mike and I had gone out to The REX in Toronto. Mike was from London and ordered us a pitcher of Blue. The bartender said “sorry, we don’t have Blue… This is our cheapest beer” Mike was offended and choose what looked like the most expensive beer out of spite. What came was a pitcher of Amsterdam Nut Brown. We laughed at the beer. Mike struggled through his pints and I reveled, my mind fully exploding.

I had NO idea you could have a chocolate flavor in a beer. I had another pitcher that night and my never ending search had officially begun. Shortly after this, I tried St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout on tap at The Cameron House and I decided I must learn to make this stuff. At that time you could only get 3 dark beers in the beer store or LCBO that weren’t Guinness (St. Ambroise was not yet in) so I had to start trying to make my own. I’m still chasing that dragon and still think St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is the best beer in Canada.

What was the inspiration behind your brewery? 

Our name is 5 Paddles and we were started by 4 brewers. Our name comes from the fact that we have a strict $0 advertising and marketing budget. We steer the business with our Mash Paddle. Making the most delicious beer we can is the gameplan. If our beer is undeniable our business will be too.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario? 

for me, it’s the time required to change perceptions. I’ve traveled many of the world’s big Craft Beer markets where the % of Craft in the beer market is 10% or higher and Ontario brewers make beer just as good or better than most of these beer destinations. However, Craft in Ontario is only 3-5% of the beer market. I know that as an industry we will get there but it will just take time… I just wish we were there now.

What kind of music do you listen to when you are working? 

At the brewery, we call it “Hardcore Spencer Rock” When I’m working the front counter it’s a lot of Paul Simon, Steve Earle, Fleetwood Mac & the Weakerthans. When I’m working in the back I can get a bit heavier not heavy by any stretch… just heavier: Bat Out of Hell, Thin Lizzy & Ted Leo

Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?

 Little sheets of paper with to do lists, phone numbers, orders, etc.

What tips would you give to improve productivity? 

Don’t take productivity tips from me.

What is the best advice anyone has given you? 

I don’t know if my mom ever told me this explicitly but she certainly taught me to not take any shit from anybody.

What is your routine start and end of the day? 

I have a 6-month-old son at home so he is the new alarm clock. I start my days with him and finish my workday with a to-do list written on a scrap of paper set on the computer for the next day and usually finish the day with a baby monitor in hand watching the Raptors or Blue Jays (seasonally) with a beer or a cocktail.

Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not you go without? I’m pretty gadget free. I steal a lot of pens from the brewery because I’m always writing notes on everything.

3 Ontario craft beers that we must try?

The Granite Best Bitter

Sawdust City Golden Beach

Bellwoods Bring Out Your Dead (if you can get your hands on one)

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery? 

Run some numbers… It seems like a lot of people just have a vision and stick to that vision in spite of costs. I see a lot of breweries doing things that don’t make them any money and I have no idea why they are doing it. Like festivals where they have to pay ludicrous entry fees just to give their beer away or selling cans for super low margins. They always say it’s a good opportunity to get exposure but personally, I only expose myself if I’m getting paid!