• Rob Hornberger

Top Dog joins growing list of Kingsville craft beer makers

Microbrew business a four-year labour of love — of dogs and beer
Top Dog Brewing owner Kieran Buzek, with dogs Tulo and Maverick.

KINGSVILLE — When Kieran Buzek was mulling over names for his new brewery, he didn’t have to think long.

He looked down at his two dogs, Tulo and Maverick, tails wagging, and said Top Dog Brewing Company, that’s going to be the name of his new enterprise.

It was a no-brainer for a self-admitted dog lover.

Top Dog Brewing opened last July and is the latest entry into Kingsville’s rapidly growing list of microbrewers.

The Grove Brewery on Main Street opened in 2017 and was soon followed by the Banded Goose and Kingsville Brewery companies, and now Top Dog.

Buzek, 28, said it took four years of work before the brewery was up and running and ready to sell beer to local restaurants and bars.

Brewing skills first had to be learned and used equipment acquired.

He estimated his total investment at $100,000 — a sum that was considerably reduced through the purchase of used equipment and a friend skilled in metal work.

Buzek said the idea of opening a microbrewery began while he was a student studying strategic management at the University of Windsor.

As a class project he and some classmates created a Tinder-style app that would not hook up sex partners but pair individuals with wines that matched their lifestyles and dining habits.

Kieran said the app project gave him a strong feeling he needed to own and operate his own business.

“That got the juices flowing and the ideas flowing,” he said. “I knew … I wanted some sort of business.”

The idea of a microbrewery came to Buzek at the Barrel House pub in Old Sandwich — a place he and friends would meet after baseball games at Mic Mac Park and where he was introduced to craft beer.

“At that point in university, I would drink beers like Old V — the usual suspects,” he said. “And then I started drinking craft beers.

“We became good friends with James Kemmet, the bartender. Every time I went there he would give us something different and that’s when I totally expanded my horizon on beer.”

“The craft brewing industry is a giant community. It’s competitive, but everyone is there to help each other, which is the best thing about it.”

After one of those visits, he went on Amazon and ordered books about beer making.

“I was reading every day and then I started searching for equipment … I was on Kijiji and Facebook.”

Buzek began buying equipment and friend Dave Friesen, owner of Gillett Sheet Metal, used his skills to modify the stainless steel equipment to Buzek’s requirements.

Buzek’s first test batches were brewed in his parents’ garage and fermented in a closet. Then he moved to a barn behind his grandparents’ home on Road 3 home near the Albuna Townline.

In July, brewing skills learned, equipment acquired, he was ready to open.

Buzek has the capacity to brew between 250 and 500 litres of beer a week. He manually fills his cans with beer and uses a seamer to seal the cans.

Buzek said he tries to buy most of his supplies locally. He buys some of his hops from RedMan Hops on Road 6 in Kingsville and malt from the O’Neill Malting Company in Chatham.

“These are people I’m buying their products and they’re buying my beer,” he said.

Craft brewing, as an industry, is a collegial enterprise where competing brewers often help each other with advice — and even the loan of equipment.

The Banded Goose Brewery allows Buzek to wash his kegs at its Main Street brew pub. Banded Goose also featured Buzek beers at one of its food-pairing events.

“The craft brewing industry is a giant community” Buzek said. “It’s competitive, but everyone is there to help each other, which is the best thing about it.”

Buzek’s business plan is to grow at a slow and steady pace — to expand as his customer base expands. He currently sells beer to seven local bars and restaurants; Lee and Maria's market on Seacliff Drive also sells Top Gun beer.

But Buzek does have a vision for the future, one that involves purchasing a property on Heritage Road and having a place that would be attractive to beer lovers — and their dogs.

“I think the ultimate plan would be to have an outdoor beer garden and a nice piece of property with a fenced-in area where you can bring your dogs and watch them roam around and play,” he said.

Buzek says he would like to purchase a brew pub property hospitable to beer lovers and their dogs.

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