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Barncat Artisan Ales set to shut its doors at summer’s end

The local brewery on Industrial Road is preparing to turn off the taps and wind down business

After almost a decade of serving up craft beer to the community, Barncat Artisan Ales will be closing up shop at the end of August.

What started as a side gig for co-owners Matt MacDonald and Jeremy Skorochid quickly turned into a full-fledged business out of a commercial space on Industrial Road.

But with the two-man show requiring much more time than the average 40-hour work week, rising prices and a shifting market, now was the right time to move on, Macdonald says.

“We’ve been at it eight years and our lease is up at the end of August,” Macdonald said.

“The cost of the lease is going up, everything is getting more expensive and peak beer sales aren’t what they were. We had our run.”

The pair looked at what it would take to keep the business running but when everything was considered it didn’t seem like a smart business decision.

“Moving would be starting over,” he said.

“Moving from here to a new location is more expensive than opening a new brewery. To keep it open, we’re looking at thousands of extra dollars every month just to pay someone else. Those are the main factors.”

One of Macdonald’s first exposures to the alcohol industry was a job at the LCBO as a 20-year-old. Being put in charge of dealing with reps and the selection of beer that would be stocked at the store, he began researching various kinds of craft beers.

What he soon realized was many of the ones he was looking at couldn’t be bought in Ontario, so he decided to try and make them. That idea led to his time as a homebrewer.

Both Macdonald and Skorochid were homebrewers, and good ones at that. They won various medals at the Canadian Homebrew Awards.

Macdonald decided to reach out to his future business partner on an online beer forum they were both a part of to congratulate him and see if he’d like to trade beers.

As it turns out, Macdonald was from Cambridge and Skorochid called Ayr home but worked in the city not more than a couple hundred feet from his future business partner.

“We met and started trading home brews,” Macdonald said.

“I heard through the online community that he was looking to open a brewery. I told him that I had experience in the brewing industry and if he wanted to partner I’d be interested.”

That was in December of 2014.

The following years were spent building a business plan and getting set up to open, which they eventually did in April of 2016.

The initial business design was to be a taproom and have growlers to go, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that.

Without walk-in traffic they had to invest in packaging equipment. It was something Macdonald says “changed the business overnight.” While beer was still being sold at a consistent rate, managing production became a challenge.

Eight years later and ready to lock the doors for good, Macdonald hopes the company left a positive impression on the local community.

“We have a really good reputation in the industry and we’re really proud of what we made,” he said.

“I hope that’s our lasting legacy. That we continued to have really strong product from the time we opened right until the end.”

The brewery will continue making and releasing beers into July.