February 26, 2018
Gareth and I climbed into the Maker House van clamoring with excitement to head to a little brewery you might be familiar with. Once a garage operation and only three and a half years old, Dominion City Brewing now finds itself a commonplace name amongst beers.
“So should I be the one to tell him that you have a man-crush on Josh?”
“No, no. I’ll tell him, my hat gives it away.”
Buckled up and headed to the brewing grounds, we looked forward to meeting with Josh McJannett, one of the co-owners at Dominion City. Their brewing capacity has quadrupled this past year alone, and although a colossal feat, it is not the only reason Gareth finds himself with a man-crush. Baked into Dominion City’s core values is a do-good philosophy that continues to impact our community. As we sat around the table, we discussed the moments that led to the start of the brewery – and may just be the inspiration you need to hear today.
Are you familiar with Dominion City’s Paper Salesman Pale Ale? Few people are aware that it’s a tribute beer for Josh’s late father. Small, clever details are represented in the artwork. The desk represents his dad's ‘giant clunker’ and the briefcase numbers, ‘9090’, were his father’s actual passcode.
The passing of Josh’s father was one of the catalysts in his career change, but not in the way you might assume. Josh was fresh out of school and already working a successful job ‘on the hill’ when his father passed unexpectedly. As a result, Josh was driven even further to find what he describes as a false sense of security through his career.
“I created this perfect little box which I would eventually blow up”
That blow-up, existential moment was a line in a Fleet Foxes song, "If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm raw. If I had an orchard, I'd work till I'm sore."
It was then that Josh had an epiphany. “I realized that life is really short, like ridiculously short, and it was time that I actually do what I wanted to do. I had no connection to my effort every day and anything concrete when I left.”
Fast forward to August 2014 and the doors of Dominion City were finally opened, as Josh partnered with his buddy Andrew and another old friend. Beers could be found in four main locations as their name continued to spread. Fast forward to present day and Dominion City beers are now shipped across the province (from their website to your door!) and found in over 90 restaurants and bars.
The vision for Dominion City Brewing was to keep true to their original core values. This was first drafted in the business plan, which Josh recommends everyone actually do. “Almost every other aspect of our business has changed but our core values. And when we find ourselves in a new predicament, we go back to those values. It keeps us accountable.”
Some of those core values can be measured in the community initiatives. From funding at-risk youth programs to Ottawa’s School Breakfast Program, Dominion City Brewing wants to make an impact and keep a close tie to the community. Additionally, they do so by continuing to be one of the biggest purchasers of Ontario and Western Quebec hops.
“Not only is beer a social thing, but it’s one of the oldest forms of connecting us to the place we live. I want to continue to incorporate that into our business model”.
When I asked about lessons Josh has learned along the way, he responded that he’s still learning them. “Some days you’re unsure and it feels like you’re constantly swimming against the tide. You wonder if you’re crazy for making certain decisions. But at the end of the day, it feels really good to have the agency to see an idea through whether or not it works. I didn’t have that before.”
The future goal for Dominion City Brewing is to efficiently grow into their new space while maintaining the most direct relationship with their customers. Josh wants to ensure that the area is always served well before expanding.
We’re excited to see what new heights Dominion City Brewing will reach. And hope this inspires anyone who is hesitant to take that leap of faith towards their own personal dreams. If you find yourself curious about the behind-the-scenes action at Dominion City Brewing, you can arrange a tour through our friends at Brew Donkey Tours.
Until next time Maker-friends!