Founded in 1996, County Durham was largely Bruce Halstead’s one-man operation for a quarter century until partnering with Toronto’s original craft beer bar, C’est What, in 2021. His attention to detail can be appreciated in the publicly and critically acclaimed brews sold under the Durham and C’est What labels. Specializing in cask ales the brewery offers a variety of styles to bring you beer-balance and zen. Expect us to be ramping up production for pickup and home delivery starting June of 2021.
Is the power of two something greater than the sum?
“Two Hands clap and there is a sound, what is the sound of one hand?”
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C’est What’s history as a brewery dates back to founder George’s formative experiences as a home brewer. Initially attracted to the idea of a seemly inexhaustible supply of inexpensive beer, he soon found that the best reason to DIY in the 1980s was flavour. In those days you could try any two brews selected from the “wall of beer” at the “Brewers’ Retail” and be hard pressed to tell any difference beyond the design of the label.
In the early 1990s the rise of brew your own shops gave C’est What the opportunity to add some overlooked and unexplored beer styles to our draught menu without sacrificing any precious customer space for equipment. We first brewed at Select Brewing on Mowat Avenue. Although it was set up as a malt extract brewery, the proprietors helped us add full grain flavour by fashioning a makeshift mash tun out of spare parts. After production, the wort would be transported in 50L plastic carboys back to the restaurant in back of an old Nissan Sentra. Once back at the pub, the yeast would be pitched and the remainder of the usual brewing would be carried out with bits of equipment expertly jury-rigged by C’est What managing partner Tim Broughton. It is during was during this time that Toronto’s original Coffee Porter was born. Doug Pengelly (pictured) of Junction Craft Brewery got his first taste of brewing over kettles of C’est What brews.
After a couple of years we moved production out to Simon Cowe’s Lakeside Brewing, near The Beach. This is where Simon developed the first Hemp Ale recipe for us. It is also where we crossed paths with Alan Moore (pictured) of Al’s Cask Ale fame. Al would be our brewmaster through a foray in contract brewing at Trafalgar Brewing where we bottled the Coffee Porter in 625 mL bottles for sale at the LCBO.
Over the past couple of decades we have produced most of our house brews at Durham Brewing, Bruce Halstead’s one-man show in Pickering. Bruce’s attention to detail, love and understanding of balanced brews, and obsessively cleaned brewery have been a good fit for us. So good a fit, that we have recently turned our common-law marriage of convenience into a bigger commitment. Together we are going to celebrate our honeymoon by releasing eight different brews this year in tall-boy cans.
True to our reputation at the go-to pub and brewery for cask ales, six of these offerings will be cask-in-a-can, nitro packaged.
The cans will be available for sale at the C’est What bottle shop or the new Durham Brewing Company store. Those living downtown will be able to get same day delivery through our delivery partners. Durham region weekly deliveries can be arranged through the brewery’s online store.