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The Old Galt Bottle Shop like a candy store for craft beer lovers

The OG Bottle Shop opens this week with over 100 different beers for sale
OG Bottle Shop Rob Quilty
Rob Quilty of OG Bottle Shop (Photo by Ian Hunter/KitchenerToday)

One year ago, curated craft beer bottle shops only seemed like a faint possibility in Ontario. Not only are they a reality in 2021, these boutique beer stores are popping up all across the province.

The latest to open their doors locally is The Old Galt Bottle Shop in Cambridge. Best friends Rob Quilty and Rob Rappolt dreamt up plans for The OG Bottle Shop last year once the provincial government made takeout alcohol sales a permanent measure.

The OG Bottle Shop is a boutique craft beer bottle shop featuring over 100 beers from Ontario-based craft breweries. But it won’t just be beer, they’ll sell wine, spirits, cider and non-alcoholic craft sodas.

Years prior, the two Robs mused about the possibility of opening something beer-related at the George Street location on the west side of Galt. The building dates back to 1923 and was once home to a bread factory, the South Waterloo Agricultural Society, and most recently Blackwing Coffee Bar, which closed last year.

Once they heard the space was available, Quilty and Rappolt had the location at the top of their wish list. In fact, it was the only place they wanted to open their shop. Things started rolling late last year when they secured the space and transformed the former coffee bar into their own bottle shop and beer bar.

“One of the key elements to this business being a success is the location and the building that we’re in,” Quilty said. “We went back and forth on some of the negotiations with the lease, and at one point, we decided that if we can’t get this location, then I don’t think we want to do this.”

Because of COVID restrictions, the bottle shop will start with online sales for in-store pickup by mid-week, then move to walk-in retail sales by this Friday. Later on, they'll expand their offerings to include draft beer and food when in-person dining restrictions loosen in Ontario.

Old Galt Bottle Shop’s fully stocked fridges are the showpieces of the space. Each style of beer gets its own dedicated real estate behind the glass doors, featuring one fridge with low ABV beers, lagers and pilsners, an entire two-door fridge devoted to IPA’s, and another catch-all fridge for sours, fruited beers and ciders.

“We wanted to create a better shopping experience than maybe you’d have at a normal retailer or an LCBO,” Quilty said. “I find it kind of silly that beer is categorized by region; it’s domestic, imports and Canadian craft beer. I don’t think that’s how people really shop for beer.”

The OG Bottle Shop will spotlight beer from breweries across the province, including the newly opened Paris Brew Co. in nearby Paris, and beloved Toronto-based staples like Left Field, Bellwoods and Blood Brothers.

Since the OG Bottle Shop is a smaller operation, they’re more nimble and able to adapt and carry seasonal or limited release beers that might never sit on the shelves at the LCBO, The Beer Store or a local grocery store.

“The LCBO is great at what they do, but because they’re so big, it makes it hard to rotate through these small batch breweries, seasonals and one-offs,” Quilty said. “I think that’s where bottle shops like us can be quick to react and be able to bring things in on a relatively short notice and cycle through different products based on seasonality.”

The roster will be constantly rotating and there will always be new beers on the shelves and new brews on tap at The Old Galt Bottle Shop. Part of the fun of Quilty’s own foray into craft beer was finding new and exciting beers to try. That sense of discovery is something he wants every customer to experience themselves.

“People want selection, they want to try new things, and they want to see new things they’ve never tried before,” Quilty said. “We want to showcase small, unique microbreweries that people have never heard of before.

“I think that’s what’s going to make it fun.”

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