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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
Local News
Hometown Brewer: John Legassicke of Silversmith
The brew crew: Megan Kanstantonis, Dale Barn, brewmaster John Legassicke and Joe Emburgh, at Silversmith Brewery in Virgil. (Brittany Carter/Niagara Now)

A business is only as good as its team, which is why Silversmith Brewing Company’s brewmaster John Legassicke insists he isn’t the sole reason for the coveted craft beer’s popularity.

For four years, Legassicke, 33, has led the brew team at Silversmith, located in a repurposed church in Virgil, bringing his attention to detail, tireless planning and organizational skills to the table to enhance the already smoothly run brewery.

Quick to give creative credit to the three other members of the brew crew — Megan Kanstantonis, Dale Barn and Joe Emburgh — Legassicke says his own strengths lie in the practical side of brewing.

“The strangest thing about me as a brewer is that I’m not very creative, which kind of goes against what people think about craft brewing. Lots of creativity and always doing different things.” He says practical, organized and on-task sum up his skills a little better. 

“I really like the processing side: controlling the process, looking for ways to improve the process, making things consistent, time after time. That’s really what I enjoy about the job.”

It’s important to him that recipes remain consistent, ensuring that when you have Silversmith’s popular Black Lager one day, it’ll be the exact same when you come back months down the road.

“So that you know what to expect. I know as a consumer, that’s what I’m looking for. When I’m going to spend money on beer, I want to make sure that it’s going to taste the way I remember it.”

That practical attitude and stress on consistency make him well-suited for the position.

His appreciation for the team and the idea that working together strengthens the products extends to his view on the brewing community as a whole in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Instead of seeing neighbouring breweries as competition, Legassicke says they all try to work together.

“There’s a pretty good working relationship among everybody. We did a couple of brews for the Exchange before their brewery was up and running.”

He recalls times when staff from Niagara Oast House Brewers sat at the bar at Silversmith and they talked about beer, the industry and anything else that came up.

“We see the guys from Oast, who were actually in here last night having a beer, so I sat down and chatted with their brewers for a while. Everyone seems to get along pretty well.”

He began his brewing career at Neustadt Springs Brewery in Neustadt, Ont., north of Guelph, and stayed on staff there for six years before wanting a change of scenery. After meeting with Chris Pontsioen, president and CEO of Silversmith, Legassicke says it was the right move for him to take the position.

“It was a good opportunity. I knew people who had worked for Chris in the past and spoke highly of him as an employer, and just as a good guy.”

Appreciative of the people he works with, he says the brewing industry is “a lot of fun.”

“It’s like any other job. It’s not like it’s a cake walk every day. You don’t come in doing cartwheels because it’s so much fun. It’s hard and things go wrong, and there’s stress and all of that that goes with any job. It just sort of attracts a good group of people.”

People work in the craft brewing industry for the right reasons, he says, adding, “It just attracts a good personality.”

Immediately out of high school, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for a living. He let his practicality guide him toward education in the food science field because he says there’s an abundance of job opportunities in that industry. Through that path he was introduced to brewing as a career.

“I kind of specialized in brewing after that. That’s sort of how it came into place, it was never a plan when I started out. It just started channelling that way.”

Happy to have broken out in the craft beer field, he says his beer preference leans toward easy-drinking styles. His favourite beer, outside of Silversmith’s brands, is  Anchor Steam Beer.

“It’s one of my favourite beers to buy, when I can find it ... a California Common.”

A California Common is made with a special strain of lager yeast and brewed at warmer temperatures.

Within Silversmith’s brands, Legassicke says he’s partial to the smoked lager, which he says the whole brew team is eager to see more of. His hope for the brewery is to see more of his favourite Silversmith brands in the LCBO.

More production for licensees and retailers will be a possibility once the brewery’s expansion is completed. The project began in January 2018 but has been halted due to concerns with the foundation, says Kate Brzozowski, Silversmith’s vice-president of sales and marketing.

Though there’s no specific date set for the continuation of the expansion, she says it will wait until after summer’s busy season.

“We’re definitely going to hold off for the summer. The impact is too great with traffic through the summertime, so we’re going to hold off at least until the fall,” she says. 

Hailing from Welland, Legassicke also works as a volunteer firefighter when he’s not whipping up brews in NOTL. He also enjoys weekend cottage trips and ski vacations when he can tear himself away.

“It’s an industry that’s hard to step away from in the busy season.”

He’s developed an appreciation for NOTL since he started working in the area. Initially, he says he had a different perception of the small tourist town, adding that it’s much more relaxed than he anticipated.

“I knew very little about Niagara-on-the-Lake when I first came here. Maybe it got kind of lumped in with Niagara, with a tourist draw,” he says.

“It’s obviously quite different from other parts of Niagara. The atmosphere here is just a little more laid back than I might have thought.”