Side Launch Stories: Michael Hancock

Michael Hancock

Few people in the Canadian brewing community have as many stories and experiences as Michael Hancock, one of the pioneers of the brewing industry.


In an interview with Michael, we got to hear some incredible stories and learn how he ended up becoming a part of the Side Launch Brewing community.

Originally growing up in a small village in England, Hancock eventually found himself moving to Toronto, because of his Canadian roots. Both of his parents had ties to Canada and had some connections with what is known today as the Molson Coors Beverage Company.

From this connection, Hancock’s brewing story began, in 1976 when he was just 21 years old. Even though he didn’t technically start off on the brewing side of things, he was doing some work for the beverage company regarding energy and environmental matters.

For about five years he focused on engineering work for Molson, which eventually led him to get into the brewing side of things. He admitted that he was actually much more interested in brewing than engineering.

After working with the company in all kinds of positions including management and supervisor roles as well as others, for about three or four years, it was time for him to eventually part ways.

“It was certainly a good thing,” Hancock said.

“Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the career I did,” he added.

With a passion for brewing, Hancock made his way to a brewing school in the city of Chicago to expand his knowledge of the brewing processes. This opened up a whole world of opportunities.

Shortly after, Hancock met a German brewery owner, with Bavarian royalty ties. He was very interested in working with Hancock to help him open up a brewpub in Montreal. Although, after some convincing by Hancock, the German brewery owner was persuaded to open one up in Toronto instead. Hancock believed that the city of Toronto was a much better option, than Montreal.

The new brewpub officially opened in 1988 and Hancock was the perfect brewer for it. He had worked in larger companies, respected consistency and never messed around with the recipes, which is what caught the attention of the German brewery owner in the first place.

Hancock started producing German-style beers like pale lager, dark lager, and even wheat beer, which was a really significant thing because nobody else was doing it in North America at the time, he said.

He continued this brewing chapter of his life, with the German brewery owner, for about 14 years. 

Although the two could barely break even with how many things needed to be fixed and the cost of rent in Toronto, Hancock received great reviews, plus, made many amazing connections and relationships along the way.

After the brewpub, unfortunately, closed its doors, Hancock ended up keeping the wheat beer recipe alive, through four or five different breweries. Around 2005, he reintroduced the dark lager, and by 2009, he had put the wheat beer into cans.

Fast forward a year later, Hancock was put in touch with Side Launch as a potential brewer. In 2013, they started brewing and by 2014, the official brewery was born.


Michael Hancock


“Things were really going well, we were growing very quickly,” Hancock said.

In 2016, Side Launch was awarded the Canadian Brewery of the Year.

Even though Hancock was originally hired as the brewer, he was so intimately involved with building the place.

Since he was still living in Toronto, in the early stages, he would actually sometimes spend the night at the brewery, until he was eventually kicked out by the fire marshall.

“I had an IKEA bed that I had in there,” Hancock said.

“I slept there for about two years, as we were building it and as we were doing the original brews,” he added.


Michael Hancock - Side Launch


Side Launch Brewing was like a temporary home for Hancock but, eventually, he ended up purchasing a home of his own in Collingwood shortly after. 

It was a familiar feeling as the community of Collingwood reminded him so much of the small village he grew up in, back in England.

“It's like coming back to what I feel comfortable with,” Hancock said.

“You look at people when you pass them, you talk to them in the stores, you talk to your neighbours, and there's an awful lot of that gets lost in a large city,” he added.

Hancock really enjoyed being a part of the building process and being a part of the community. One of his favourite things about the brewery is the massive window that lets in all that stunning natural lighting. 

“It's the one brewery that I know of that has so much natural light in it,” Hancock said.

“It's just staggering,” he added.

In regards to Side Launch’s beer, he’s a huge fan of wheat beer. So, if you’re visiting the brewery in Collingwood, or picking up a can from a retail store, make sure to pick one up. 

You never know, it might just make you think of Hancock and his incredible brewing journey. After all, he was one of the first to produce it authentically in the entire country.

Side Launch Brewing was what brought Hancock to be a part of this community in Ontario, and if he were to describe Collingwood in one word, it would be home.

Michael has moved on from working at Side Launch, but still stops by the tap room on a regular basis to enjoy a pint, share some great stories and to pick up a few of his favourite cans (Mountain, Wheat & Dark) .


Michael Hancock

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