Iconic Restaurant Expands into Gastropub Scene

By Chiara Zussino

Pivot and expand—these are two things that many businesses have been forced to do during the pandemic, and long-time staple of the downtown north core restaurant scene, The Prospector, is no exception.

With gastropubs surging in popularity, owner Anthony Hockenhull decided to convert part of his floor space to a taproom. “Unlike fast food restaurants, when COVID became a factor, we were not hitting our stride,” he says. “Being primarily a steakhouse, we knew that we had to do something different.” Officially opening July 29, The Brewhouse is the newest addition to The Prospector’s trifecta, joining its Steakhouse and Burger Barn. Seeing a shift in Thunder Bay dining, Hockenhull recognized that it was time for The Prospector to innovate. “Dining in Thunder Bay changed to ‘let’s go to this place for appetizers, we’ll have a beer here, and then go get dessert,’” he says. “People wanted an experience and, before this addition, our restaurant was not conducive to this trend.”

Hockenhull realized there was an opportunity due to the changing provincial liquor laws during the pandemic. “The Alcohol and Gaming Commission began to allow restaurants to pre-make and sell cocktails and bottled beer, and so we knew that if we could make a name for ourselves as a brewhouse and have off-sales as an option for customers then this venture would be feasible.”

Hockenhull says that renovations for the new space were completed during the shutdown and not tedious due to the fact that they were not constrained by historical building requirements, had an existing foundational restaurant structure, and thus, were mainly cosmetic. Currently, The Brewhouse has the capacity to brew roughly six kegs of beer at a time, (the equivalent of 300 to 1,000 litres) and would be classified as a nano-brewery.

“We were able to brew beer during shutdown, however we waited to begin until restaurants were given the green light to open as our beer is not pasteurized and has a shorter shelf life in comparison to commercial beer,” Hockenhull says. The Brewhouse offers four types of beer on tap, with the hope of having a wider variety in the future. According to Hockenhull, Wild Blueberry Wheat is their unofficial signature beer, acting as a great option between craft and commercial with much thought and consideration going into the recipe.

The Brewhouse can be found beside The Prospector, located at 27 Cumberland Street South.