Roger Lichti may not be a born and raised Elmira native, but his roots are firmly planted in Waterloo Region. He created a place for his friends, family, and neighbours to gather and share some stories over a pint; Rural Roots Brewing Company.
Lichti had the dream to open his own brewery over 20 years ago, but he took the leap of faith back in 2017. As a project two years in the making afterwards, the brewery opened its doors this past Civic Holiday weekend.
“I think a seed got planted with me in 1997,” Lichti said. “I was in England and experienced British pubs for the first time in my life. What I saw there was people coming together in any small community in a pub.”
Lichti began his foray into homebrewing and tested his own recipes. This very first batch was a complete disaster because he brewed the batch with ingredients which expired six months prior. Along with some encouragement with his wife Sue, it drove Lichti to keep brewing and create a place in Elmira he could call his own.
“Ever since I’ve been here, it’s always been said: ‘Elmira needs a place to go and hang out’,” Lichti said. “We need a place that’s open past 7:00 p.m.”
Lichti sought advice from family, friends and a pair of brewmasters in nearby Shakespeare. After stopping in and meeting with Aayden and Katie Gautreau at Shakespeare Brewing Company, Lichti knew he was on the right path to develop his own brewery.
“I felt a combination of passion to do something, a craft that had been developing and growing along with some encouragement from others, to like: ‘Yeah, let’s give this a go’,” Lichti said.
It wasn’t until late 2017 when Rural Roots started to come to fruition. The brewmaster scouted various locations in Elmira, settling on 21B Industrial Drive, which was a tax office.
Fast forward to opening day at Rural Roots, August 3, the Saturday of Civic Holiday weekend. Lichti was excited, nervous and thrilled to open his doors to customers for the first time.
“To actually pour my beer on tap and have people try my product was nerve-wracking,” Lichti said. “But absolutely phenomenal meeting hundreds of people and seeing them really like the place. I think was smiling non stop for the first two weeks.”
Word of mouth is spreading through Elmira and surrounding communities. Lichti is brewing day and night trying to keep up with the demand, occasionally running out of beer because it’s become so popular with the locals.
“What I’ve done for my brewing is take people through a different gamut of flavours, styles and tastes,” Lichti said. “It’s more simplistic in nature across the board — flavours, colours, aromas and styles that are very approachable.”
The most popular beer on tap at Rural Roots Brewing Company has been their “Yes, Honey” Cream Ale. It’s made with fresh honey from the beehives of nearby Eby Family Honey. Lichti prides himself of having local connections within his brewery. From the mugs for their mug club made by Maggie’s Mudroom, to their food from by Never Enough Thyme.
Beer is the liquid that binds everyone who walks through the doors at Rural Roots, but Lichti is most excited about meeting the people who drink his beer and helping them form new bonds to their community.
“It’s a new experience outside of the city; a place to slow down a little bit and to talk and meet people. We’re about people. We’re about community. Take a moment, slow down, have a pint. It’s as simple as that.”