In Central Oshawa, there sits a community hub. A place where you can come to sit back and relax over a long conversation with close friends or family members. A place where you can rely on knowing you’re tasting fresh, local ingredients that have been sourced with creativity and care. A place that understands the needs of its local community and as a small business themselves, builds other small businesses up alongside them. This place is All or Nothing Brewhouse.
All or Nothing started as the vision of two brothers from Whitby, Eric and Jeff Dornan. Their dad was an entrepreneur, and introduced Eric and Jeff to the tricks of the trade. They worked alongside their dad selling flooring, plumbing and electrical products, learning a lot about entrepreneurship and themselves along the way.
Although that entrepreneurial fire was lit inside them, they didn’t let it overshadow the feeling that they wanted to be a part of something bigger. Something that people could get excited about. They saw a need in Oshawa for that sense of a community hub and belonging, and that’s how All or Nothing was born.
How All or Nothing Came to Be
In the beginning, Eric and Jeff learned a lot about the industry on the fly. They opened an office in the south end of Oshawa in 2014 and operated as a contract brewery in the beginning, brewing their beer off-site and building the business from scratch. With their beer growing in popularity, they quickly ran into the issue of not being able to sell beer commercially on site. They were tasked with the choice to either build a brewery of their own, or buy one.
The Dornan brothers jumped at the opportunity to buy the historic Trafalgar Ales & Meads in Oakville. It was a big undertaking, requiring a lot of repairing and replacing so much of the equipment that was there. Seeing as Eric and Jeff still lived in Whitby, too, taking on this project in Oakville meant a lot of long hours spent driving quite literally “to the moon and back” a few times over in distance, as Jeff puts it.
Despite all the long drives, buying the Oakville location proved to be the right call. With the brewery growing in popularity and production, after a few years, Jeff and Eric found an opportunity to return to Oshawa in December of 2018. It had been the plan all along, so when a building that had been a beer store since the 1950’s became available, it felt too serendipitous of an opportunity to pass up. After 6 long months of renovations, their official grand reopening was in June of 2019.
A Community Hub in Oshawa
It seems almost too fitting that the place where All or Nothing would find its forever home was also the place where “people have been programmed to buy beer for years”, as Jeff says. Despite the building looking completely different from the way it used to, the Dornan brothers laugh at the fact that the odd local will still come by asking if they are a beer store.
The answer, of course, is that they are far more than that. All or Nothing sits in a split-level 1500 square foot beer hall, which makes it a very pandemic-friendly place to come and enjoy beer indoors and at a safe distance. The split-level layout also gives visitors the opportunity to see the “Willy Wonka”-like production facilities, bringing them closer to the brewing process.
Prior to the pandemic, they hosted anything from Oktoberfest celebrations to birthday parties and everything in between. Nowadays, they’ve shifted their focus away from the pre-pandemic gatherings to their true passion for being a community hub, which is something they’ve felt their corner of Oshawa has been looking for for quite some time.
All or Nothing’s commitment to its community is a pillar of their business. The Dornan brothers work closely with Durham College’s Bistro 67 restaurant to source local ingredients for many of their brews. They’re also looking at the possibility of opening up a farmer’s market in collaboration with Durham College sometime in the near future.
Their care for community doesn’t just apply to those that are nearby. In fact, early on in the pandemic, they were faced with an important call to action. They learned about the immediate need for hand sanitizer across the country. They didn’t have a distillery in operation prior to the pandemic, so they worked tirelessly to get one up and running. They learned about the lengthy and tedious process of producing ethanol, and helped supply hand sanitizer to everyone from the police services to the army and even YMCA shelters across Canada.
Giving it All or Nothing in “The Better Beer Revolution”
At All or Nothing, they’re committed to their stake in the “Better Beer Revolution”. This means they’re producing beer that’s all natural and brewed sourcing local ingredients. They don’t use corn syrup, fillers or preservatives. What you see is what you get, so when you’re drinking one of their blueberry sours, know that it was made with pure blueberry juice sourced from a local field in Durham Region.
Their wide selection of beers is ever-changing, and they have 17 different beers available right now. While you’ll be able to find a few of their beers at the LCBO, their more inventive brews are the ones you’ll find at the brewery.
Due to COVID, unfortunately you won’t be able to pick up a sampler flight when you visit the brewery right now, as is the case in breweries across the province. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up some beers for your own at-home sampling experience, or split a pint to sample with a friend or family member inside your bubble. This is something more and more visitors are doing these days.
When chatting with co-owner Jeff Dornan about the best beers to try, it’s easy to see that the Dornan brothers are passionate about their craft. It’s clearly hard to narrow down such a delicious decision. If you’re looking for some of their better-known brews, their “All or Nothing” Hopfenweisse is a beer they’ve been brewing since day one. Along with “Hustle Over Hype” Pale Wheat and their “Beatin’ the Odds” New England IPA, these are some of their main staples.
If you’re looking to branch out and sample a few beers to really widen your experience at the brewery, Jeff would also recommend picking up a Peach Gose Sour or a Gooseberry and Red Currant Gose Sour. Both are brewed with local produce sourced from the gardens at Durham College. Add a “Limitless Lager” and a “Snooze You Lose” Brown Ale to balance out the palette, and finish off with a creative “Screamsicle Orange Burst” Popsicle Beer. You read that right. Popsicle beers are reportedly the next creative beers to enter the craft brewery scene.
As we move into fall, you’ll be sure to see some tasty new beers on tap. Keep an eye out for some seasonal shifts in flavour. Jeff says they’re working on a pastry and oatmeal stout, along with several others to keep you excited for every time you come back.
How to Enjoy All or Nothing Beers Your Own Way
This brewhouse aims to serve its community and customers in the best way possible. Especially this year, they know things are ever-changing, and they want to make sure their business reflects that.
For those looking to taste beer indoors, their large and airy facility makes for the perfect place to enjoy beer responsibly and at a distance from others. Unlike some breweries in more cramped spaces, they have plenty of room inside the brewhouse, and there’s more than 6 feet spacing between tables. If you’re feeling peckish, they have chips, snacks and visiting food trucks at the brewhouse. Stay tuned for their very own gourmet hot dog cart, which they’re planning to have up and running sometime in the near future.
If you’re more comfortable with curbside pickup or contactless delivery, these options are available too. You can place an order on their website and you can pick the beer up from the brewery, or arrange for it to be shipped for you with Canada Post. If you’re looking to enjoy All or Nothing beers more instantaneously, they’ve made themselves available on Uber Eats, too. The only caveat is that you buy a bag of chips with your order. But really, with selection like this, that just becomes the cherry on top of some delicious beer.
Whether you’re enjoying the taste of a creative Popsicle Beer in the All or Nothing Brewhouse or a staple Hopfenweisse from the comfort of your own home, you’ll taste the hard work and dedication to community in every sip. During times like these, it’s important to put your morals and your money into good, local businesses doing everything for their community. At All or Nothing Brewhouse, you’ll find just that. Cheers.
Written by: Bri Mitchell
Bri is a Toronto native who has spent many years living abroad, but has been happily reconnected with Ontario for the past three years. She loves writing about travel experiences in our beautiful province including all things nature, food and culture. You can find her canoeing and swimming across Ontario with a craft brew in her hand in the summer, and snowshoeing or curling up with a good book and an Ontarian Pinot Noir in the winter. Follow along on Instagram @mstravelingmitch.