Phil's Story

We spent time with Phil Winters at his brewery in Caledon, Ontario, Goodlot Farmstead Brewery, a remarkable place.
  • C: How did it all this come about?

    Phil: Oh, it’s all pedestrian. I came out of university with a sense that the world was heading in the wrong direction. The feeling that the post-industrial and post-war economy was taking us on a path not sustainable for us.

    I took a vow of poverty of sorts after university, that I was going to put my energy and myself against activism. For the benefit of all species.

    In my twenties, I decided I was going going to be a dirtbag activist and organize better than the lobbyists themselves. I realized our democracy is broken when lobbyists control the narrative, usurping the voice of the people, making decisions for your donors, not for society.

    In Colorado, I spent ten years as a front line activist, engaging with 50 citizens a night hoping to get ten to act. I ran the western arm of the Center for Environmental Citizenship, activating a the massive demographic of 18-24 year old voters. We trained literally thousands of people to activate and train others to activate people.

    C: What did you learn?
    How to motivate people. We spent all of our time training people to activate and train people on campus to activate people.

    Also, to only follow incorruptible people. Get them into office. I worked with John Hickenlooper to get him elected mayor.

    C: Where did your drive come from?

    We worked for the sake of the human race and all other species on the planet.

  • C: And?

    And, when I realized business ran everything, I noticed solar power. Even though going into business broke my vow of poverty, solar was gorgeous to me. It helped me get into business in general. That got me back to Canada.

    C: What got you into solar?

    In 1997, I managed my first climate change campaign (then called global warming) for a group in DC. My job was to create awareness of this impending global issue and its causes, at the University of Colorado Boulder. One of the prominent solutions I became aware of that year was solar photovoltaic (PV.) No moving parts, just solid state technology with almost zero maintenance. It just seemed the best, obvious and available solution to get off carbon based fuels. It was still very expensive, but available. I went to Solar Energy International in 1999 to train on solar technology and that cemented my passion and lifelong commitment to PV.

    I learned how to talk with business people. That became a different form of activism. Now, my business is my activism.

    C: What would you say you’ve focused on?

    Finding models that integrate impact, one business at a time.
    When we moved to the farm it was to create an holistic, responsible environment. It took us several years to get up to speed in regenerative agriculture.

    C: What early influences would you cite for any of this?

    High school. Upper Canada College’s Eric Barton, a teacher. He had spent his entire life in missionary work. He showed me a different path of life. It felt then like we were the first to sign up for a philosophy of giving back.

    C: Tell us about your brewery.

    It’s circular. Organic and regenerative farming and brewing. It is doing things the right way. Because we can.

    Look, in general our world is going in the opposite direction of equality and health. It’s much tougher to adopt a dog than it is to start a dirty business and destroy the planet with it.
    With Goodlots Brewery we are demonstrating that you can apply models — sometimes bringing in third parties to help offset power usage — that decarbonize your business.

    Our mission is to decarbonize beer.

    We ask: how do we turn 27 acres into role model for small scale brewers and farmers? We are actually looking at renewable energy credits to cover our gap between our own 20kw of solar generation on site and the demands of an electrical brewery. We currently don’t use third parties, but might. My main desire is to accomplish carbon neutrality on site by installing more onsite PV.

    C: Knowing that, how should we best give you our support?

    Drink our beer.