What does a solar brewery do during a total eclipse of the sun? Mallorytown’s ArBru has some special plans in mind

Phil Audet, President of ArBru Solar Brewery (Supplied)

What happens to a solar brewery during a total eclipse of the sun? That’s what customers and visitors at ArBru Solar Brewery in Mallorytown will find out come the solar maxima eclipse on Monday, April 8. 

Many communities along the St. Lawrence Seaway in Eastern Ontario are positioned in the path of “totality” and will be plunged into nighttime-like darkness in the middle of the day when the eclipse passes over North America. 

And many businesses in the area are preparing to take advantage of the rare celestial event.

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ArBru will be welcoming visitors for “solar” brews and home-cooked food, even though owner Phil Audet admits he’s making it up as he goes.

“It’s funny, because initially people were asking if we’d be open for the eclipse and we said no because we’re always closed on Mondays,” laughed Audet. “But then we realized there was potential to be open and do something special for it, so just yesterday we decided last-minute to open up, because there’s been quite a lot of interest.”

ArBru relies on 32 solar panels to power the 2,400-square-foot brew house and beer store. The 400-watt panels provide up to 13,000 watts at peak, enough to supply all of ArBru’s electrical needs, and even produce enough surplus to fill up six lithium storage batteries.

The eclipse party at ArBru will feature food and drink specials and tours of the solar-powered brewery operations, Audet said. But perhaps the most unique of the eclipse offerings will be the live “broadcast” of the solar power produced throughout the day — including the drop in power at the time of the eclipse.

“We will be televising the power production through the day so people can see the graph as the panels collect power and it can be interactive throughout the day,” explained Audet. “We have a big screen television, so we’ll have that live information showing the power and then showing the decline and then the drop when the eclipse occurs.”

Some might expect that the brewery will be plunged into darkness at the moment of the eclipse. But, as this writer has learned, that’s not how solar power works. Since power is stored in battery packs, the brewery won’t “go dark,” Audet explained. However, the graph will show the power production of the panels flatline until the sun returns.

The brewery will supply eclipse glasses for those wishing to view the event. But, just like the eclipse, some details remain to be seen.

“We might do live music or some specials, too. But we just came up with it yesterday. What are other people doing?” Audet asked, laughing.

In fact, there is no shortage of eclipse-themed events in the region, from rooftop viewing parties and interactive workshops, to river cruises and champagne toasts.

The Town of Gananoque will host Total Eclipse of the Park at Joel Stone Park, while Brockville is offering a community viewing event on Blockhouse Island. The Brockville viewing will feature vendors, food trucks and markets and include appearances from the Royal Canadian Air Force as it celebrates its 100th anniversary with pipe and drum performances.

The Brockville Aquatarium will also have educational activities for visitors and astronomy enthusiasts will be able to check out a telescope viewing area.

Kingston is also in the path of totality and the city is “rolling out the red carpet” as tourism officials prepare for a flood of visitors. The city’s biggest tourist attractions are opening nearly a month earlier than usual to welcome tourists for the event and between bus tours, museum exhibits, themed haunted walks, live music and rooftop viewing parties, there is no shortage of activities.

Eric Ferguson is the general manager of Kingston Destination Group, which includes Kingston 1000 Islands Cruises, Kingston Trolley Tours, K-Pass, Waterfront Gifts and Apparel and Kingston Walks. 

“Kingston is perfectly, completely, incredibly, right in the path of totality for what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event — unless you want to fly to Spain for the next one,” he said. “We’re the perfect place to see it. Usually, people will visit Kingston in May for Victoria Day, but this is the year to come earlier.”

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