Trans Canada Brewing Co

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I chatted with Matt Tallman, President and CEO of TransCanada Brewing Company this past week. He invited me to their space at 1290 Kenaston, gave me a tour and shared details about what you should expect from TCB when they open.

Matt has been working on this project fully since April 2015. It’s been a journey to get to this point and it was really interesting to hear Matt walk me through the process.

Matt has always dreamed of opening his own business. When he graduated high school in ’09 he took a business program at UNC. After a couple of years of traditional classes, he spent a semester at sea through a university in Virginia. The ocean-spanning classes gave him a chance to travel and see a lot of neat stuff.

He eventually transferred to University of Western Ontario’s ivy business program – the HBA. While digesting a lot of ideas there, Matt was exposed to Ontario’s rich craft beer scene. Though he took another semester at sea to get some more travelling under his belt, he returned to Canada with a purpose, having explored the beer industry in many different countries across five continents.

When Matt rolled back into Winnipeg he had a vision to expand local beer offerings. (At the time only Half Pints and Fort Garry were operating, with Farmery just starting.) Matt felt, like many others, there was a need for more local brewing in the city and he wanted to create a truly world class venue in Winnipeg. After setting his mind to this he spent a time working through vision and decided to start the project in April of 2015. Matt feels that there is a lot of opportunity in the market and that people are more interested in where their food and beverage come from, who makes it and how it’s made.

A lot of people are curious about the name behind the brewery. Matt said he is often asked “Why TransCanada?” Initially he went through piles of names and had lots of ideas. One day Matt just had TransCanada pop into his head and felt it was so uniquely Canadian that it fit what he wanted the brewery to embody. With its historic and modern usage and the fact that on an average day you’ll hear it mentioned in the radio or see it written on your drive, Matt felt this was a name that was timeless.

The branding for TCB is Canadiana, with design elements pulled from an earlier era (1950s-60s) to give a taste of nostalgia. While referencing the period, TCB’s branding is also meant to be timeless – something that won’t expire or go out of fashion.

As a local brewery, Matt is very excited to produce beers with local ingredients and work with local suppliers and producers. His brewery concept is very Canada centric and he wants to explore different Canadian symbols and events in history. Overall he hopes TCB will be a celebration of Canada

Matt spent eight months looking for a site before settling on 1290 Kenaston. He explained it had been a very long process and he is excited to finally get started. If all goes according to plan, TCB will open in Q2 of 2017.

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The concept behind TCB is interesting. While they will have a taproom they are looking at doing pizzas and will have a dedicated pizza space, pizza oven and kitchen. Matt explained the plans were being discussed before recent taproom legislation came into effect. After looking at the legislation and taproom license, he decided it made more sense to do manufacturing, restaurant and retail. All components are part of one business. The idea is not to be a brewpub but a production brewery with a taproom attached. This is very casual meeting space with no assigned seating, servers, etc. It’s a place to come and hang out and chat, enjoy the beer from the brewery and have a pizza or a beer-related snack from a set menu.

Between the taproom and the brewery there will be a wall featuring 20 ft. tall windows. These windows will stretch almost floor to ceiling. Matt wants people to see what’s happening live during the day or have a nice brewery backdrop in the evening. He plans on having some funky lights shining on the brewhouse and tanks to create an ambiance for the taproom.

At the bar area, Matt plans to have 16 taps. He would like one of these taps to be local/craft brewery rotating guest tap. As I hinted above, the taproom will be decorated with Canadiana. As well, there will be a private function room for events and parties. It will have the same taps as the main bar area to optimize its use for any event. This room, too, will have windows letting you see down into the main taproom and there will be A/V equipment for meetings.

Right now, Matt is the only employee of TCB but he does have two others helping out who will eventually join him full time. First is Thomas Schneider. This head Pizzaiaolo (pizza guy) has been in the pizza industry for a number of years. He’ll run a dedicated Pizza area within the taproom called “Timmy Toms Pizzeria” and produce a very unique hybrid pizza. It’s close to New York style but with twisted dough prepared for individual-size orders. When the team decided pizza was the way to go, they took a trip down to San Francisco to meet pizza guru Tony Gemignani. He runs the International School of Pizza where the guys took a week-long course on making, baking, serving and selling pizza. Matt is really excited about the pizza – both the variety the can bake and the special release combinations they can curate.

Also on board is Jeff Wirt. His future role will be accounting and administration but he is currently assisting with everything – a true renaissance man. Thanks to a lot of hard work, they’ve just posted the job to round out their team and hire a Head Brewer, with the ambitious goal of enticing a world class brewer to come and prepare the best beer possible.

On the production side of things, there will be an overhead door separating the taproom and brewery to allow for them to hold open houses and for easy movement of kegs to the taproom.

The main brewhouse is built by Specific Mechanical from Victoria, BC. It is a 35hl four vessel brew house with state of the art technology operated by touch screen controls. It has a 5 HL pilot system fully integrated into the one brewhouse.  It’s fully capable of any style of beer and can do decoction mashes, kettle souring and multi-stage mashes. There are essentially two separate brewhouses, fermenters and bright tanks at TCB. For the small batch system, Matt plans to have six 10 HL fermenters and two 10 HL bright tanks while there will be six 70 HL fermenters and two 70HL HL bright tanks for the big system.

This will allow for the production of small and large batches. Matt tried to automate some of the brewery to make it easier to flow and to expand in the future. To accommodate this, he is going to install a grain silo just outside with an auger through the wall that will go directly into the surge hopper and then feed to the malt cracker, grist case, and then into the mash tun. It’s a hands off approach for base malt and all of the spent grain will be augered to silo before being trucked out for feed. While specialty malt will have to be added by hand, this allows for some automation with the largest quantity malt.

The brewery is designed to be scalable, adding more tanks if there is a need. The space allows them to double capacity if necessary, following a flow pattern Matt designed to be sustainable in the future.


Matt really wanted the ability to produce sour beers. As part of TCB’s design a dedicated space has been set aside as “the barrel room.” This climate-controlled room, with closely monitored humidity and temperature, will house 40HL Foeders from France made from oak as well as additional barrels. A glycol system will allow for precise temperature control within the room itself as well as overall temperature control. The room will act as an aging and conditioning room where, thanks to the Foeders, TCB will have the ability to really experiment with sour beers and barrel aged beers. It’ll be a slow start, but Matt is very excited about the potential.

The main packaging line from German company Markl will allow them to bottle their main beer in open carriers of 355ml bottles and 650ml bombers. They’ll also have the ability to do cork and caging on a specialty packaging line they will use exclusively for 750ml bottles of beer from the barrel room. While Matt said they don’t plan to can, they do have the ability to add a canning line.

When I was walking around the space, everything was nice and open now, but it will be quite full when all the equipment is in. You just have to use a little bit of imagination.

As for the beers, Matt wants to brew many styles of beer. Obviously a lot will depend on the Brewer who joins the team, but the brewery is designed to produce a diverse array of beers including barrel aged beers, experimental beers, and mainstream styles. It’s a flexibility that matches its owner’s tastes in beer, though go-to styles for Matt to drink are American Pale ales and German Wheat ales (hefeweizen/dunkelweizen).

The beer will be distributed to Liquormarts, beer vendors, as well as sold on site from their retail section. Some specialty beers and those produced in the small batch system will only be available on site.


It was a great opportunity to chat with Matt. I’ve known about TransCanada for quite some time and I’ve been trying to get him to give me some details. Having the opportunity to hear about the plan is exciting. I can’t wait to see how things progress and to have the opportunity to visit along the way. Matt has a pretty swanky T-shirt he’s made, and if you’re interested, just contact him through their website and he’ll give you the details on how to get one of your own.

 

 

Maritime Dispatch #2

While it’s been a couple of weeks since I returned from my travels out east, I want to make sure I give details on some of the breweries I happened to visit.

Grimross

grimross-front

Originally Grimross was brewing out of Picaroons. It’s where they sold their first beer on July 1, 2013. As their popularity grew, they got their own space on Bishop Drive in Fredericton, New Brunswick. They officially opened their doors in December of 2014 and I happened to visit them on opening day.

The brewery is named for an island in the Saint John River near Grand Lake where owner Stephen Dixon spent a lot of time growing up. Currently, they run a 10-barrel system with five 20 barrel fermenters. They keep four tanks full, plus one empty at present for transfers. Their popularity continues to grow and they are looking to add two new 20 barrel fermenters so they can move forward with plans of canning their beers.

grimross-beer

As a test run, they have been doing a limited can run of their Maritime Pale Ale, which frequently sells out. Along with the goal of expanding their capacity, they are straight up expanding their footprint from 4,000 square feet to 8,000 square feet. This will allow them room to install a canning line while also expanding their taproom space.

While Grimross had brewed mostly Belgian style ales they have recently expanded their horizons, adding more American styles to their repertoire. I tried all their beers and enjoyed each one.

grimross-taps

Bonus: If you are looking for a job, they want to hire a new brewer to help keep up with demand. Fredericton’s not a bad place to live, after all…

PEI Brewing Company

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PEI Brewing Company has a storied history on Prince Edward Island, beginning in 1997 with the founding of Murphy’s Brewing Company next to the Lone Star restaurant on University Avenue in Charlottetown, PEI. As the popularity of the brewery grew, in November 2000 they moved to a 19th Century building in downtown Charlottetown where, in honour of the original owner of this building, they changed their name to Gahan House Brewery.

In 2008 they expanded to an off-site location that allowed them start bottling beer for sale. With a new 10 hectolitre system they were able to produce more beer, expanding their distribution. They won a gold medal for their Sir John A’s Honey Wheat in 2011 as well as 2012. After running out of beer three summers in a row, owner Kevin Murphy partnered with Jeff Squires and expanded again, this time opening the PEI Brewing Company.

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A new brewery was constructed for the PEI Brewing Company, which opened in May 2013 with a 50 hectolitre state-of-the-art brew system built entirely in PEI and a whole new team of brewers. While Kevin Murphy is still involved in PEI Brewing Company, he continues to brew with both the Gahan and PEI Brewing Company labels.

One of the more interesting marketing events they’ve done is partnering with local musicians to offer some unique experiences. I had the opportunity to go and see Lenny Gallant, an Acadian artist, who sang songs and told stories about PEI all while enjoying beer. Overall, the place is well worth a visit, for the tour as well as the brews.

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Final Thoughts

While I had hoped to get to more breweries, I was ultimately out east to spend time with family. But I do have a few final thoughts on some differences I noticed between Manitoba and New Brunswick.

I understand each province is entitled to its own regulations and laws when it comes to the sale and distribution of alcohol. Still, I think there are some interesting differences. In New Brunswick, there is no requirement to have food at a taproom. In fact, you can sell whatever beer you choose at your taproom. The only restriction is you can only sell growlers of your own beer to take away.

In New Brunswick they do not use the Peagas system for filling growlers. Each site uses its own method, but most seem to fill straight from the tap using a food grade tube. This is after purging the growler with a CO2 tap.

Finally, there seems to be a huge boom of breweries happening in New Brunswick and the surrounding area right now. There are currently seven breweries and three cideries open in a town of roughly 60,000 people, with more on the way. While there may be concern here in Manitoba that we might grow too quickly, I think that if a town of 60,000 people can support a rich local craft beer scene, then we sure can, too.

-Beer Winnipeg

The Tom Green Beer

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It sure seems like it has been a long time since I’ve written about any of the beers I’ve been drinking.  It might be that – or the number has grown so large it’s a bit overwhelming when I look at the ones I wanted to write about. Whatever it may be, I’m back with a write up.  This time, I’m talking about one of the beers we’ll see on Liquor Marts’ shelves soon: Beau’s The Tom Green Beer.

I did a pretty in-depth write up about Beau’s when I met with co-founder Steve Beauchesne, but I do want to reiterate a bit about the brewery. Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. Led by head brewer Matt O’Hara, the focus at Beau’s is to brew interesting and tasty beers using only quality, certified-organic ingredients and local spring water. While not the only completely organic brewery in Canada, they certainly have made a name for themselves with their business practices: they’ve won over 85 awards for their brewing, packaging design and business practices. This includes two gold medals at Mondial de la Biere (Strasbourg, France, and Montreal Quebec); six gold medals at the Canadian brewing awards, seven times “Best Craft Brewery in Ontario” and seven times “Best Regularly Produced Beer in Ontario” at the Golden Tap Awards.

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The Tom Green Beer was produced in collaboration with comedian and actor Tom Green.  For those of you who saw his sketch comedy show, you’ll remember he was known for drinking milk straight from the cow’s udder. His love for milk surely played a role in him wanting his beer to be a Milk Stout.

What I really admire about Beau’s is they give away a lot of details about their beers. So here are the technical specifications for the Tom Green Beer for those of you who are interested:

TECH SPECS
ALC/VOL: 5.0%

INGREDIENTS: Local Spring Water, Organic Barley Malts, Organic Oats, Organic Lactose, Organic Hops, Ale Yeast.

MALTS: 2 Row, Munich, Oats, Caramel 120, Roasted, Chocolate, Black (All Organic)

 

HOPS: Perle, Hersbrucker (All Organic)

YEAST: Ale Yeast

IBU’S: 27

OG: 14.1°P

FG: 6.3°P

SERVING TEMP.: 7-10° C

GLASSWARE: Nonic

As I’ve said many times on this blog, stouts are one of my favorite styles of beer. Stouts are a dark beer made using roasted malts (or roasted barley), hops, water and yeast. Traditionally the term stout was used to describe the strongest (most alcoholic) porters, typically around 7-8%, produced by a brewery. The name ‘stout’ referred to the often stouter bottles these brews were sold in, which eventually became the term used to describe the style of beer.

There are numerous sub-styles of stouts ranging from Dry Stouts, to Porters, and Oyster stouts and my favorite, Imperial Stouts. While they had lost popularity after the First World War, they’ve started to have a bit of an upswing due to the growing popularity in craft beer and breweries. Stouts are very versatile, allowing for a lot of creativity in adjuncts and flavouring. You can see a number of craft breweries playing with stouts regularly. Higher alcohol stouts also often age well, making them a wonderful cellaring beer.

This particular stout is known as a “sweet stout,” which are much sweeter and less bitter than most other stouts. This is a traditionally English style of stout developed in the early 1900s as a tonic for invalids and nursing mothers. Originally called Milk or Cream stouts, this designation is no longer permitted in England (even if it is everywhere else) and the name derives from the use of lactose, or milk sugar, as a sweetener in the beer. Lactose is not a fermentable sugar and remains after fermentation is complete, which gives this beer its sweet and creamy nature.

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ABV – 5.0%         IBU – 27

Appearance – Opaque black with a nice tan head that leaves little lacing.
Smell – Slight roasted malt notes, coffee notes, sweet dough, and chocolate
Taste – Nice silky sweetness from the lactose, notes of toasted nuts and some caramel or brown sugar
Mouth Feel – Silky mouth feel with a nice carbonation. Dry start with a sweet finish
Overall Thoughts
– A bit of a lighter bodied stout than others I’ve had of this style. The sweetness isn’t overwhelming and provides a really nice contrast to the roasted notes and dry start of this beer. Very approachable beer that is easy to drink and provides some nice flavours.
Do I like it? – I do like this beer. I’m a big fan of stouts and I really like trying a good milk stout. For me, the lighter body of this stout makes it less heavy in the stomach and makes for an easier drinking beer. I think this is a solid milk stout and I’d love to have it again.

As with all of my write ups on beers, this is my opinion. I encourage everyone to get out and try new beers. If this sounds good to you, give it a try, if not, give it a try anyways.

-Beer Winnipeg

 

Brew News

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It’s been awhile since I had the opportunity to sit down and write. As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I’ve been travelling for the past 4 weeks. While I certainly had a fantastic trip – enjoying a variety of interesting and fantastic beers – I felt a bit disconnected from what was happening back in Winnipeg.  While I still have breweries from back east to write about in my “second dispatch” I want to write about some of what happened in the ‘Peg while I was away.

One of the most exciting things involves the guys from Torque. Over a year ago when I first sat down with these guys I was excited, curious and a hesitant about their plan. They wanted to be big, and can right from the get go. I thought this was ambitious and wasn’t sure if they would be able to do it. I should never have doubted! Not only has this team hit their production mark, but they’ve done it while producing some really fantastic beers.

You can get Diesel Fitter American Stout, Witty Belgian Wit, and Red Line IPA at a variety of places around town including King’s Head, Barley Brothers, and The Common at The Forks to name a few. The only place you can get their beer to take home is the Quality Inn Craft Beer Market  who have Torque’s, as well as other local beers, available on growler/howler and in cans. They are the first place in the city to have Torque’s cans in stock. This place has made a name for itself as one of the best spots for craft beer in the city. Along with Barn Hammer, Fort Garry and Half Pints, we can now add Torque to the list of local breweries pumping out beer.

Speaking of which, the second piece of exciting news is that Peg Beer Company has all of its permits and is working on producing this week. According to their Twitter account, 100% this week. I’m pretty excited about that and I’m anxiously awaiting a chance to try their beers.  With Le Burger Week underway, now is the best time to get out to places around the city and try some of this new local beer while enjoying some fantastic eats.

One Great City continues to progress forward and have started on the renovation work in their space. This will be a lot of hard work for the folks behind OGC, but with the posts they’ve been putting on twitter, they seem up for it. With an initial hope of being open in October, I’ll be working to follow up with them again soon.

Brazen Hall continues to progress forward. They’ve got a nice big sign up in front of their space on Pembina and the count-down on the website continues to tick downwards. They also hope to being opening in October and so I’ll be following up with them again soon as well.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned before Beau’s All Natural is distributing cross Canada and it seems like we may be seeing a few more beers arriving in Manitoba before too long.  With Tom Green coming to perform at Rumors Comedy Club from September 22-24, it seems he might be bringing some beer with him.  I’ve heard The Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout) will be the next to show up in Manitoba with their Oktoberfest Mix Pack next on the list.  Watch the Liquor Marts website and Twitter to see when they arrive.  As well, watch this site for some write-ups about the beers as I try them.

It’s an exciting time in Manitoba right now with a number of other breweries on their way to opening. I’ll be meeting with Trans Canada brewing soon, I hope, and following up with Little Brown Jug.  Follow me on Twitter and follow the blog for updates.

-Beer Winnipeg

NB Dispatch – #1

I’ve been away from Winnipeg for just over a week now and already it’s been a fantastic trip. I went down through Vermont, got me some Heady Topper and other great beers. Then it was down to Boston with my Dad for his 65th birthday where we saw James Taylor and Jackson Browne live in concert. We drove back up to Canada through Portland, passed through Nova Scotia and are now back in Fredericton. It was a whirlwind, but a good one.

I’ve been doing my best while here in Fredericton to visit some of the breweries that have opened since I was here two years ago. The craft beer scene in New Brunswick has exploded with breweries popping up all over the place. This province of 750,000 people has 25 breweries and more on the way! While I won’t get to visit all of them, here is part one of my NB Breweries Dispatch.

 

Graystone

Graystone exterior

Graystone is the most recent addition to the craft beer landscape in NB.  It opened this Canada Day and has been working hard to make beer since. While they have not received their equipment – they’re using gear at two other local breweries for the time being – they will have a 10 barrel system when it finally arrives.

The name for the brewery comes from the owner. His wife’s last name is Gray.  The stone part comes from his “lightbulb moment” for the brewery. The owner, Wes Ward, and a friend were in Patagonia hiking when they came up with the idea for the brewery.  They want all the names of the beer to reflect this origin, including the three beers they’re currently brewing (though I only got to try two): Devil’s Peak Black IPA, Basecamp ISA and their flagship Patagonia Pale Ale.  They have been incredibly successful with their beers since opening, selling 300 L of the pale ale in one day.

Graystone taps

One of the unique things about Graystone is they are the only place in NB doing crowlers.  I love the crowler because of its ability to stay fresh longer and be easier to transport.  Of course the downside is you have to drink it all in one sitting… wait, is that a downside?

Graystone Crowler

The brewery also sells a variety of other local craft beers in flight and pint form. They are unable to sell any beer besides their own in crowler or growler but they have about 18 on tap.  If you are in Fredericton, it’s a great place to go and try out some different brews. It’s also a baby friendly brewery with change tables in each bathroom, so no excuses not to visit.

Recently, there was a story in the local paper that Gray Stone had been contacted by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing about the name.  They are now in the process of changing from Gray Stone to Graystone.  While this certainly isn’t a simple task, Wes was impressed with Greg for calling and working through it with him rather than just sending the lawyers. The process has begun but will take some time.

Maybee

Maybee exterior

Maybee Brewing Company opened in February of 2016 for growler sales only and then opened up their tap room and canning line in June. This brewery is named after the owners, Paul and Mikey Maybee, and produces a variety of beers, from their pale ale to a Brett Red.

They currently employ two brewers with a third joining shortly. Paul is the head brewer and had been homebrewing for nine years before opening Maybee.  He was in the same homebrew club as some of the other owners of breweries in the city and they all got the idea to start breweries around the same time.

Maybee tanks

Maybee runs a 10 barrel system with three 20 barrel fermenters and a 20 barrel bright tank.  They sell in cans, growlers and flagons (1L swing-top bottles) and you can get flights at their tap room. They only sell their own beer at the tap room.

Maybee taps

They currently brew six beer varieties: Belgian Tripel, Birdseye Pale Ale, Elevensies Espresso Stout, Roseway Red, Workhorse IPA and Brett Red. You can get all of these beers, except the Brett Red, in cans at the liquor stores in NB, though you can get the Brett Red in a 750ml corked bottle.

I chose to visit them
But if your travel plan’s crazy
Just visit a liquor store
And grab some… Maybee.

Trailway

 Trailway exterior

When I was last in NB two years ago, Trailway had just started selling beer from the owners’ basement to pubs around the city. They spent their first two years as a brewery operating in this manner and only recently (June, 2016) moved to their location on Fredericton’s north side.

With a 10 barrel system and four 10 barrel fermenters they currently do two brews a week.  They are looking to get three 30 barrel fermenters in the fall and plan to start canning and producing more beers at that point. Currently you can only get their beer at their taproom.

 

Owner Jake Saunders told me they are looking to take a Maine/Vermont approach and only do limited canning with a schedule that’ll keep the product as fresh as possible.  With their focus being on hazy, American-style ales – and wanting to focus on the juicy hops for their beer –  freshness is of key importance. They want to be flexible as well and so will have a three day schedule with some of the beer being sent to liquor stores around the province.

The brewery is co-owned by Jake, a chartered accountant, and Dan Mason, an engineer. Dan does most of the brewing while Jake focuses on the business side of the brewery. Both are solid brewers and Jake is, in fact, the President of the New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association.

As I said, Trailway’s focus is hoppy beers. They really love the Australian hops and use a lot of Topaz and Galaxy. They also love mosaic and citra (in small amounts). They do have a couple of stouts as well; a coffee and an oatmeal stout, and Jake told me they like the two extremes.  They don’t really like sweetness in beers so they go for really hoppy ales or dry stouts. They also have a Raspberry Wheat Ale in production for the summer but will likely move it to the wayside when they start canning.

Trailway flight

I chatted with Jake for about an hour and can say he certainly knows his beer and has a really good mindset for brewing. The beers were all solid and they have some other ideas for beers down the line. Jake really loves sour beers as well and said they are looking to start doing some when they get their new fermenters. Interestingly, the first one will likely be a hoppy Berliner Weisse.

The currently have seven beer on tap: Primetime APA, Patio Session, Luster Session, FanMango APA, Raspberry Wheat, Coffee Stout, and AM Oatmeal Stout.

The brewery is a little hard to see from the road, but throw it into your favourite map app and you’ll find it. They have a nice taproom and lots of space. It’s another stop well worth the visit.

I still have some breweries I’d like to visit around Fredericton, then PEI when I get there. I’ll look to do another post on these breweries next week while I enjoy sand and sun (and lobster) in PEI.

As always, thank you for following along and I hope if you get a chance to come to the East Coast, you’ll make a point to visit breweries along the way.

-Beer Winnipeg

Little Brown Jug

Little Brown Jug Logo

As I prepare to head out to the East Coast to celebrate family and enjoy the burgeoning craft beer community in the Maritimes, I have one more post to do on a local Winnipeg-based brewery looking to open in September.

Little Brown Jug, located at 336 William Avenue, graciously opened their doors to me for a tour and chat about their brewery. Founder Kevin Selch and brewmaster Bernie Weiland are hard at work getting construction finalized on their beautiful Exchange District location. The site was once the transportation depot for Red River Motor Coach before becoming a wallpaper shop, a printing business, and now the new digs of Little Brown Jug.

Some Winnipeggers may recognize the Bernie Wieland from his brewing work at Half Pints over the past year. While this was his most recent position before becoming head brewmaster at Little Brown Jug, Bernie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in brewing. His first job in 2000 was with a brewery at Gilde Braurei in Hanover, Germany. Producing over 600,000 HL a year.  This was one of northern Germany’s top 10 breweries.  After spending some time there he gained even more brewing experience at Fort Garry, the Vancouver Island Brewing Company before getting his brewing certificate from the Siebel Institute. He then went to get his Master’s diploma from UC Davis before taking the role as brewmaster at Lake of the Woods in Kenora. He came back to Winnipeg for his stint at Half Pints before moving over full time to Little Brown Jug at the beginning of June. This Brandon-born, Winnipeg/Neepawa-raised globetrotter is excited to be back full-time in Winnipeg.

Kevin Selch is also originally from Winnipeg. He had spent the last 10 years based in Ontario working as an economist with the federal government.  He worked with Industry Canada on all kinds of economic and policy plans, including telecommunications policy, intellectual property policy, the defence procurement strategy, and the Nortel bankruptcy. Before this he worked as a trade economist and was involved in negotiating free trade agreements in Geneva, including work on the Canada-EU agreement. Kevin has always had a passion for urban development, urban manufacturing and the repurposing/redevelopment of old buildings. Having taken an old Victorian home and renovating it from studs up, he has excels at taking the old and making it new while still keeping the character.

For the past three years, Kevin has planned to open a brewery. While recent changes to the liquor laws was certainly a help, the decision to open Little Brown Jug was a natural step in his business plan: he’d arrived the point where he couldn’t plan anymore, he just had to take the leap.

Having spent the past 10 years in Ottawa, Kevin had the chance to explore the southern Ontario, Quebec and Vermont craft beer scenes. He loved the social aspect of these breweries and wants to use the tasting room at Little Brown Jug as a community space to bring more people to the downtown. Kevin hopes that people will come to Little Brown Jug before heading out to dinner at one of the other local establishments. Working in partnership with other exchange businesses to help benefit them all.

Little Brown Jug Inside

For Kevin, transparency is a big part of the business model. They want to be honest in their advertising, transparent in their brewing practices, and community oriented in their business outcomes. They want to focus on quality ingredients and brewing practices and plan to pace themselves, launching the brewery with one beer, a kräusened Belgian Pale Ale. On open they also only have two fermenters – another good reason to focus on their Belgian pale ale before brewing other beers as they add equipment.  Bernie hopes that they will be able to add another beer starting in January or February.  As for capacity, they are starting with a 20 hectoliter system, brewing 40 hectoliters a week. Little Brown Jug will only use Canadian-made equipment and they worked directly with the engineer to help develop their brew system.

Focusing on one beer will allow for Little Brown Jug to be picky when it comes to sourcing ingredients for their beer. Belgian Pale Ale being Kevin’s favourite style of beer, and standing on Bernie’s experience brewing, they are excited to launch with a beer people will be keen to seek out.

Little Brown Jug’s ideal tasting room is more than a space for people to come, drink a beer and leave. They want the space to be usable by community groups, be a meeting place before heading out for dinner, and to be a spot where you can see the brewing process first hand, ask questions, and learn about the beer. Starting with kegs, growler fills and signature 750ml little brown jugs, people will have a few options for bringing beer home. While they do hope to can in the future, this is a more of a long-term plan; Bernie says he can see LBJ start canning two to three years down the road.

Kevin and Bernie really wanted to be a part of Winnipeg’s downtown atmosphere and the urban renewal happening in the Exchange District. It was important to them to be able to bring their brewery to this area, both benefitting from the surrounding renewal and contributing to it. While opening a new company is challenging no matter what it is, Kevin has said the process thus far has been good.

Kevin and Bernie have been incredibly busy with the construction phase of the brewery. When they came in, the space had to be completely gutted and while there hasn’t really been time to look back on all they’ve accomplished, Kevin did say that seeing how far the space has come is starting to make the dream of opening a brewery seem like a reality.

Kevin really wants LBJ to embody the grain to glass experience and told me having Bernie as part of his team is a huge asset. Bernie’s knowledge about brewing and the brewing industry, his input and his expertise bring a lot to the table. Forming a business team requires tremendous trust and Kevin feels they are a great fit as they trust one another’s opinion completely.

With a goal to open in September, I’m excited to visit again when I return from the East Coast to see the progress they’ve made and, of course, I’m looking forward to trying their beer.  For now, they do have a really nice ¾ sleeve T-shirt for sale.

Little Brown Jug Tshirt

This is my last post before I head out East.  Be sure to follow me on twitter @beerwinnipeg if you’re interested in following my East Coast adventures. I’ll try my best to visit breweries and do some posts from the Maritimes where the list of breweries keeps growing, so be sure to follow along. As always, thanks for reading.

-Beer Winnipeg

Beau’s comes to Manitoba

beaus-logo-colour

While there has been a lot of excitement about the growth of the craft beer industry right in Manitoba, there have also been some exciting changes outside the province. Beau’s All-Natural Brewing has announced they will be distributing nationwide. In fact, their beer is already available in Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, Manitoba, PEI, and New York, and will come soon to Alberta and British Columbia.

I had the good fortune of sitting down with Steve Beauchesne, co-founder of Beau’s, when he was in town last week promoting their product. Before I get to our chat, I think it’s important to say a little bit about Beau’s.

Founded in 2006 in Vanleek Hill, Ontario by father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s is an employee-owned and completely independent Canadian craft brewery. Led by head brewer Matt O’Hara, the focus at Beau’s is to brew interesting and tasty beers using only quality, certified-organic ingredients and local spring water. While not the only completely organic brewery in Canada, they certainly have made a name for themselves with their business practices: they’ve won over 85 awards for their brewing, packaging design and business practices. This includes two gold medals at Mondial de la Biere (Strasbourg, France, and Montreal Quebec); six gold medals at the Canadian brewing awards, seven times “Best Craft Brewery in Ontario” and seven times “Best Regularly Produced Beer in Ontario” at the Golden Tap Awards.

As with Picaroon’s (who I’ve written about before), Beau’s is a certified B-Corporation, which means they meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.  Beau’s is also the official brewery of Ottawa 2017, the festival of events our nation’s capital is organizing to mark Canada turning the big 150.

Though Manitobans have only received their flagship beer, Lug Tread Lagered Ale, Beau’s is trying to bring more of their beers into the province. They met recently with Liquor Marts to promote Golden Vox (Rye Pale Lagered Aled), Wag the Wolf (Hopfenweisse), Buenos Dias (from their Gruit Series), and The Tom Green Beer (Milk Stout). Hopefully we will see their other beers in the province over the next year.

As I said, I had the chance to talk to Steve, co-founder of Beau’s, about expansion across Canada, the brewery, his focus on environmental and ethical brewing, and craft beer in general. One of the things I was most curious about was their shift away from a “one-day” distribution model to nationwide distribution. Beau’s previously had a commitment to only sending their beer within a one-day drive to ensure quality and local reliability of supply. Their vision of themselves being this quirky little brewery only selling their beer in their own city shifted, however, after Mill Street sold to AB in Bev. They received more traction on their Facebook post than Mill Street did and realized they were now a quirky big brewery.

So after the sale of Mill Street, Steve said he felt it was important there be an independent alternative nationwide. They had also just expanded into Quebec – traditionally a very difficult market – and had been amazed by the support they received for their beer. This gave them confidence their brand was something people would be receptive to in other provinces.

Steve does not see this expansion as an attempt to get people to ditch favorite local beers. As craft beer grows its overall market share, he feels it’s nice to have options to try different beers on special occasions – perhaps pulled from a friend’s special fridge stock or when they go out for a drink.

Having had a one-day drive mindset for so many years, Steve is still very concerned about the distribution and logistics of nationwide expansion. That’s why he invited Jeff Moore onto his team – a distribution expert with 25 years’ experience at McAuslan Brewing and expertise getting product into provinces, making sure it is rotated properly so it’s as fresh as possible. This is what concerns Steve the most: that there is consistency in the taste of the beer and that it is exceptional every time you drink it.

Beaus Retail

To highlight this, Steve made sure after meeting with Liquor Mart’s product consultants about their beer to give them his card, asking them to stay in touch with questions, experiences and feedback. This is not about dumping beer off in another province. This is about keeping the same level of quality and community partnerships they have at home with the provinces they are expanding into.

Beau’s wants to create a reason to choose their beer when you are out and about. What makes their beer compelling back home? They are a brewery that produces great tasting beer, but also an organization that supports the community. Last year they donated to over 100 charities, and have donated over one million dollars to charities over the past 10 years. Steve is excited about the potential of this nationwide expansion to start developing local community building projects in each of the markets they enter. They have the goal of donating 1% of the sales in any province they enter back into community building projects that impact that area.

“We shouldn’t just drop beer in a province and be done with it. If we are going to be part of a community, we need to be part of the community.” Steve Beauchesne.

This means Steve is planning on travelling a lot more to be present in the provinces they distribute to.  Steve considers himself the most cynical customer and constantly asks himself why people might drink their beer. This is the main reason they’ve held off expanding for so long. Beau’s has always had this concept of not shipping farther than necessary. When they first opened they didn’t even distribute to Toronto because that was too far away. As they’ve grown they’ve consistently reinvested into the brewery and have increased their distribution as it made logical sense. Though this change is a bit more dramatic as they are expanding into many markets at once, they feel that with their current distribution apparatus it’s a leap they can land.

I asked Steve about the growth of the brewery since opening in 2006. He said that every year since starting, they’ve had to do a gradual expansion on the brewery.

They started from scratch – zero money – borrowing only from friends and family to get the brewery through its first 12 months. At the end of that year they went to the bank with their profits, put it all back into the business and borrowed what they could from the institution. With this money they expanded, and a year later repeated the process. What this means is there has never been a moment where they’ve taken on some outside angel investor who drops in 20 million and fully funds a major expansion. Beau’s had to look at their business every year, identify the bottlenecks and expanded their capacity strategically. One year it might be fermenters, the next their canning line, etc.  Right now Beau’s is able to brew 75,000 hectoliters but expects to brew 65,000 hectoliters this year.

Beaus Tanks

Beau’s has a reputation in the brewing community for being the “nice guys.” They are always willing to help other breweries and this co-operative culture has helped other breweries get more distribution and grow. For example, Beau’s has partnered with Gigantic brewing to help brew La Formidable and get it into Ontario. Steve says they have this reputation because they “walk the walk.” Beyond the Pale was opening up and going through rapid growth, so Beau’s lent them two fermenters and two bright tanks to help keep up with their demand. They’ve given the bottling line they outgrew to Cassel Brewing when that business needed it. They’ve given growlers to breweries who ran out and, of course, have spent tons of time talking to breweries, handing out free advice. This has been a rewarding path for Beau’s, both in reputation and sales.

“The old school philosophy about competition, being cutthroat and hurting everyone you can, it doesn’t work. The more we help, the more we do the right thing, the more our sales grow.” Steve Beauchesne

Beau’s expansion nationwide is certainly a dramatic expansion for them. Steve told me it took a lot of soul searching and contemplation before making the decision. They had been so adamant about staying super close to home they had to come to terms with making this move while staying true to the core-principles upon which Beau’s was founded.

After my conversation with Steve I was left with a better understanding of Beau’s, their reasoning behind their expansion, and a hope they will be successful in the Manitoba market. I’m impressed with their business practice, with the commitment to giving 1% of sales back to the community in Manitoba and with Steve’s passion for quality beer.

So, welcome to Manitoba Beau’s. Glad you could join us.

-Beer Winnipeg

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