Interview with Nicole Barry

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I was lucky enough to sit down with the wonderful Nicole Barry.  Those unfamiliar with Nicole will certainly be familiar with the brewery she helped found, Half Pints, and have most likely heard that she is the force behind the up and coming brew pub, Peg Beer Company.

To give a little bit of a bio, Nicole is a mother of two whose professional background is accounting.  She got into accounting not to work for an accounting firm but to “be an entrepreneur and be successful at it.”  For the past year she has been working diligently to get Peg Beer Company ready to open.  The opening has been officially announced for the brew pub.  Nicole hopes to be open in December.  The brew pub will be located on the corner of Pacific and Lily.

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I wanted to sit down with Nicole and find out a little bit about what we can expect from Peg Beer Company as well as how the changes in the laws have impacted the opening of the brew pub.

Nicole describes herself as unsuspecting.  She is a beer person, not a brewer, who knows her craft beer.  She loves the artistic creativity of brewing and has an obvious passion for it. She became involved in the brewing industry in 2002 and has seen a significant change over the years in the number of people who actually know what craft beer is.  Like me, Nicole believes that education about craft beer is a big thing.  She describes it as “the art and craft”.  For Nicole craft beer is about not only the way you doing things but why they are done that way and also giving back to the community.

Nicole has been wanting to open a brew pub ever since she visited her first one.  She had the opportunity after leaving her previous brewery and has been working full time on getting Peg Beer Co ready to open for about a year now.  Nicole says that this is about average for opening a brew pub.

When Nicole first decided to open a brewery in 2002 she called the Liquor Commission and they laughed at her on the phone.  This was a time of struggles for Manitoba breweries and while she was eventually successful in getting Half Pints open in 2005/6 she says that the climate is much different now. Not only is Nicole a known commodity but the mindset in Manitoba has changed.  Manitobans want breweries to open and they want them to be successful.

In respect to craft beer, Manitoba is still in its infancy.  While there is a much bigger demand for craft beer and people are starting to become more educated, Nicole told me that over the years she has sat down with dozens of potential breweries that never came to be. For there to be multiple breweries announcing that they are opening is a good change.

Rather than opening a brewery, Nicole decided to open a brew pub.  She was involved in helping to change the brew pub legislation and showing them why it needed to be changed by giving examples of what exists elsewhere.  In revamping the laws it helped make it easier to open a brew pub while at the same time being able to produce, package and distribute from the same location.  This will also let Nicole have other local breweries on tap rather than being limited to only serving the beer they produce.

Essentially, Nicole wanted to put her money where he mouth is.  What’s good is that the LGA wants Peg Beer Company to be successful and it gives Nicole the chance to create the atmosphere where she would like to hang out and drink beer. With Peg Beer Company Nicole is paying homage to all of her favorite places like Pizza Port in California.

As for Beer, well Nicole is a sucker for a good IPA but also likes other styles like Sours as well.  For her, beer is a form of creativity and art in a glass, not something to be pounded back to get drunk.  Yet for Peg Beer the food and beer menu design is still a work in progress.  Nicole has a theme in mind but wants to have the collaboration of the rest of the staff in designing the menus.

What is exciting is that Nicole also wants to get feedback from the community.  She said that they will not be packaging beer for the first 3-4 months.  Beer will only be available from the taps on site.  This will give them time to get feedback on their recipe design, find out what people like and what they don’t and will help them refine their beers before moving to the packaging stage.  This is fine by me, with the tank to tap system they will have I’m excited to have the opportunity to give feedback on the beer.

Nicole does have the brewing team in place but bit of information must be kept quiet for now.  Make sure to follow @pegbeer on twitter because that’s where it will be announced it officially.

Obviously along with taps and a restaurant they will be brewing on site. The capacity of the brewery on will start at about 2000 hectalitres.  They will be using a 15 barrel system and she hopes to be up to 5000 hectalitres by year 4 or 5. They will have the capacity to package in a variety of formats and sell from on site.  Nicole also has some other plans up her sleeve for the brew pub for the future but she needs to keep some mystery about what’s to come.

Nicole let me have a look at the plans for the site and I have to say the location looks awesome.  I for one am really excited about visiting there when it opens and I cannot wait to see what beers Nicole has in store for us.

The brewing community here in Winnipeg is very tight knit. In fact, while talking to Nicole the guys from Barn Hammer happened by.  Nicole is really excited about the other breweries opening and thinks that all of them are bringing the right attitude and perspective to the table.  All of them seem to really care about the industry and want to brew with integrity.

I had a fantastic time sitting down with Nicole.  Not only is she an incredibly knowledgeable person with a passion for craft beer, she was willing to give me some of her time.  For that, I’m very thankful. What I’ve learned from interviewing people so far is that beer folks are some of the nicest folks you’ll meet.

This week I’ll be sitting down with Barn Hammer to find out what their experience has been with opening a brewery here in Manitoba and to find out what they have in store for us in the near future.

Thanks for reading.

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