It’s been a while since I had the chance to write a post. I did a quick update last week but work and being sick have kept me from posting as regularly as I’d like. Luckily, I’m back at it and I’ve got a good one today. With the Meet Your Local Brewer event, Barn Hammer starting to brew, and Flatlander’s coming up, it’s a great time to be a beer drinker in Manitoba. We are finally going to get our first taste of what is to come and I am going to make sure I get as much as I can.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt and Mark from Nonsuch Brewing Co. the other day and learn a bit more about their team and their vision – one that certainly takes a step outside the norm with their very clearly defined plan.
First, who is Nonsuch? There are four guys who are behind the brewery all with various backgrounds, expertise and brewing experience but with one shared vision: to brew high quality Belgian and European style beers. The four of them are proud Manitobans, something that they all feel plays a huge role in their lives. It is the reason they have chosen “Nonsuch” as their name, because of it’s strong connection with Manitoba’s History.
Matt Sabourin is the one who originally came up with the idea of opening a brewery. With an operations background – having been a production manager at Frantic Films before moving into the French film industry and finally spending the past 5 years as the operation manager at his parent’s company – he’s developed the entrepreneurial spirit. Opening a brewery for him has been a no-brainer. He’s spent the past five years learning all he can about brewing through homebrewing, all with the goal of opening Nonsuch. While Matt originally came up with the idea of opening a brewery, it was the whole team who developed the vision and concept of focusing on Belgian and European beers.
That’s where the rest of this team comes in. With Matt filling the role of President, his good friend Ben Myers will act as VP and focus on the sales and marketing aspects. Ben has a lot of experience as the Product designer for Robots and Pencils. An artist, designer and developer, Ben will bring his creativity and experience to the team.
The head brewer is Mark Borowski. This is someone Matt knew he wanted to tap on the shoulder; when he finally sat down with Mark they shared the same vision, almost verbatim. Mark is a qualified teacher who has worked across North America. After getting bored with teaching, he went to film school in Calgary, returned to Winnipeg for a brief period before heading to Victoria. He finally made his way back to Winnipeg, started a family and began brewing beer. Now he’s going to take that brewing experience, including numerous medals at competition, and put it into the brewing of beer for Nonsuch.
Finally, we have Tyler Johnston who will act as brand manager. He’s already done an awesome job developing the website and will continue to work with the rest of the team from his new home in Saskatchewan.
Matt has been looking to open a brewery for the past four to five years; he got into homebrewing with a full brewery as his compelling end goal. The focus on Belgian and European styles became more evident about two years ago. Matt has always enjoyed wine and finds Belgians, sours, and big beers are similar in complexity, flavours and aging.
While Matt has been planning Nonsuch for some time, the first meeting of “the team” occurred in November of 2015. Even though they’ve only been working on this major project 17 months, they already have a location in mind. The site’s identity is under wraps for now, though they did say they want to connect with the history of Manitoba (hence the name) and feel being in the Exchange near the downtown is important for them.
While they have no confirmed beers to announce, we will get the chance to taste a high ABV (8%) saison and a mid ABV (6.5%) kolsch at Flatlander’s. Mark has multiple award-winning sours under his belt, and given that both he and Matt named sours (Flanders Red and Sour Brown Ales) as a favourite style, I think it’s safe to assume we will see that. They did say we can expect the gambit of Belgian styles from brown ales to quads.
The team is going to use the “lean-approach” to the brewery. This approach puts an emphasis on the business model over the business plan and encourages a process of customer discovery, development and iteration to achieve the right fit in the market. Given this, they are looking for the most efficient way to get brewing. They’ve selected a pilot system that can carry them forward. Matt said they want to validate their product and then expand, but overall they will remain relatively small. Mark said he doesn’t want to go beyond 5 barrels (596 litres) because he prefers to make beer in smaller batches. This gives Mark more control over the beer and he strongly feels you can brew better beer in smaller batches. They want to find the happy middle between homebrew and big market.
When their beer does come to market it will be in 750ml corked bottles to allow those who love to cellar beer to do so. There will likely be a growler bar, but they are a bit unsure if all beers will be on it given many will have a high ABV. A tap room is in the plans but this will likely be part of their second phase of expansion in five years. They are also considering using the champagne method to carbonate their beers, but this is still undecided. They also have some other plans in the works, but those they want to keep as a surprise for now.
I always ask about the experience in opening a brewery here in Manitoba. So far, the process has been great and they have had a lot of support. Their experience with the brew hub has been great, as has the MBLL. They are a bit concerned about the permit process but are hopeful everything will go well. The biggest support they’ve received so far has been from Half Pints who has given them, as well as many others, the opportunity to produce beers at their brewery for Flatlander’s. It is really thanks to Half Pints we will get the chance to try many of these new breweries and I think they deserve huge props for providing this support.
What is going to separate Nonsuch from the other breweries opening? The team wants to stay thematic and brew exclusively Belgian and European style beers. The look and feel of the entire brewery is going to connect with the concept of premium: everything will be done with the best possible product. They will be the only brewery using mineral water to brew instead of city water. Matt says people will know from the bottle, the brewery and the beer that they are out to make the best possible product.
People should expect “our darndest of efforts” to make the best possible beers and give the best possible experience from start to finish. They want everything to be exceptional.
If you’re not already going to the “Meet Your Local Brewer” event, be sure to check out the Nonsuch team at Flatlander’s – they’ll be at both of these events and it will be your chance to ask any other questions you might have, and of course, taste their beers.
I’ve got an update from Barn Hammer I’ll be posting next week sometime, so please watch for that. Again, try to get out to Flatlander’s if you can. If you do, I’ll see you there.