There is a true passion that eminates from any start up idea. But when your flash of brilliance is to build a craft brewery then you know it takes more then simple passion. In this exclusive interview Tidings talks to Daniel Addey-Jibb from the new Le Castor Brewing Company in Quebec about the brew, sweat and tears of building something from a lightbulb moment.
How did you get the idea to start a brewery?
During our timber framing apprenticeships in the late nineties (that lead to our other business, Hamlet Heavy Timberwork) that we served in England & Scotland, we were first introduced to British “real ales”. Slightly warm, slightly flat, delicious traditional ales, served from a cask, with a hand pump, or beer engine.
This was our first experience with traditional beer styles. While in Scotland we visited breweries and distilleries at every opportunity. We loved the process involved in making beer and whiskey, and aging in oak barrels. Someday we hoped to make some of our own…
Fast forward to 2008 and the worldwide recession caused several of our timber frame projects to be delayed or cancelled, so we finally had the time to try our hand at home-brewing. The results were great, and we slowly started researching the idea of starting a micro-brewery in the Vaudreuil Soulanges area of Quebec — 30 minutes from downtown Montreal. 3 years later, here we are, an officially licensed, certified organic brewery.
What is the first style you are brewing?
An American style west coast pale ale, dry-hopped with citrus flavour Cascade hops. Also an oatmeal stout. Two beers that are at opposite ends of the colour spectrum, but both are easy drinking, flavourful beers that will hopefully entice people to give craft beer a try.
The other line of beers we are producing are oak barrel-aged strong beers. We currently have a Wee Heavy (Scotch Ale) at around 9% alcohol aging in bourbon barrels that we purchased from Heaven Hills Distillery. There are Rye barrels in there too. The resulting beer is a wonderful mixture of malty strong ale, bourbon, and oak flavours and aromas. It’s more of a sipping beer — great as a digestif, or with rich foods. We will also be producing a Belgian Tripel, aged in toasted oak barrels later this summer. We call this series our ‘Grande Reserve’ series, as they take several months to age, and are very high in alcohol — and flavour!
Your brewery is certified organic. Was this a must when you started out?
It was a top priority for us. We are in a rural area and already support local organic agriculture, so this is just an extension of that philosophy. Also, there isn’t a lot of choice on the market for organic beers, so we hope to help change that.
How many different styles of beers do you plan on brewing?
We are limited somewhat by the number of fermentation tanks we have, so we can’t brewed 10 different beers right out of the gates. We are starting with the four mentioned above. We will be adding tanks as we go, which will allow us to experiment more, and produce different styles. We plan to do special one-off seasonal beers as well, like our Christmas barley-wine which is in development now, as we would like it to undergo extended aging in oak barrels.
What craft brewery do you covet?
Well covet is a strong word, but I admire a whole bunch of them, both here and in the USA. I like MacAuslan for having the guts to open a brewery in Montreal in the late 80s, and for producing great beer. Too many other great breweries in Quebec to mention… I admire Firestone Walker in California for their wine-producing heritage and for making oak barrel-aging such an integral part of their beers.
I admire Dogfish Head sticking to their guns and bringing high strength, experimental beer to the masses (so called “extreme” beer). I like Brewdog in Scotland for shaking up the beer scene in the UK, and for being true to who they are. I admire all the nano-breweries out there (300 litre brewhouse & less) for not listening to conventional business wisdom and following their dreams. So many great breweries, big and small, doing great things all over Canada and the USA. My advice to beer drinkers is to check out their local brewery — there is bound to be one close by.