FEATURE: An Interview with Josh McJannett of Dominion City Brewing Company

Dominion City Brewing Company

In case you didn't notice, craft beer is blowing up in Ottawa, with the opening of several new breweries, expansions of existing facilities and even our own growler delivery service. Much of the action is happening just outside of Ottawa, but since we're sharing an area code we're still pretty excited to hear about new beer!

To help you, the craft beer fan, keep track of who's opening what, where and when, we'll be running a series on upcoming breweries and the people behind them. Some are at the point of being able to open, others are knocking on doors trying to get funding or supervising their brewery being built from the ground up.

This week we interviewed Josh McJannett, one of the partners of Dominion City Brewing Company, a brewery in the Ottawa Valley that plans on producing full flavoured beers that celebrate Canada's brewing heritage using locally sourced seasonal ingredients. With beers like a regional hopped West Coast-style India Pale Ale or an Earl Grey Marmalade Saison loaded with citrus, honey and ginger Dominion City Brewing Company promises to be a brewery to push the limits of where beer can go.

Ottawa Beer Events: Tell us a little about yourself, the beer you brew and your (upcoming) brewery.

Josh McJannett (Dominion City Brewing Company): My name is Josh McJannett and together with my partners Alex Monk and Andrew Kent we’re building Dominion City Brewing Co., an Ottawa Valley brewery.

We’re all about brewing delicious, boundary-pushing beer and connecting our customers with the land and the people that make our product possible. We also want to celebrate Canada’s proud brewing heritage – something I’ve always been fascinated with.  

A lot of people don’t know that until the early 20th century, any self-respecting Canadian village or town had its own brewery. These breweries had a tremendous diversity of flavours and styles, often driven by the ingredients brewers could source locally. Today some might call this ‘terroir brewing’, but at the time it had more to do with making do with the best of what was around.

Whatever you call it,  the result was a strong connection between beer and a sense of place and it’s something we’re excited to rekindle. That’s why we plan to partner with local producers in order to brew using heirloom organic specialty grains grown and milled right here in the Ottawa Valley. It’s our way of producing a unique product that celebrates the best of our region.

With Dominion City Brewing Co., we plan to offer an estery, refreshing Farmhouse Blonde Ale and a West Coast-style India Pale Ale loaded with regional hops and balanced with burnt sugar maltiness. We’re also plotting a seasonal beer program and an ever-changing line up of small batch specialty beers, including sours and session ales. We can’t wait to experiment and share new flavours with our customers. To give you a hint, one we’re really excited about right now is our Earl Grey Marmalade Saison–it’s loaded with citrus, honey and ginger and finishes with a delicious mild tea bitterness. Perfect for the dock or a patio!

Why did you decide to go pro and brew commercially?

Building a brewery on great beer and a celebration of our region and its history has been our dream for almost two years. Our passion dates back long before that. I remember drinking my first beer with my Dad; it was a Steamwhistle Pilsner and while I’d be lying if I said my palette was developed enough to truly appreciate those first sips I loved the story they were telling with their product. In a lot of ways I think it was that experience that got me interested in beer.

In university, all three of us loved trying new beers (and frankly spent more money and time doing so than I should admit.) At the time, seeking out new flavours all too often required turning to imported beer. It’s been amazing to witness the diversity and quality of local options spring up through Ontario’s craft beer renaissance over the last decade. Here in the Ottawa Valley, breweries like Beau’s and Kichessipi truly blazed the trail and new entrants like Beyond the Pale and others are doing things that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago. It’s an exciting time to be a beer lover in Ottawa and we can’t wait to contribute new flavours and experiences through Dominion City Brewing Co.

What have been your biggest challenges?

We knew from the start that in order to make Dominion City Brewing Co. a reality we would need to harness a healthy sense of impatience to push this project forward. We can’t wait to open our doors and if you let yourself, some days it’s easy to feel bogged down in some of the less exciting parts required to get a project like this across this finish line. As anyone who has ever started a business can attest, there are million little pieces that all have to fit together and much as you’d like, they aren’t always in your control.

So far we’ve had amazing support from our family, friends and even total strangers who’ve been overwhelmingly supportive and have rolled up their sleeves to help. We’d never have made it this far without them.

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a brewery?

It’s probably a bit presumptuous to give advice before we’ve pulled it off ourselves! That said, the best advice we’ve received has come from many of the folks who’ve built this industry from the ground up. Local brewers like Steve Beauchesne (Beau’s) and Shane Clark (Beyond The Pale), among others, have been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging but have been equally honest about the commitment required to see a project like this through.

If everything goes as planned, when will we be able to have a pint of your beer?

We plan to open our doors in mid-2014 and until then will be working away to create and deliver the most delicious and exciting local beer experience we can. Stay tuned!

Keep up to date with Dominion City Brewing Company by following them on Twitter (@dominioncitybc) or by following them on Facebook (Dominion City Brewing Co.). Oh and hey, they even had a video explaining they're concept and some of their upcoming beers.
We'll be featuring an up-and-coming brewery every Tuesday for the next couple of weeks – check back to see what you can look forward to drinking in the near future!

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