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 Ian McMartin from Whiprsnapr Brewing Company, a new brewery that encourages people to earn their beer by being active, getting things done and in return they're treated to the perfect drink. Since we interviewed Ian, Whiprsnapr has secured the brewing location mentioned in the article below – we should be seeing Inukshuk IPA, Root of Evil and 'Carol Anne' soon.
Ottawa Beer Events: Tell us a little about yourself, the beer you brew and your (upcoming) brewery.
Ian McMartin (Whiprsnapr Brewing Company): I started brewing in my bathtub using those awful cans over 20 years ago when I was in college, primarily to maximize the alcohol% per dollar available. I took a break from brewing for over 10 years, but in that time I was working for high tech companies and travelling all over the place – Portugal, China, Malaysia, USA, Austria and Germany. So while I wasn't brewing – I was learning to appreciate great food, wine and beer.
We lived in Virginia for 5 years, then Dresden, Germany for another 2 years – and that's when my real love for beer came out – and how could you not with so many amazing beers everywhere we went. Pilsners were the thing in that area, and I make a partial nod to that in our 'Root of Evil' pre-prohibition lager. After we moved back to Canada, I started brewing again with a friend at a local BYO place out in Stittsville. It was mostly adjunct brewing, but we played with some grains and a lot with the hops. I continued to travel, but mainly to parts in the U.S – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio and California – and started hitting up their local breweries – that's where I fell in love with big bad IPA's – and we'll of course have a few of those in our lineup too. Our Inukshuk IPA, is what I like to call a Canadian IPA – mild from an IPA perspective – but full of huge Pine aromas to make you think that you're sitting in a forest camping, or walking, biking – whatever. The last of the 3 beers that I'll mention – is called 'Carol Anne' for my mom. It's nice light Irish Blonde Ale – and the first batch of it that I brewed used hops from my own garden that my mom had helped me harvest.
In terms of the brewery – we're in discussions with a location now and if all goes well – we could be up in running very soon. Otherwise, I'll need to look into contract brewing until another location becomes available.
We're active people, love doing things, going places and getting shit done – so the Whiprsnapr Brewery is all about earning your beer – no matter how you do it.
Why did you decide to go pro and brew commercially?
Just about a year ago, I bought an all-grain kit from the guys out at the Perth Brewery. They have a BYO and were looking to move away from the adjunct and of course, starting their own brewery. The first batch – nothing went right – and it came out amazing! Right from there, started thinking about how this could be something to do. I had always wanted to run my own company, and had tried other things, but this was something I could really dig my teeth into – so I went after it!
What have been your biggest challenges?
Finding the right people to work with, but I've been lucky so far, you need the right combination of people with a diverse skill set. Money is always a challenge too – you can't get into this with your eyes closed – it takes big bucks to run even a small brewery. But if you have a good plan, good marketing ideas, a sales strategy and great beer – it can work.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a brewery?
If you love it and you're not afraid of hard work – do it! Craft brewers only make up 5% of the market now, I want us all to go after that other 95%. There's more breweries in Germany than there are in the U.S, and if you look at the per capita basis – we could easily have 10x more breweries and still not be on par with Germany.
If everything goes as planned, when will we be able to have a pint of your beer?
We're running production tests now – so I'm hoping to setup a few private tasting sessions before Christmas and *fingers crossed*, running full-out in January