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.
For our final interview in our new brewery series we interviewed Marc Bru from Square Timber Brewing Company in Pembroke, Ontario. If that name sounds familiar you might remember Bru from National Capital Craft Beer Week, it was an American Pale Ale he brewed in collaboration with Beyond the Pale Brewing Company and it was quite popular! Since the festival he's been busy building a brewery in Pembroke and it might just be open this February. I can't wait to finally try some Belgian Waffle!
Ottawa Beer Events: Tell us a little about yourself, the beer you brew and your (upcoming) brewery.
Marc Bru (Square Timber Brewing Company): I was born and raised in North Battleford, SK but left there when I was 16 and never really went back. I grew up around beer as my Dad worked in distribution for all the major breweries for 30+ years and then he worked in packaging at Great Western Brewing Company in Saskatoon for 4 or 5 years before he retired. Although it wasn't craft beer, it was still beer and I was always interested in the beer business. I spent the 2000's as a full-time touring musician and we toured 250+ days on the road. Our travels took us to many craft beer meccas throughout the US and Europe. We always tried to visit as many micro/craft breweries as possible and I made some great contacts and friends in the craft beer world throughout those years.
We brew what we like to drink. I think that's important for any brewery. We're starting with 4 year-round beers: Timber Crib Pale Ale, Big Pine IPA, Camboose DIPA & Deacon Seat Hefeweizen. These will be available on tap throughout the Valley & Ottawa as well as in growlers at the brewery. We'll also be selling our seasonal/specialty beers in bottles at the brewery. Our main seasonal beers are from our Sugar Shack series. These are made with maple sap collected from the maple trees right on our property. There are 4 beers in the Sugar Shack series but in 2014 we'll probably just concentrate on the Belgian Waffle Quad and Spile Driver DIPA. We'll have our hands full with these.
We'll be brewing on a 10 hectolitre system in our 1200 sq. ft. brewery. It's not a huge space but we've laid it out so it's fairly efficient. We have a tasting room, albeit small, for people to try the beers before getting a growler or bottle. We'll have other stuff for sale there too like t-shirts, glassware, etc. We're looking forward to brewing!
Why did you decide to go pro and brew commercially?
I've had many careers so far in my life but most have been in the creative side of things and I see this as a natural progression. As I mentioned, I grew up around beer and it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. When I hit 35 I pretty much knew this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I'm a bit past 35 now, ahem, but we're getting there.
What have been your biggest challenges?
We've been lucky so far with support coming from a lot of different areas. Our biggest challenges at the start were financing and location but we were able to arrange both without great delays. I would say sourcing equipment and materials has easily been our biggest challenge that we struggle with on a day to day basis. There are so many equipment manufacturers out there now that selection and price are much better than say 5 or 10 years ago but it makes for a rather confusing and sometimes frustrating process to pick who to buy from. Also, because we're constructing our facility from the ground up, it's been a full-time job keeping that on schedule at the same as doing all of the equipment sourcing, permitting, marketing, planning, etc. All in all though, knock on wood barrels, we've been pretty lucky.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start a brewery?
Hmm…good question. I think if somebody is considering opening a brewery they should already know how to make great beer. Not just the odd batch of homebrew, but be brewing steady. You have to know what kind of beer you like to drink and brew, not just what you think might sell. Surround yourself with a great team that can help you out with the multitude of decisions you'll have to make. Also, talk to other brewers and brewery owners as they'll be the best resource you'll find anywhere. And, most importantly, have fun. After all, it's beer!
If everything goes as planned, when will we be able to have a pint of your beer?
We stopped putting hard time lines on opening simply because there are so many variables beyond our control that can affect timing. That being said, if the rest of the steps we have to take go perfectly, with no delays, we hope to be brewing and selling by sometime in February. We're thinking sometime around maple syrup season would be a great time for a grand opening and subsequent anniversary parties 🙂