Grimross Brewing Co. is the latest entry to the Atlantic Canadian brewing scene. They’ve just launched their first beer, a collaboration beer with Picaroons. I’ve recently exchanged emails with brewery owner Stephen Dixon in order to complete this Q & A.
Atlantic Canada Beer Blogger (ACBB): How did you decide to get into brewing professionally?
Stephen Dixon (SD): Primarily it is because I want to share new good and interesting beer with others. For years I have enjoyed bringing others beers to gatherings of family and friends and doing tastings to expose people to something new and interesting. Combine that with my own interest to create and craft new and interesting beer, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. For me it has been more a matter of when, not if.
ACBB: Do you have a background in home brewing? If so, approximately how many different batches have you brewed? Have you been / are you involved in any home brewing clubs?
SD: Yes, I have been brewing for almost 20 years. I think I made my first malt extract beer when I lived in Vernon British Columbia, it was a Porter if memory serves. I really can’t say how many batches I have brewed, I never really kept track until recently when I started using brewing software to track the details of my recipes and brewing. I have had some periods where I did very little brewing for various reasons, but I would say it is somewhere in excess of 200. For a time, I moved to brewing fruit wines made from locally picked berries, mostly chokecheery, elderberry and cranberry. Other than the cranberries, I picked all my chokecherries and elderberries. I make wine from them and incorporate them into some of my beers. I have an Elderberry Ale conditioning right now. Yes, I am currently a member of the New Brunswick Craft Brewers Association. It consists of homebrewers from around the province, but most members are in Fredericton. The NBCBA holds bi-weekly meetings to share knowledge on brewing and there is also periodic brewing competitions. It is made up of very knowledgeable and experienced brewers and complete beginners. Oh, and we do a little tasting as well 😉
ACBB: What styles are you planning on brewing?
SD: This is a bit of a tough question for me. For the benefit of others I usually say Belgian (and it’s somewhat true) because it gives beer knowledgeable people a reference point. But another aspect of Belgian beer is that many Belgian Brewers were somewhat irreverent to style. They would push the envelope with ingredients (spices, vegetables and fruit) and fermentation (spontaneous [open to the air], wild yeast [mostly brettanomyces] and bacteria [lactobacillus, pediococcus]). So I think it is fair to say that my “style” is more inspired by the Belgian sense of adventure, exploration and attitude than necessarily a particular say BJCP style. I will say though that lately I have been very intrigued with “sour” beers, particularly Brettanomyces (Brett). Although Brett on it’s own is not usually associated with sour per se, it certainly contributes some interesting acidic, tart and funky tastes and aromas. I’m currently experimenting with 100% Brett fermented beer and early indications are good!
ACBB: Did you have any assistance from any other breweries in setting up your operation?
SD: That’s easy, yes, Sean Dunbar of Picaroons (Northampton Brewing Co.)! Actually, I’m not sure if Sean would remember, but about 15 years ago, I approached Sean (and Andy) for advice on starting a brewery of my own and they were both very positive. It didn’t happen for me at that time for a variety of reasons, but they were certainly supportive. In my experience, Sean’s attitude has always been to support and grow the craft beer movement in New Brunswick and now Atlantic Canada and Canada. In my current venture Sean is helping me by allowing me to brew my beer in his Brewtique Brewery on 422 Queen St in downtown Fredericton. Given the capital intensive nature of brewing, you can imagine this is a significant help to me. Sean has also been very forthcoming on advice on things he has learned during his “pioneering” as a craft brewer in New Brunswick. I am very grateful for his help and support. Wendy Papadopolous of Big Tide Brewery in Saint John has also been very supportive. Last year Wendy invited me to Big Tide to brew a Stout with her. It was a great day of brewing and talking about brewing and I learned a lot from her as well. I have also been invited to do a collaboration beer with Microbrasserie Charlevoix in Quebec. Being a huge fan of their Belgian inspired beer, I am really looking forward to that. I think it’s fair to say that craft brewers are a good lot 😉 I hope to be able to pay it forward when it is my turn.
ACBB: Where will you be brewing short term and what are your long term plans for a facility?
SD: As I mentioned, the current plan is to brew Grimross beer at the Picaroons Queen St. Brewtique brewery. Plans for my own Grimross brewery are already underway. It’s difficult to nail down a specific timeline, but I will be happy if this time next year we are talking about “the new” Grimross brewery here in Fredericton.
ACBB: In what format are you planning on selling your beers?
SD: In the short term, while operating from the Picaroons Brewtique, Grimross will be sold in growlers and kegs from the Brewtique and to a few bars in Fredericton. As per our brewery plans, we intend to do the same plus bottles from day one.
ACBB: Do you have any accounts lined up to by your beer?
SD: Yes, we have a few Fredericton bars who have agreed to try our beer when it is available. Customer demand will dictate if Grimross beer stays on tap 🙂 We certainly hope our unique beers will find a niche.
ACBB: Can you tell me about any Atlantic Canadian supplies or equipment you are planning on using in your brewery?
SD: Yes and no. Supplies are hard to pin down in Atlantic Canada right now. Local malted barley is not consistent at this point, but when it is I am a big proponent of buying local. We do have some fresh hops available and I certainly plan to incorporate them if supply is available. I have been using local wild berries for some time, in particular, chokecherries and elderberries. I hope to incorporate them into some of my beers. On the equipment front, we have been in discussion with a certain Atlantic Canadian Brewery Equipment Manufacturer.
ACBB: What are your favorite beers?
SD: To me that’s akin to asking me which of my children I love the most. Sorry, but I can’t say just one. One of my go to’s is La Chouffe from the Ardeenes. My favorite Picaroons, is Mans Best Friend (other than Monster Mash-Up;-). I’m a big fan of Brasserie Charlevoix, their La Dominus Vobiscum Brut is wonderful. Oude Geuze Boon from the Boon brewery in Belgium. I like to have an Orval at least once a week and right now on tap in my garage, the Blonde Duivel, a Semin-Sour Belgian blonde finished with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, yum. I could really go on and on, but I’ll stop here.
ACBB: Any other interesting facts about your operation that you’d like to mention?
SD: I don’t like to be hemmed in when it comes to crafting new beer, so people should expect the unexpected from time to time 😉