Located in the suburb of Cole Harbour, made famous by being home of some of the best hockey players in recent history, lies the small community of Colby Village. And with the opening of Hardisty Brewing last week, it has yet another claim to fame: owner, brewer, cellarperson, and head cleaner (always cleaning!) Charlene Robichaud has launched Hardisty as a way to share her long-time passion with her community. We chatted with Char, from a socially appropriate distance, to learn more about her beer offerings, plans for distribution, and the future of Hardisty Brewing, “Inspired by Community”.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Charlene Robichaud (but everyone calls me Char). I have been brewing all grain for almost 20 years. I currently work full time Monday to Friday for a telecommunications company as a web application programmer, and then brew on the weekends and manage the fermentation, dry hopping and packaging in the evenings through the week. I love both my day job and brewing beer, so starting this company just fits with things I enjoy doing.
How did you get into the world of beer?
My brother-in-law introduced me to real craft beer 20 years ago out in Alberta. He was the Master Brewer of a craft brewery there and he taught me to appreciate the styles and complexity of beer. I got to see how beer was made, the equipment, and distribution. He taught me to brew all-grain on a homebrew scale, and from there I developed my skills and experimented with ingredients and styles.
What made you decide to take the steps into opening a brewery?
I have been fortunate to own homes that had space for an all-grain brewing setup, and in the past 3 years I have renovated a room in my home dedicated to brewing. I call it my ‘beer kitchen’. For me, having a beer is social, I love having my friends over to have a pint (or more) of beer and hang out in my beer kitchen. This once hobby has naturally progressed to going pro and starting my own brewing company. I have always wanted to, and I realized I could start small (a nano) in my beer kitchen and just start to get my beer out there.
Can you tell us about the beers you have available now? And what may be coming in the future?
I have started out with the 2 beers that will be staples in my beer lineup. A SMaSH (Single Malt and Single Hop) that I called Block Party, as it got its start as a beer I brewed for a Hardisty Court Community block party we had last summer. It uses 2-Row for the malt, and Simcoe for the hops. At 4.5% ABV and 30 IBU, it offers a tropical and citrus aroma and flavour, with a malty backbone. The Smoked Porter I have brewed for years, I’ve played with the grain bill over the years but have now locked it in. It’s 4.7% ABV and 26 IBU, and uses Smoked and Chocolate malts, and is hopped with Northern Brewer and Willamette.
While keeping the above 2 beers in stock I will brew smaller batches of IPAs, like a New England Style with a lot of hop aroma, and an East Coast style with a punch of hops for your palate. I have a witbier I enjoy brewing during the summer and in the winter, an Imperial Stout infused with spices and chocolate. I also plan to keep experimenting with ingredients and spices to create one-offs to keep things interesting and fun.
Enough talk, we’re getting thirsty! How can folks enjoy your beer?
Since I am a nano sized brewery in my home my distribution is by ‘members’. My business model is to be a Community Shared Brewery (CSB), which is much like a Community Shared Agriculture. Home delivery is the focus to start, as by-law prohibits me from on-site sales or having a taproom in my home. So I am canning my beer into 473ml cans, and selling them in a 4-pack. Customers within my community (footprint) will be able to register on my website and pay a monthly fee to have a certain amount of beer in a specific timeframe of 3 months or 6 months. Based on the membership a user selects, they will be able to select the beer they want from the site, and it will be delivered during specific timeframes to the member’s home. They will also be able to purchase add-ons based on stock availability. The site and CSB membership will be set up by the end of April. However… in the meantime we have beer and are ready to sell! For now sales are happening by word of mouth. The delivery footprint is Colby Village in Cole Harbour, NS. Follow us on Instagram and DM me to set up a delivery. We deliver on Thursdays, between 4 and 5 PM-ish. Customers can pay at the door with ‘Tap and Pay’. When possible, I also would like to sell kegs to local pubs in the Dartmouth area so that others can try my beer outside of my delivery footprint (Colby Village).
Do you have some initial accounts in the area lined up to serve your beers?
No accounts yet, but we will announce them in our social media as it happens. When the pubs start opening up again we will be able to see about setting up some accounts.
Have you had any assistance from other breweries and folks in Atlantic Canada?
The brewing community here is so awesome! Yeah, I sat down with the guys at Brightwood Brewery, and they let me ask all the questions about getting started in your home to opening a full size brewery. I also unofficially visited many breweries last summer to see how they ran there set ups and I was fascinated by Shipwright Brewing in Lunenburg and their 3BBL set up with the walk up counter bar. It made me feel like my beer kitchen could certainly work as a first step.
Where do you hope to see your brewery in the next 2-3 years?
In 2 to 3 years, I plan to be brewing in my beer kitchen. If the question was in the next 5 to 6 years… the plan is to have my own taproom and brewery somewhere close to this community.
Let’s get nerdy! Tell us about your brewhouse equipment.
I have a unique 1BBL (120 litre) set up. It consists of two 65 litre Robobrew Brewzillas to brew in, and a standard RoboBrew as my Hot Liquor Tank. When I brew a double batch, it then goes in my 1BBL Stainless Steel Unitank to ferment and later carbonate. I then can brew a different type of beer in each Brewzilla the next brew day and ferment those in my smaller fermenters. Currently I can brew 400 to 500 litres a month.
Do you have a favorite beer style, beer, or brewery you enjoy drinking?
Personally, I love IPAs, Imperials, Double, and Rye IPAs. Lots of hops! When I go out, ordering a flight is the way I go so I can enjoy a bit of what everyone is brewing. I do have so many favorites and I am always purchasing whatever is new to me from any of the craft breweries. Some people travel to see the sites, I always look up the breweries and beer stores so I can visit, taste and purchase a collection of different styles to try. I’m a geek, I have a diary of every beer I have tried since 2016. I have a database of 208 beers from over 84 breweries 98% of it is all Canadian microbreweries.
How about favourite style or ingredient to brew with?
I like to experiment with spice blends. Star Anise, nutmeg, citrus peels, cloves, and rosemary to name a few.
Thank you again to Char for getting us up to speed with Hardisty Brewing, and how we can enjoy her beer. Check out Instagram and Facebook for the latest beer news, and sign up for their CSB when it launches in April. Congratulations again!