Canucks in the Kitchen is a group of 4 friends that love food and drink. They share their recipes, reviews and experiences on their blog. You can follow along on their adventures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Craft brewing is continuing to spread like wildfire through Ottawa and the surrounding area. Our next feature in our Gettin‘ Crafty series takes us to Étienne Brûlé Brewery in Embrun, Ontario. Étienne Brûlé Brewery combines history and science in an awesome way, I’ll explain in a minute.
Embrun is just a short drive east of Ottawa on Highway 417. I really enjoy meeting the people behind these breweries because each one has an interesting story that lends to the character of the brewery, although they all share a desire to brew great beer.
This week I sat down with Mathieu Jerome of Étienne Brûlé Brewery and discussed his journey from brewing craft beer at home to a fully functioning craft brewery.
His journey started as many others, brewing from kits at home. In 2013, while Mathieu was in college studying biotechnology, his hobby turned into more as he started brewing for friends and family. The passion continued to grow as he dropped the kits and started brewing from scratch. That continued for 2 years. As school was nearing its end, he realized he had to choose what he’d want to do for a living. He could get into research or sales as one might traditionally do with a background in biotech, or he could take his father’s advice and do something he loves.
He made the decision to take his knowledge of biology, chemistry and technology and apply it to making great beer, and came up with a business plan on how he would turn his passion into a business. In April of 2013, he met with an investor (now his partner) and presented his plan and product. The business was a go.
They started searching the area for a suitable location from Hawkesbury to Embrun. At the end of November 2015, they settled on an old fire hall in Embrun.
The brewing system they use has its own colourful past. Mathieu told me the legend of the “cursed system”. It was nicknamed so because it had already gone through two breweries before getting to Étienne Brûlé. The first brewery it belonged to inexplicably closed its doors in Hawkesbury and went out of business. The second brewery, based in the Ottawa Valley, also closed its doors. The system was then boxed up and there it sat for 10 years until they heard about it in their search for a used brewing system and bought it.
Étienne Brûlé Brewery opened its doors on June 17th 2016 and it appears that the curse of the system is broken, because after only two months they already need to expand their line to keep up with the demand.
Now for the history component of the brewery. Why Étienne Brûlé? Étienne Brûlé was a French explorer from the 17th century. He was the first European to explore beyond the St. Lawrence River and into Ontario. His known history has blurred facts with myths and has made him a legendary character and or as Mathieu puts it, “a badass”.
Mathieu applies that same pioneering and trailblazing spirit to his business by making superior beer and a beer that is certified organic (one of the few in the Ottawa area). Another piece of history you might notice when you visit is that most of the beers are sold in ‘stubby’ bottles. Mathieu chose that style to create a sense of historical nostalgia and to add to the rustic feel of the brand. Étienne Brûlé Brewery offers three main beers:
- Vagabond, a blonde made with Gargoyle Hops. It has a light, malty flavour with a hint of lemon and honeydew.
- Citrale, an IPA with a citrus flavour, not overpoweringly hoppy or bitter.
- 5W30, a milk stout with hints of dark chocolate and coffee and a smooth mouthfeel.
They also offer two limited batches, Backdraft, a black IPA and Bohemian de Notre Dame, a light pilsner.
The future looks busy for Mathieu as he plans on expanding to restaurants and later to the LCBO. They’re also working on other plans such as starting a barrel aging program, working with wild yeast and even starting a yeast share program and really playing with the microbiology side of brewing.
For now you can only find Étienne Brûlé beer at their brewery location. A perfect time to try it out is at their official opening Saturday September 17th, 2016 at 893 Notre Dame st Embrun. It’s going to be quite the party with a grain fed pig roast, corn roast, live bands, mystery cask and the launch of a brand new beer. Hope to see you there!