At the end of 2019, a new brewery quietly opened in Manotick, Black Rapids Brewing Company. The co-founders, Kyle Simpson and Dave Raso started the company thanks to a successful homebrew competition at Beau’s Oktoberfest.
For those who have never been to the annual fall event, Beau’s and the Members of Barleyment traditionally host a tent on the Oktoberfest fairground that allows the public to blind sample homebrew and rank their favourites. It’s a great way for homebrewers to get feedback (both professionally and from a quasi-focus group) and it’s a great way for the public to sample local homebrew—win win.
Kyle had a recipe he wanted to submit to the competition but didn’t have it bottled and ready to submit. He did, however, have enough of another recipe bottled, so on a whim, and with a push from Dave, Kyle submitted his milk stout into the competition. And his stout, Lockstation Milk Stout, won the People’s Choice Award. The prize was a brew day on the pilot system at Beau’s brewery. Kyle spent a full day brewing with brewmaster Matt O’Hara and when the brew was ready, Kyle, Dave and friends were invited back to the taproom to tap a keg of their award-winning beer. The rest of the stout was bottled and sent home with the winners.
With feedback from the competition and experience working on a large-scale system, the two launched Black Rapids Brewing Co. as contract brewers.
A milk stout isn’t a typical flagship beer, but it has worked for the new brewery. “Our philosophy at Black Rapids is to brew exciting, flavourful beer which can be enjoyed by everyone,” explains Kyle. “Most people who enjoy coffee or chocolate will find something they like in our Lockstation Stout regardless of whether or not they normally drink dark beer. Through the handful of local events we are participating in we hear the same comments: ‘I don’t usually like dark beer but this was delicious.’”
One of the steeper learning curves for the former homebrewer was sales. “Although everyone loves craft beer selling it is not so easy,” says Kyle. “There are a lot of great craft breweries in Ontario and all of them are competing for that limited tap and fridge space. We are very quickly learning the importance of persistence and the relationship between brewery and restaurant management.” Even so, the team has already found homes for their milk stout. Starting with the Highlander Pub on Rideau Street, the team has been steadily growing their market.
An award-winning brewery before they were even a brewery—great start for a couple of super nice guys brewing good beer!