By Mackenzie Walsh
Kichesippi Beer Company celebrated its 10th anniversary on April 29. Since the brewery originally opened in 2010 on Carling Avenue, and later moved to Bells Corners in 2019, it has achieved great success as a family-oriented, community-focused business.
The brewery was created by Paul Meek, his late wife Kelly, and their son Alexander. Paul and Kelly met at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, Paul fell in love not only with Kelly, a Nova Scotian, but also with Alexander Keith’s beer. He learned more about the beer industry as a contractor with McClelland Premium Imports and Lifford Wine, bringing imported European beer and wine into Eastern Ontario. In 2010, Paul, Kelly, and Alexander decided to create Kichesippi Beer, which they envisioned as the Ottawa version of Alexander Keith’s.
Kichesippi was one of Ottawa’s first breweries, and the family wanted their beer brand to reflect their love for the city. They chose the name Kichesippi, which is the original name for the Ottawa River and, in the Algonquin language of the Kichesipirini, means “great river.”
“There were not a lot of breweries in Ottawa when we first opened. We had the opportunity to be one of the first and tell stories about Ottawa through our beer,” says Paul. “When we were deciding on a name, we wanted it to have a connection to the area. We didn’t want the name to be something generic like ‘Ottawa beer’ or ‘Carleton beer.’ Eventually we settled on Kichesippi.”
Kichesippi’s beers highlight the historical events that have shaped Ottawa and the unique characteristics of the city: Remic Rapids IPA pays tribute to one of Ottawa’s hidden gems; Wuchak is the Algonquin word for woodchuck, a critter commonly seen along local roads; and Stony Monday IPA was named for an 1849 riot between Loyalists and Reformists in what is now the ByWard Market. Their original beer, 1855 American Amber/Red Ale, honours the year Ottawa was incorporated into a city.
Kelly Meek, who passed away on April 8, 2019, played a vital role in the success of Kichesippi Beer.
“Kelly made sure that the business was focused on supporting staff. She knew that was crucial for us to achieve success. She liked the Richard Branson quote, ‘take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business,’” says Paul.
She also selected Kichesippi Beer’s now-iconic Lido Glass. It was an off-the-shelf item from their glass supplier that she fell in love with right away.
“When Kelly saw the glass, she started thinking of where people’s hands would go when they drank their beer, and where the logo would go,” says Paul. “The Lido Glass was unique because it is wider towards the top of the glass, and narrower towards the bottom. The glass would fit perfectly in a man’s hand or a woman’s hand.”
Kichesippi Beer celebrated Kelly Meek’s life with the launch of their Warrior Woman APA on International Woman’s Day (March 8) of this year. The name “Kelly” translates to “warrior woman” in Gaelic, and 5 per cent of all sales of this beer are being donated to charities that empower women.
In response to COVID-19, Kichesippi has set up online ordering and delivery services. Over 60 per cent of their pre-pandemic revenue came from their taproom and sales to restaurants. Their quick shift to home delivery and curbside pickup has helped them salvage as much revenue as possible. At this point, it is unclear how many of the restaurants that bought their product will be able to reopen when the pandemic is over. They are anticipating ongoing changes in consumer behaviour, and plan on continuing their home delivery services even after the restrictions have lifted.
It’s a tough situation for any business, but after 10 years, Kichesippi has clearly earned a place in the hearts of Ottawans and it’s great to see them focusing on the future. We wish them the best of luck for the next decade and beyond.
In response to COVID-19, Kichesippi Beer has moved their business online. You can order from them here.