Local cooperative microbrewery boasts festive offerings
Thursday October 17, 2019
Local cooperative microbrewery boasts festive offerings
If you’ve spent an evening out with friends recently in the Acadian Peninsula, it’s very likely that you’ve sampled products from Tracadie’s local microbrewery, Les Brasseux d’la Côte. The unique beers and friendly atmosphere at this cooperative are the result of the spirit of collaboration that has guided the members since its founding. We spoke recently with founder Denis Poirier.
UNI: Where did you get the idea to start up a microbrewery in Tracadie?
DP: My friends and I are major beer fans! We had already been making craft beer for a few years, and then we had the idea to open a quality local microbrewery where people could get together over a good beer. This was a short while before microbreweries started springing up all over the rest of the province (the number of microbreweries having doubled over the past five years).
UNI: Tell us about the kind of cooperative structure you went with.
DP: We always wanted to form a cooperative to run the microbrewery. At the time of its founding, the Association Coopérative Microbrasserie had more than 130 members; today, it has more than 210. The co-op has a board of directors and depends on a significant number of volunteers to keep the operation running smoothly. Our first president, Daniel Losier, established the structure of the organization. The microbrewery Les Brasseux d’la Côte is a conventional business that has the co-op as one of its shareholders, but we’d like it to be fully integrated into the co-op.
UNI: How did you put your business plan together, and what financial model did you opt for?
DP: The three founders, Dean Robert, Marcel Brideau and myself, contacted CDR-Acadie for help preparing our business plan. We drew up our financial plan with them including the first fund-raising effort in 2015 through which we bought our start-up equipment (including tanks so we could start brewing and testing our recipes).
A second round of financing was arranged in 2016 to build the current building with UNI holding the mortgage. We also took out a small-business loan in 2017 to expand our production capacity through the acquisition of more equipment.
UNI: Why did you choose Tracadie?
DP: We’re all from the Peninsula, and we were looking for a good strategic location. Tracadie was a good choice because it’s the main service hub in the region. It’s also located on a commercial artery in an area that’s very easy to get to by car.
UNI: How did you choose the microbrewery’s name?
DP: We conducted a contest among the members. We did the same thing to choose the beer names, which are inspired by stories highlighting the importance of the Acadian shores in our culture.
UNI: Do you involve the members in all major decisions like this?
DP: Yes, since the main objective of the project was to create a local place by and for the members, we wanted everyone to feel like they play a role. We tested recipes by organizing taste testings to find out what the members wanted to be able to get at their microbrewery. We wanted to build a strong local identity, and so we used the sea for our inspiration, since it is truly omnipresent in our region. It was a team effort that our members played a critical role in. We now have people in place in paid positions, like our master brewer and our general manager. We have also depended on the contributions of a lot of volunteers throughout all project phases.
UNI: You are very active on social media. Is this a priority for the co-op?
DP: Once again we were very fortunate in that one of our board members, Martin Roussel, is quite knowledgeable in that area and very generous with his time. He even does refresher courses to make sure he keeps up to date!
UNI: Did you use any other microbreweries for inspiration?
DP: We visited La Barberie in Québec City and were impressed by the cooperative model they have in place there. In New Brunswick, we got help from Shawn from the Picaroons brewery in Fredericton and Sébastien from Distillerie Fils du Roy in Petit-Paquetville. The folks at Les Brasseurs du Petit-Sault in Edmundston have also been very helpful. The cooperative spirit is in our blood, and we’ve been lucky to get this support from other skilled brewers.
UNI: What is your current production capacity?
DP: We produced more than 125,000 litres last year. That’s a lot of beer!
UNI: Your products are now available all over New Brunswick. How did you achieve this popularity?
DP: It really takes an ongoing direct marketing effort to spread the word. A lot of people don’t know about us yet. Taking part in various festivals is another good way to get out there and meet people.
UNI: Does your co-op have any other projects in the works?
DP: We recently opened the Brasseux Broue Pub in Caraquet, where we brew beer on-site in addition to serving products from Les Brasseux d’la Côte and other New Brunswick microbreweries. We want to expand our product distribution, for example, to Quebec, another place where there’s a lot of interest in quality beers that represent their places of origin. There has even been talk about distributing our products in Europe. In short, the sky is the limit!
UNI: How is Les Brasseux d’la Côte celebrating Co-op Week?
DP: By doing what we do best: enjoying some good beer among friends! We also have several promotions planned that week.
UNI: What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in starting up a cooperative?
DP: Whether it’s a co-op or a conventional business, planning is everything. It’s one thing to have a good idea, but you also need to be meeting an actual need. You also need to take your financial capacity into account and pace your growth to match it. What’s important is to find a niche and not be afraid to aim high—even internationally—while keeping your feet on the ground and keeping a cool head… like a good beer!