TATAMAGOUCHE – After opening their doors five weeks ago, business is hopping at the Tatamagouche Brewing Company.
“We built more capacity than I thought we would need and we’re needing it in the fifth week,” said Hans Christian Jost, the 52-year-old father of the family-run business.
Jost, along with his daughter Christiane and her partner Matt Kenney, are working hard to keep up with demand.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Jost. “Local competitors and compatriots in Nova Scotia said we were going to be run off our feet and I didn’t believe them.”
The small-batch, handmade brewery has been designing beer recipes since last summer and they came up with two styles of beer.
“The first one is the Hippie Dippie Pale Ale.
“That one is what we would call a more approachable, easier drinking beer,” said Jost.
“The other one we call Butcher Block Red in honour of this building, which used to be a butcher shop,” he added.
“It’s almost like a red IPA (India Pale Ale). In other words it’s a bit fuller flavour, it has more of a hoppiness, and it has a little more alcohol with 6 per cent as opposed to the Pale Ale, which is 5 per cent.”
The brewery is located on Main Street in Tatamagouche, and Jost says one of the biggest challenges was converting the old butcher shop into a brewery.
“It would have been a whole lot easier starting it from scratch in an open piece of land but one of the things we wanted to achieve was to be part of downtown Tatamagouche,” he said.
Customers enter and exit the brewery through a garage door.
“We have the garage door open to the street because we wanted to bring the brewery out to the street and the street into the brewery.”
Jost previously owned and operated Jost Vineyards in Malagash, which he sold two years ago.
After his father Hans passed away in 1988, Hans Christian took over the vineyard at the age of 26.
He says running a new business is, bureaucratically, much more complex that it used to be.
“At the same time, I have a lot more experience dealing with that,” he said.
“None of the hurdles were insurmountable or anything like that, it’s just a whole series of little things and little steps.”
Jost tips his hat to the Municipality of Colchester County for helping bring the brewery to life.
“As far as Colchester County itself, the people in the office in Colchester, I can only say good things,” said Jost. “That was something I was very delighted with.
“Their view towards Tatamagouche and towards moving things ahead was great. I was tickled.”
The Tatamagouche Brewing Company sells beer in kegs and in 1litre bottles called growlers. One growler costs $5, and are filled with Hippie Dippie Ale for $7, and Butcher Block Red for $7.50. When the growler is brought back it is refilled for $7 or $7.50 without paying $5 for a new growler.
“The growler system is, more or less, how it works in all small breweries in North America,” said Jost. “But it’s the first time that a lot of people in Tatamagouche have seen it.
“We’ve sold, just in the last month, thousands and thousands of growlers and a lot of them are coming back to be refilled.”
Jost says the brewery has no current plans to sell beer in liquor stores but doesn’t rule it out in the future.
“We first want to learn a lot more about our beer, the life of the beer and how well it holds and, also, whoever wants our beer we want to keep happy, so we don’t want to beat the drums too hard.”
Hippie Dippie and Butcher Block Red isn’t filtered or pasteurized.
“We tell people to treat it like milk. Don’t leave it in your car for three days and that sort of thing.”
They hope to launch two more beers this fall.
“Our plan is to have three regular beers year-round, and then have a seasonal beer that switches constantly.”
Jost sees small-craft, handmade beers as the wave of the future.
“Our biggest competitors would probably be the really big guys like the Molson and Labatt. They’re coming up with more craft beers, trying to gain part of the market.”
He says the craft beer market is going up 18 to 20 per cent a year in Canada, and the regular beer market is going down 2 to 3 per cent every year.
“Molson and Labatt are trying to grab a piece of this market.”
Jost says people are drinking less beer than they used to but, at the same time, are looking for a better beer.
“In my case I eat less meat than I used to but when I do eat meat I want it to be a good and that’s the way it works for beer.”
Christiane graduated from Mount Allison University and studied public relations in Halifax.
“It has certainly been a pleasure participating with my daughter and Matt and seeing them become so much a part of this,” said Jost.
“I think everybody would like to have there kids working somewhere around where they live,” he added. “We lose so many youth in Atlantic Canada to the west and when we can retain some of them that’s a good thing.”
The Tatamagouche Brewing Company produces batches of approximately 1,000 litres of beer at a time.
– JOST EXPLAINS HOW THE BEER IS MADE:
It starts with organic malted grain, which is currently imported from the U.S. through the Canada Malting Company.
“This malt is U.S. malt because we’re looking for organic malt, but we’re trying to eventually get some local organic malt,” said Jost.
The malted grain is ground up in a large container.
“At 5:30 in the morning Matt will mix that grain in warm water that is 72 C to 73 C,” said Jost.
The mix begins to look like porridge and water from the bottom is constantly re-circulated to the top.
“All he’s doing is dissolving the sugars, and when it starts coming in nice and clear he transfers it over to the brew kettle.”
The liquid extract is called wort and it is boiled for about an hour.
“Early on in the boil Matt adds a bunch of hops. They’re the bittering hops or opening hops. They give the beer a beer-type flavour,” said Jost. “He adds the aroma hops in the last couple minutes and that’s what gives the beer the bouquet.”
Jost is currently growing hops at his home in Malagash.
“That’s part of the reason we’re holding off on a third and fourth beer because we want to see what kind of a hop crop comes off of there, so that we can maybe apply that to the next beers.”
After the boil is done they put the liquid through a heat exchanger and chill it to about 19 C, put it into a tank, and add yeast to start the fermentation. The fermentation takes four days to a week.
“Then we let the yeast settle and move it to the refrigeration room,” said Jost. “From there it eventually goes straight up to the bottle. There’s no filtration, there’s no pasteurization.”
The entire process, from grain to the bottle, takes two to three weeks.