Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is published every second Thursday at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on Twitter @tpersaud.
Most people regret the decisions they made after one too many drinks. That brilliant idea your cousin Jeff came up with at 2 a.m. rarely sounds so hot under the morning sun, which is why you spend the day trying to find that bar napkin “contract” to destroy the only shred of physical evidence.
But Paige Cutland struck gold during last call. Well, maybe not gold, but it probably felt like it after a few too many libations. Cutland, a member of the Canadian Air Force for 17 years and in the high-tech industry for another 10, was at a trade show in Orlando, Florida, when inspiration struck. A brewery. He wanted to start a brewery. “I don’t think anyone took me seriously for a while.”
And why would anyone? Who hasn’t heard someone exclaim “I want to start a brewery” after consuming half a keg? But Cutland was actually serious. In December 2008, he began researching the industry, surveying local bars to find out what they were looking for in a craft beer. Six months later Cutland, along with three like-minded friends, began to lay the building blocks for HogsBack Brewing Company, which opened in 2010.
Two and a half years later, business just keeps growing. Earlier this year HogsBack had an impressive showing at the Ontario Brewing Awards. Their Vintage Lager won the gold medal in the über-competitive North American Lager category. They also won the People’s Choice award in the same category, then walked away with Newcomer of the Year. It’s a huge boost for the small company that still contracts out its brewing to a larger facility.
“It has always been the plan to have our own space in Ottawa,” Cutland says. The partners are looking into a spot on Iber Road in Stittsville, which is close to both Scotiabank Place and the new outlet mall that’s coming to the area. Though they haven’t confirmed a location yet, plans are for the shop to be up and running by the end of 2013, with the hopes of opening the doors to the public by summertime.
In other encouraging news, HogsBack beer, previously sold only in Ottawa, is now available at LCBO outlets across the province. The Ontario Brewing Awards certainly gave them greater credibility, but Cutland credits a good business decision for opening doors at the LCBO. “We switched to a single-serve can and moved away from the six-pack bottles,” he explains. “It’s less of a commitment now for people to try our beer.” (The price for a six pack was $12.95, while a single can is just $2.60.)
“We don’t have money like the big brewers to give away TVs and tickets to bars as incentives. We’re trying to get by with our name and good beer.” Looks as though it’s working.