Two weeks ago Cassel Brewery opened its doors and sold half its stock on the first day. If they were wondering if the Ottawa area could support another brewery, they now had the answer. But the quick success and positive feedback for the microbrewery in Casselman, just 45 minutes east of the city, didn’t happen overnight — or even over the last year.
“It all started 10 years ago,” says co-owner Michel Racine, who’s in charge of the brewery’s marketing. “Mario [Bourgeois, co-owner and brewmaster] started out with beer kits. It didn’t taste that good, so he started to make his own beer from scratch and developed six beers.”
Five years later Racine joined Bourgeois, and Benjamin Bercier took on the finances, rounding out the team. They began handing out samples to anyone they knew. Racine called it “free marketing.” He said anyone they gave the beer to ended up calling them to get more. They finally decided it was time to start a full production.
They took possession of their building in February and spent about five months getting it ready. It’s a small space, about 1,200 sq. ft., which allows them to bottle about 1,100L of beer each week. “We’re small,” Racine says, “so we started with just our flagship beer — Golden Rails, which is a honey brown ale. It’s a good entry beer for people; everyone seems to like it.”
But they’re almost ready to release their wheat beer, White Fog, in the next week or so; and Lil’ Red Steamer, a red ale, will be out sometime in September. Currently the only place to get their beer is straight from the brewery in 1.89L growlers, but Racine says they’re hoping to have 500mL single serve cans in the LCBO by the end of the year.
Racine is already envisioning an expansion in the near future. And with the demand for craft beer on the rise, it’s hard to argue with him. “People are starting to like beer more than wine,” he says, hypothesizing why the market just keeps growing. “It’s not a trend — people are discovering craft beer and they’re liking it because there’s more taste.”
It sounds like a dream job, and in many ways it is for the trio, but Racine is quick to put things into perspective for anyone who thinks they’re “living the dream.”
“We all have jobs,” he says. “We work on the brewery stuff in the evening and bottle all the growlers ourselves.” Busy! He’s also very quick to ensure everyone knows how they’re able to manage everything. “We have good wives!”