Canadian homebrewer trying to opening a Microbrew – in his basement
For those homebrewing fans, this article might be of interest.
Red tape grounds golden suds – Young brewers want to add to local beer options
When Patrice Godin and SÃ©bastien Roy set out to make a beer better than what they could buy off the shelf, they could see endless possibilities from the deep copper to light amber suds.
However, they never thought red tape could stifle their ability to share their golden brews with other beer enthusiasts.
Godin and Roy see beer making as a craft — one they have been nurturing and perfecting since they joined a beer tasting club in 2001.
“Our dream is to make beer at home and sell it within the standards recognized by the federal and provincial governments, a beer as clean and sterile as any company can make, but we would like to make it with a craft method,” explains Godin.
“It’s like a microbrewery, but one you can fit it in a car.”
But there is a problem.
It is not that the beer-brewing pair’s 53-litre, triple basin, stainless steel equipment does not meet the approval of federal inspectors — it has — and it’s not that the City of Moncton has any problem with welcoming new brewers into the city’s brewing landscape — Pumphouse and Molson have established Moncton as one of Canada’s premier brewing cities.
The problem resides in the location of the brewery: Godin’s basement, which is located in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.
While the city’s zoning bylaw allows several types of businesses to operate within residences, brewing is not one of them.
“The bylaw talks about a lot of craft type products, but alcohol doesn’t seem to fit. Somebody can do catering, or make jam, but because it is alcohol it falls in another class,” said Godin.
Godin, who works as a microbiologist for the federal government, has no plans on turning the microbrewery into a large commercial venture. He would simply like to supply a few local bars and NB Liquor stores with some niche local beer products.
He says seeing his beer’s label on tap at a local bar, and watching patrons enjoy the unique brews is enough for him.
“It is kind of like the farmer’s market movement, people want to return to the source and get local products and this would just be another.”
A variety of allowable household businesses range from making or repairing household ornaments and articles of clothing, to catering services, electrician, locksmith, or plumbing services, and art workshops like woodworking and arts and crafts.
Bill Budd, of the Greater Moncton Planning Commission, says brewing doesn’t fit within the definitions of acceptable home businesses because it involves manufacturing through processes.
He says that separates brewing from those who make preserves for the local farmers’ markets or prepare food for catering events.
“There are some people who are doing catering at home occupations. It’s a little bit different,” he said.
“Microbrewing is the type of process operation that we wouldn’t see as a compatible use within a residential zone. If he’s doing it as a hobby, that is fine, but to commercialize it he would have to rent a commercial property.”
Budd says Godin and Roy can ask the commission for a ruling of compatibility, which would move the issue past staff for a review by the board which could decide to rezone the property.
However, Budd admits it wild be unlikely for the commission to rezone a property in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.
He suggests they simply purchase or lease a commercially-zoned building where they can do their brewing.
But Godin says that would be an unsustainable move from a business perspective for a brewery that can’t brew enough beer to turn major profits and pay for the large overhead costs associated with a full-blown brewing venture.
He maintains his aims are much more modest, and attached to the craft rather than the business.
“It is like art. If you are an artist you want to show your art. We would like to show our beer to people, and we could help develop some new brews for the region,” said Godin.
Godin says he understands the city’s point of view, and he doesn’t think rezoning the property is the answer.
However, he feels some small changes could open up new possibilities for the development of a new niche market in a city, which even boasts its own beer festival, that is building itself as a centre of entertainment in the province.
Although he realizes this may not be a priority for the city since there isn’t likely to be a wave of craft breweries set up in the city, Godin says all it would take would be the addition of microbreweries to the list of acceptable business ventures allowed within residences.
“I think the City of Moncton is innovative. I think it’s going in the right direction, I think there could be positive changes, but we are talking about minor changes.”
Godin says innovations could even be applied to the winemaking industry.
“It could bring a special niche to the city. You look at a city like Halifax, there are plenty of microbreweries and it all works,” he said.
“For wine we could even do the same thing.”
The delays have not deterred Godin’s passion for brewing. He was recently recognized by the Recognized Beer Judge Certification Program, and has lined up all the other criteria required to be a provincially recognized brewer.
And while he’s exploring all of his options regarding zoning requirements, and possible appeals to the planning commission, Godin’s basement won’t stop turning out fresh and unique brews.
“I am allowed to brew at home anyway, I just can’t sell it,” he said, with peace of mind.
Godin and Roy will continue to let their creativity ferment as they explore the possibilities afforded to them by their state-of-the-art equipment.
“It is more flexible in the sense that it costs us less money to try new types of beer. If a big brewery brews a big basin, and its not good, it will have to throw out a big basin and that’s a big loss,” said Godin.
“Our advantage is that we can try lots of things at a lower cost.”