Making alcohol doesn’t hold any more secrets for Gabriel Girard Bernier. Not only was his family involved in the wine industry, he also took up beer brewing as a hobby later on in life. In fact, that’s how the story of Brasserie du Bas-Canada stard – in the basement of Marc-André Cordeiro Lima, Gabriel’s business partner.
The duo noticed that the Outaouais region had a low number of breweries per capita. Both being from the area, they saw an opportunity to change that. And so, Gabriel and Marc-André rolled up their sleeves and started working on their brewpub project.
With any new business, finding funds is a major hurdle. This is especially true for a brewery, since brewing equipment is rather expensive. It was quite a challenge for two people who had never owned a business! Financial institutions being accustomed to businesses that sell beer onsite or to distributors, they didn’t know what to make of Marc-André and Gabriel’s model: a brewpub where beer is produced and where people can buy it either to drink onsite or bring it home. There was similar confusion from the city when it came to zoning and licences; they had to explain and defend their business plan.
Kind of like an Apple Store
“Oh, there’s just so many breweries already.”
That’s a line Gabriel and Marc-André have heard often! But a quick glance at their clientele is enough to silence the naysayers. People come from all over Quebec, Canada and even the US to sample their beers. Brasserie du Bas-Canada is one of many breweries, yes, but not any brewery!
“We got our name out there by making types of beers that aren’t brewed often in Quebec, or even in Canada. Stuff we liked to drink and we thought was interesting to make,” says Gabriel Girard Bernier. They became pioneers of certain regional styles and also took inspiration from producers in the US, quickly making a name for themselves despite their small-scale production. Approximating around 150,000 litres of beer produced per year — as opposed to 9 million litres for other companies — and with their wide range of clients, it’s no surprise that their products are hard to find. That’s why fans of Brasserie du Bas-Canada are willing to travel to get their fix. Twice a year pre-pandemic, the brewpub would host special events — in May and on the weekend of November 17th, the brewery’s founding anniversary — where they would unveil five to seven new products at once. “On our anniversary, we would open at 11 a.m. but at 8 a.m. there were already 400 people in line outside. We’re kind of like an Apple Store,” Gabriel adds with a laugh.
A mouthful of ideas
If combining mango with beer doesn’t immediately come to mind for some, maybe it’s because they don’t have the beer-tasting expertise of Gabriel and Marc-André! The team has accumulated tons of inspiration thanks to various trips they’ve taken in the past, leading them to experiment with coconut, vanilla, cocoa, maple syrup, cinnamon, mango… They’re not afraid to branch out creatively and seek out the best ingredients available. “I’m the one in charge of recipe development and I can spend a long time mulling over all kinds of ideas!” says Gabriel.
A strong team
“We’ve had great success. The brewpub is solvent. Everything’s working well enough, but we’re always trying to innovate and develop new products. And our staff sees things the same way, it’s great.” — Gabriel Girard Bernier
If combining mango with beer doesn’t immediately come to mind for some, maybe it’because they don’t have the beer-tasting expertise of Gabriel and Marc-André! The team has accumulated tons of inspiration thanks to various trips they’ve taken in the past, leading them to experiment with coconut, vanilla, cocoa, maple syrup, cinnamon, mango… They’re not afraid to branch out creatively and seek out the best ingredients available. “I’m the one in charge of recipe development and I can spend a long time mulling over all kinds of ideas!” says Gabriel. ,” says Gabriel.
A word of advice
“To me, a good entrepreneur is someone who’s able to pinpoint their own weaknesses and then surround themselves with people who are better at those things.” — Gabriel Girard Bernier
By calling on experts, Marc-André and Gabriel are improving their overall performance. Be it the technician helping them build new equipment, the SR&ED expert from Cilex, graphic designer Alexandre Mercier or even restaurant Les Vilains Garçons which handles the catering, everything helps Gabriel and Marc-André focus on what’s really important to them: their brewing passion!
To learn more about Brasserie du Bas-Canada and their products, visit the website [French only] or follow them on Facebook or Instagram! And if you want to focus your own efforts on what’s important to you while still optimizing your business, get in touch with us to schedule an appointment with our SR&ED expert!