First ever microbrewery opens in Kahnawake

Not only is Black Bridge Brewing Co. making history as the first-ever microbrewery to open in Kahnawake, it also led the way for the adoption of craft beer legislation on the Mohawk territory.

Black Bridge Brewing Co. gives nod to Indigenous ironwork history

Matthew Deer, one of the co-owners of Black Bridge Brewing Co, holds up a pint of the microbrewery's eponymous beer. Ashlan Phillips is a beer ambassador and bartender. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Not only is Black Bridge Brewing Co. making history as the first-ever microbrewery to open in Kahnawake, it also led the way for the adoption of craft beer legislation on the Mohawk territory.

The business was started by a group of friends who turned their love of craft beer into careers.

Matthew Deer, one of the co-owners of the microbrewery, said the first hurdle to opening the business was finding capital. But they also had to help develop the craft-beer production legislation in Kahnawake.

The provincial law, which was amended in 2016 to expand the capabilities of small beer and wine makers, allows small-scale producers to sell their beer at their brewery and directly to grocery permit holders. The Alcoholic Beverages Control (ABC) Board for Kahnawake decided to follow Quebec's legislation. 

"We worked closely with them on all aspects," said Deer.

It took an extra year and a half to get that legislation in place.

The number of microbreweries in Quebec has quadrupled in the past 10 years.

In 2007, microbrewers made up just 4.5 per cent of the market share. A decade later, that number has grown to 10 per cent. 

Black Bridge Brewing Co., along Route 138, has a variety of beers on tap, including a smoked maple porter made with maple syrup from Kahnawake. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Nod to Mohawk ironworker roots

The name of the Kahnawake microbrewery and the design of the bar is a nod to the Indigenous territory's history in ironwork.

Along one of its walls is a photo of the Black Bridge — known as the Saint-Laurent Railway Bridge.

Deer said it was one of the first construction jobs people from Kahnawake worked on.

Kahnawake steelworkers were renowned for their work, even helping build part of downtown New York City — it's a tradition Deer said he wants to honour with the look of the business.

Black Bridge Brewing Co. gets its named from the Black Bridge, known more commonly as the Saint-Laurent Railway Bridge. It links LaSalle to Kahnawake. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)