Eastern Quebec microbreweries scramble to fill surging demand
'Nice problem to have' says microbrewer about craft beer's growing popularity among tourists, locals alike
A rush of tourists and a growing appreciation for craft beer in Eastern Quebec have local breweries straining to keep mugs filled and glasses clinking.
Brew pubs across the region are boosting production by as much as 60 per cent, and one brewery in Carleton-sur-Mer on the Gaspé Peninsula has had to suspend shipments of bottled beer to satisfy the thirst of its local clientele.
"We didn't ship new beer across Quebec this year because we started to run out after two weeks," said co-owner of Le Naufrageur, Sébastien Valade.
"It's a nice problem for us to have, to produce enough to respond to the demand," said Denis Thibeault, the co-owner of Le Bien le Malt microbrewery in Rimouski.
"We have had a very good summer. We can't keep up," Thibeault said. He is now considering expanding the business.
'Twenty years ago, people discovered there was more [to wine] than just Oiseau bleu and Baby Duck. That's what is happening now with beer,- Éric Viens, co-owner of Aux Fous Brassants
Last year, Aux Fous Brassants, a microbrewery in Rivière-du-Loup, bought three new fermenters in response to a 30 per cent increase in sales.
Co-owner Éric Viens says in part, the growth is due to a tourism boom in the region, however, locals are also discovering a taste for the product.
"It's the same as what happened with wine. Twenty years ago, people discovered there was more than just Oiseau bleu and Baby Duck. That's what is happening now with beer," he said.
Can't get enough Crâââb Bitter
For the St-Pancrace brewery in Baie-Comeau, on Quebec's North Shore, the beer boom extends to its most exotic product – Crâââb Bitter, a crab-infused beer.
It introduced the slightly salty beer to the world last year. This year, crab beer sales have gone up fourfold.
Pierre-Antoine Morin, the brewery's director of marketing, said St-Pancrace, too, is having trouble meeting local demand.
"We are at maximum production," he said. "We can't keep up with it right now."
St-Pancrace is investing $2 million in an expansion.
Élodie Fortin, co-owner of yet another microbrewery, Tête d'Allumette in Saint-André-de-Kamouraska, is astonished by her young business's success.
"I didn't think it would go up so quickly," she said.
With files from Radio-Canada's Laurence Gallant, Brigitte Dubé and Louis Garneau