Nfld. & Labrador

Aviation lore inspires new craft brewery taking off in Gander

He was a pilot for 20 years. Then David Jerrett quit flying, but he hasn't abandoned the world of aviation completely.

Scudrunner Brewery opened in May

Scudrunner's Belgian red is the most popular beer at the brewery. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The first name was easy. David Jerrett says he was just lying in bed when he saw it: Scudrunner.

It's an aviation term, referring to dangerous, less than ideal conditions: a pilot flying low to avoid the clouds in bad weather, relying on "experience and intuition."

To Jerrett, it means ingenuity and independence.

Almost three years later, the Scudrunner Brewery is real — open and operating in Gander. The name still fits, he said, because craft brewing means "doing things in a different way" than the big guys.

David Jerrett says his beers are available in a few restaurants and bars in downtown St. John's, and will soon be available at Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation stores across the province. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"We're bucking that tradition, and going back to an old-school way of doing things," he said.

The subsequent naming, though, has gotten a bit harder.

On a Tuesday morning in July, Jerrett and his staff are debating the name of their newest brew. Will it be Mauzy Night? Are nights even mauzy?

"We usually kind of say, 'We have a beer, this is what it is, what can we call it?' — we pass the names around until something kind of stands out at us, and then we go with that."

Most of Scudrunner's grains are farmed in Canada. Once they are used in the process, some of the grain is sent back to Canadian farms and is eaten by cattle. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

After 20 years as a pilot, Jerrett has stepped away from the airplane and into his new craft brewery, but signs of aviation are everywhere at Scudrunner Brewing, right down to the names of the beers.

"Gander's a big aviation town. It just fits with what we're doing; where we are; who we are."

In my younger days, I didn't really like beer, I'll say that. I'll admit it.- David Jerrett

There was some turbulence along the way. Jerrett said he's learned, dealing with electricians and renovations, that the world of business does not move as fast as he would like.

It took a full year for the brewery to be open after he signed the lease; he was expecting that process to take only months.

Maddison Paetz stirs grain in Scudrunner's mash tun, using an oversized wooden ladle. Paetz says the grain and water mix in the tank, a process that's similar to steeping tea. That's the first step to making a brew. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

But, for Jerrett, it's been worth it.

"I'm really excited to get up and go to work and come here, I wasn't so much like that, at the end of the flying," he explains. "I feel like I get to contribute a little bit more to my immediate community."

Part of a movement

Maddison Paetz — a nurse, in her other life — started working with Scudrunner Brewing in April.

In her two years in Newfoundland, she's seen craft beer take hold. This brewery is part of that trend.

"It's kind of like cooking, you can create exactly what you want, so it saves you searching and searching for specific beer. It's fun. It's a hobby. It's a good way to meet other people."

Grains and water are heated and mixed at the Scudrunner mash tun at the brewery in Gander. The liquid is held in this container for about an hour, then a portion is transferred to another gigantic pot where it is boiled. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The creation is worthwhile — but she said it's better seeing other people enjoy your hard work.

"You're on your feet all day, 12-hour days, I mean it's just like working at the hospital!"

There's similarities to flying too, Jerrett said. He wants his brewing to be procedural, just like flying.

"I haven't had much of a chance to, yet, but I can take a lot of the things from aviation that I really liked, like the sort-of professional but fun work style," he said.

Empty Scudrunner-branded growlers on a shelf of the brewery in Gander. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Jerrett is a recent convert to craft brewing.

"In my younger days, I didn't really like beer, I'll say that. I'll admit it. I thought it all tasted the same, and it was pretty boring," he said.

All that changed when he moved to England.

"The culture surrounding beer and small craft breweries is completely different. It's been around for generations, people love hanging out at the pub."

When he moved back to Newfoundland and Labrador, he started brewing with a friend in his garage. And when he thought of Scudrunner, he couldn't turn back.

"I had the idea for the name, and I thought like 'this could be a real good thing here.' And that's what I've been focused on ever since I had that little flash."


Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander, N.L.