Kahnawake's first brewery gives nod to Mohawk ironworkers
This story was originally published May 13, 2018
It all started with a black bridge, the legends of the Mohawk ironworkers and an idea for a microbrewery.
But before we get to the beers, a little backstory. Though he is now one of four co-owners of the brewery, Fred Leblanc was an ironworker for two decades. He explained his connection to the historic black bridge.
"In 1900, they were re-building the train bridge and there were a whole bunch of French people working on it. And they had a few Mohawk labourers on the job. One day, the superintendent came around after supper and saw the Mohawk Indians climbing all over the steel and the rest is history. That's where we really got recognized as ironworkers because, for some reason, the balance is good and [there's] no fear of heights. And it all started with this black bridge," he recalled.
They also brew Goose Neck, a Belgian Wit that's brewed traditionally with orange peel and coriander, Hard Days Work is an English style bitter beer, the Bull Pen is their American pale ale. Their stout is named for an ironworker's big hammer: the Bammer. Their selection is rounded out with a double IPA and for those that don't drink, they serve kombucha.
Andrew Stevens one of the other co-owners, sampled a brew during the interview with Unreserved's Rosanna Deerchild.
"It's quality assurance, you know," he laughed.
The beer has the usual staple ingredients — water, yeast, hops, malt (which could be barley, wheat, oats, you name it) — but the company also looks locally for other inspiration.
Being the first microbrewery means they pioneered legislation in the area, too. They worked with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Board to create the laws because there weren't any in place that covered beer manufacturing.
"The process was a very educational, instructive and, actually, a fun process to be a part of because it was nice to have part of our input in the regulations. And it's not just for us but for anybody else who wants to start a brewery in the future," Stevens said.
"Our hope was to create a place here to put out a good product and to have people who could come here, both Native and non-Native, you know, taste our wares and drink in a good atmosphere without fear of racism or anything," Leblanc said.
"This is what I was hoping personally to accomplish with this company here. I think we already accomplished it. It could only get better. I'm really proud of what we did and I'm happy."