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Brewing up golden suds

Full Beard Brewing opens its doors in Timmins

Jonathan St-Pierre had been helping restaurants and home brewers pour the perfect draught beer for 13 years before deciding Timmins deserved its own brew, and that he should be the man to deliver it.

As the owner of Tap It! Draught Services and Supplies, St-Pierre sells, rents and installs draught beer equipment, services the equipment, and even provides bartending services. But for the last three years, he had been brewing his own a concept for a local beer.

At the end of January, he and a partner launched Full Beard Brewing — named for St-Pierre’s lush, woolly scruff — which is currently brewing nine ales from a refurbished 4,800-square-foot building near the city’s downtown core.

“We're trying to be a positive in the City of Timmins,” St-Pierre said. “There is a lot of negativity quite a lot of times, and we're building something here, and I think we want to keep this city going. If we can be part of that in any way, that'd be awesome.”

The brewery’s signature beer is the Five O’Clock Shadow, described as a “clean, crisp ale with a hint of bitterness,” that appeals to a wide range of palettes.

Also on the menu is the Aussie Aussie Aussie Eh! Eh! Eh!, a combination of Aussie sparkling ale and Canadian blonde ale, inspired by head brewer, and Australian, Andrew Easthope, and his partner in life and brewing, Canadian Kirby Breeze-Scott.

There’s also the Bearded Prospector, a straw-coloured cream ale derived from a combination of barley and corn. It owes its origin to Timmins’ early prospectors — many of whom were bearded — who built the city and its mining legacy.

Rather than introduce speciality products that serve only a niche market of beer connoisseurs, St-Pierre wants to make varieties that appeal to a wide range of customers.

“We’re producing beers that people can drink,” he said.

The building itself is striking for the large window front, where visitors can immediately get a glimpse of the brewery’s inner workings. Inside, guests can enjoy a beer at a table in the taphouse, or grab a stool at the bar and chat with staff about the brewing process.

The open design was intentional, as it allows visitors to get a peek into the operation without tying up staff too busy to give tours.

“Everybody that comes in here, they’re fascinated by seeing it, and they don’t have to walk behind (the bar); they can see everything, which is nice,” St-Pierre said. “The interaction’s there.”

Full Beard currently has the capacity to brew 13,000 litres of beer, which is offered in cans, growlers, kegs, and draught, although another fermenter is on order from Criveller Group in Niagara Falls to expand capacity.

Local restaurants like Wacky Wings and Montana’s are carrying at least one of Full Beard’s varieties on tap, and St-Pierre’s loyal Tap It! customers are also stocking the brand in their home systems.

Years of creating relationships with the city’s beer lovers mean St-Pierre’s customers are eager to support his new endeavour, but they’re also excited about the idea of Timmins having a brew of its own. That it’s an affordable product, with a competitive price point, is a bonus.

“The town of Timmins is a hardworking mining and forestry town, so a lot of people save their money for other stuff,” St-Pierre said. “If we can get them to buy our beer and support us, rather than buy from the big breweries, then that’s what we want.”

Full Beard extends that support back into the community, working with local producers like Dabrowski’s Smoked Meats and Toffanello’s Fresh Pasta to cater events hosted at the taphouse.

They’re some of a handful of small mom-and-pop type businesses that have been popping up in the area, creating a growing enclave of young, mid-30s-aged entrepreneurs seeking to put their stamp on the community.

“We're all in the same boat,” St-Pierre said. “We want to make sure this community thrives.”

Full Beard sources its hops from locally grown crops and has enlisted local artisans to produce handcrafted merchandise, such as mugs and soap. A local baker even repurposes the spent grain for use in their homemade dog biscuits.

As Full Beard gains in popularity, the brewery has been enlisted to cater weddings and other events. The beer will be on tap this summer at festivals in Timmins, Wawa and Smooth Rock Falls. During the Canadian Mining Expo in May, the brewery hosted a private party for 65 people at its taphouse.

Beyond Timmins, Full Beard is on tap at selected bars and restaurants in North Bay, Sudbury and Espanola, and St-Pierre said additional agreements are in negotiation.

With the popularity of craft beer still steadily rising, St-Pierre believes there’s longevity in the industry, and is equally optimistic about the longevity of Full Beard.

“We’re really heavily involved in the community, and we’re trying to get everybody involved,” he said. “I think we’re going to be here for a long time.”