Hey there friends,
It is that time of year again for my annual trip down memory lane. My mother’s tradition of writing a New Year’s letter is one that I am very glad I took over. It gives the perfect encouragement to look back on the year that has gone by and to see all the progress and good that has come out of it. This year, even more than last, did I need this.
This is the third edition of the Meuse – A Year in Review. If you want to check out the other two, follow the links to 2019 and 2020. I would recap them here but so much has happened this year I think I will need all the room I can get!
Can you believe that this year started off with us still working on renovating our barn?! We were not even open to the public on the farm yet. Though it was finally close to being done. At the end of January, everything was well enough in its place that we received our license to brew on-farm! And we hopped right to it. Though we had a modest number of new releases this year, we kept busy experimenting with our farm-grown, locally malted, barley to dial in our recipes just right. Particularly that of our Saison de la Meuse, but more on that later. Though it was listed with the LCBO last May, in February the Simcoe Real Canadian Superstore was kind enough to give us some shelf space for our Saison as well.
The end of February was a really exciting time for us. Our faces were published in the newspaper with the headline “Norfolk couple operate farmhouse-style brewery”. If you want to learn about Mischa’s and my ‘meet cute’, you can read about it there. It was in that same article that we got to announce our bottle shop opening out of the back of our little barn. This coincidentally coincided with our incorporation anniversary. So, keep an eye out for some form of celebration around that time next year! This is definitely a milestone worth celebrating for us.
In March we were hand-delivered our hardware from the 2020 brewing awards. Three trophies in our first year. We are still blown away that out of all the participants our Rouge Cuvée had earned Best in Show in 2020. Putting up a shelf for that was definitely a proud moment.
March also kicked off our work with ALUS Norfolk, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to natural habitat restoration projects. At this time the ground around our old irrigation pond was soft enough to dig out into a wetland ecosystem. Over time this will grow and be surrounded by native prairie grasses and flowers to be home to countless species of plants, bugs, and animals. We think we might even have scored our first residents in a barley-loving (and thieving) muskrat and a painted turtle named Tortsie, thanks to our neighbours saving him off the road. Thanks to ALUS Norfolk we were also able to install some Blue Bird nesting boxes, which will hopefully be home to the beautiful birds in the spring. If you want to learn more about ALUS and their projects, definitly go check out their website.
April still saw a lot of planning for our patio. We broke ground, so to speak, on our hop circle which one day will provide some shade around our fire pit area. We sourced some locally made picnic tables. And, of course, Mischa worked countless hours on building our bar, brick by brick, and installing the pergola overtop (we’re just going to skip over the part where a wind storm this winter knocked down an old tree that took out a few beams. Come spring you won’t see a thing!). At the end of April, we launched our online store for curbside pick-up orders and re-opened our farm market.
For those of you who visited the farm will know that our chicken flock also expanded with not one but two batches of new chicks. This meant Mischa pulled out his woodworking equipment yet again, this time to build them a snazzy new chicken coop. Over the summer we gave them more spent grain than they could eat, watched them grow, and got to see their personalities develop. Yes, Bessy is still as entertaining as always.
Probably the most exciting thing to happen this year came with the opening of our Beer Garden at the end of June. Finally, albeit in limited regards, we were able to share our beer on the farm with all of you as we had envisioned. Well, maybe not quite as we had envisioned but we had beer, and pie, and coffee, and ice cream! This is definitely a milestone worth celebrating when we can.
Though the fall did close our patio for the season, we were able to partner with Small Batch Distribution to bring the beer straight to your front door with home delivery. It has been so much fun packing each order and seeing where it is going. I love interacting with everyone that comes into our place, but this allows for little interactions with those who can’t make it out.
In November we were in a shared feature called the Stubbornness of Local in the Growler Magazine, the Ontario Craft Beer Guide, courtesy of Maxime Morin (read the full article here). It was in a way both a really heartwarming piece and a cautionary tale on living the #SupportLocal. There is so much agriculture around us and so much potential to brew great beer with Ontario-grown ingredients. It inspired us to include the percentages of locally sourced ingredients along with our beers to remind us to always strive to support local ourselves through our business, and not just ask others to support local. We are proud to say, that our Extra (farmhouse pale ale) is the first of our beers to be brewed with 100% Ontario hops from Hayhoe hops, and 100% Canadian grown grains, including our own farm grown barley.
At this point, we were also able to move our bottle shop into our farm market. Our farm product, made from the barley grown on our fields, could finally take its place next to some of the best of Norfolk County’s products.
Then as a real December treat, we were once again honoured at the Ontario Brewing Awards. This time winning bronze with our 8 (Belgian dark strong) and gold with our Saison de la Meuse, the beer that started it all. This once again got our faces in the paper, along with two other award-winning Norfolk breweries. Read the full article “Norfolk craft breweries get provincial recognition” here.
So much has happened this year. Through the hustle and bustle of it all, we lose track of time and everything we have been able to achieve. Looking back we do have quite a bit to be grateful for. But most importantly we want to say thank you. To each and every one of you who have come into our little business to support us, physically, virtually, or just through the sharing of our story with friends and family. We want to say a warm and sincere thank you. We could not do what we do without each and every one of you. We are beyond grateful to live on our little corner of the earth doing what we love, surrounded by the best possible people.
With that, I want to close out this year with a cheers and a toast to better and brighter things in 2022.
Estelle and Mischa
The story of Meuse; to be continued!