It’s December already?! Where has the time gone. Every year around this time, my mom writes a New Year’s Letter for family and friends sharing what has happened in the past year. I think that’s a nice tradition to carry on with our brewery. It gives a chance to reflect on everything that has happened and be grateful for everything we have accomplished.
Though it was in June 2018 that Mischa and I fully committed to starting our own brewery, it wasn’t unit February 2019 that we officially incorporated and bought our farm. Meuse Brewing was born! Going through the exercise of figuring out our brand was an interesting one. It made for some lengthy discussions about why we want to start a brewery, what our personal and company values are, the styles of beer that excite us, and the kind of lifestyle we want with running our own company. We still have these conversations almost daily. It’s those conversations that remind us why we are doing what we’re doing. At the core, we take what we do seriously but do not want to over complicate it. We get excited mainly about traditional, true to style European style beers. With both of us having been born in the Netherlands and having lived in Belgium, we want to incorporate our experiences from there in our Norfolk County brewery. When it comes down to lifestyle, we love the country. There’s a lot to be said for being a brewery in the city, but we would miss being surrounded by nature and farms. I grew up pretty much in my parents’ greenhouse, and Mischa spent the greater part of his childhood on his parents’ mushroom farm.
Find out more about our project here.
So, we moved into our new place on our farm the last day of February and decided to take some time to renovate and make the house our own. Fun and frustrating, we really got to know our new home. We took out some carpet and a few walls, patched and painted, and gave the kitchen a new colour and counter top, reworked some ducts and finally finished three months later with the garage. We figured we would practice what we could in the house in terms of renovation skills so we could be ready to work the brewery when the time comes! Finishing the garage finally gave us the space we wanted and needed to be able to homebrew and develop our flagship recipe. We knew our first beer would be a Saison, a traditional farmhouse blond, but wanted it to be unique to us. This is the style of beer that we tend towards when we are in the mood for something thirst quenching. We took our time to select our house yeast strain. This was probably one of the most fun parts of the recipe creation process. We would brew a basic Saison recipe, split up the brew into separate vessels, each getting a unique yeast to ferment with. After having done this a number of times, we decided to share our creations with a few people to see what the feedback would be. Surprisingly, or almost as a sign, most of the feedback came back pretty much in line with how we felt, making our decisions fairly easy.
During the summer months we decided to get acquainted with our farm. While leaving the designs for our production space up to the professionals, we have been looking at how we want to landscape our property to make sure visitors to our farm have a comfortable seat to enjoy our beers. At this point we teamed up with ALUS to discuss options for incorporating some of their projects on our land. To start off we will work with an existing pond to restore some habitat in the form of a wetland, complementing and expanding on the existing wetland. Come next spring we will continue our work to establish our tree grove and brewer’s garden to showcase some of the fruits, herbs and spices we want to work with in the beer. These will take a while to establish, especially those fruit trees, but we’re sure they will be worth the wait! Finally, and by no means any less important, we are working with one of our neighbours to come up with the plans for growing barley on our property. We hope that this will lead to us getting our own barley malted for use in our beer for that real farm to glass product that we would like to produce.
Our biggest milestone this year would have to be this past November when we received our manufacturing license to start producing beer! Exciting as that is in and of itself, it came with a whirlwind of other activities. We order glassware and spirit wear. We took a few (hundred) hours and taught ourselves some basic graphic design skills to create our coasters, keg collars, and labels. We borrowed some tools from family to create our tap handles and bottle openers. Each one will be hand decorated, so forgive us for any imperfections you may notice from one to another! All decked out in our swag, we have to get our beer out into the hands of all of you thirsty people! December means we are looking forward to launching our first batch of beer and we will start to get in touch with restaurants and bars to see who we can partner with.
Mischa and I are looking forward to the new year, and the new decade, with excitement. We finally get to start sharing our passion project with the world. We hope that you like what we have to offer and will stick with us on our journey over the next few months and years. We are so grateful for the opportunity we have to do what we love and can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next!
Happy Holidays and Merry New Year,
Mischa & Estelle