Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet Sean Dunbar: Owner Northampton Brewery NB

Meet Sean Dunbar, owner/brewer/marketer extraordinaire of Northampton Brewery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Dunbar recently visited Toronto to accept a handful of Canadian Brewing Awards and we had a chance to catch up to discuss our favourite hobby - beer. Not only is Dunbar a terrific brewer, he is a terrific individual who is one of the most passionate craft brewers I have come across. He has interesting views on the industry and was a delight to talk to. Find out more about him below.


Where is the Northampton Brewery and what beers do you currently produce?
Northampton Brewing Co. is located in Fredericton, New Brunswick. We currently produce beer under the brand name of Picaroons Traditional Ales.

We have the following beers in the portfolio:
Best Bitter Ale
Irish Red Ale
Simeon Jones River Valley Amber Ale
Dooryard Summer Ale
Winter Warmer
Blonde Ale
Dark and Stormy Night
Maple Cream Ale
Yippee IPA
Man’s Best Friend Porter
Timberhog Stout

Describe the history behind the brewery.
The brewery was originally opened beside an existing pub in 1995. We maxed out the little 8 HL system and finally got around to expanding to a 30 HL brewery in 1999. The expansion was a disaster and we went out of business. It wasn’t the beer’s fault. After considering and discarding some other career choices, I scraped up $ 30,000.00 in 2000 and started again with the old 7 HL system from the original Granite Brewery in Halifax. I pledged never to expand again and worked out of a 1000square foot warehouse for about five years. We pretty much just sold what we could produce, almost all of it in the Fredericton area. The constant demand finally got to me two years ago and we found an old 15 HL Peter Austin system that had brewed originally at Reds Brewpub in the West Edmonton Mall. That’s been up and running in a larger facility for about a year now. We still sell all we can brew.

What is your best selling beer?
Year –round, Picaroons Best Bitter is our best seller.

What's new at the brewery? Events, new beers, milestones, awards?
Jeez. Let me see…. We brought out six new styles in bottles last Spring so I’ve pledged to hold off on new beers for a couple of months. Our Winter Warmer launches for the season on November first so we’ve been busy brewing that to fill the pipeline. We did pick up a couple of CBAs in September and that was nice. We hosted an AC/DC party event last week at the brewery, in conjunction with a local radio station. Pretty tame, really. We had hidden all the sharp instruments and plastic wrapped the whole place but it seems AC/DC fans are getting older, and calmer. And they kept asking if we had rum.

Why did you get into the brewing industry and describe your passion for it.
I got in by accident and grew to love making beer. I am passionate about beer and about beer’s place in our society. I really do think brewers who make good beer are helping to make the world a better place.

What is the best aspect of owning a craft brewery in Canada?
I have more friends than I did when I was a lawyer.

Describe the relationship between the East Coast breweries.
I think we’re all pretty cooperative, especially when we’re away from home or fighting a common foe. Within the various provinces, the rivalries definitely exist but we all seem to play fair for the most part. As far as I know we’re all still speaking to each other.

Where can someone find your products?
Picaroons Traditional Ales are available in bottles at most NB Liquor stores in New Brunswick most of the time. We have licensee accounts throughout NB as well, but only a few.

Tell us something about Picaroon's that not a lot of people know about.
None of us who brew the beer have had any sort of formal training.

What advantages do smaller breweries have over the big guys?
We have the flexibility to take chances.

How was your recent trip to Ontario for the Canadian Brewing Awards?
It was quick. I flew up, went to the event, had a few beers a Smokeless Joe’s afterwards and flew back the next morning. The beer was great, as was the hospitality.

Best time for a pint?
Right after a long brew day.

What is the highlight of your brewing career?
Honestly, the best thing to ever happen in my career was the first time I stood in line at a liquor store and watched someone I didn’t know buy my beer. I still get the same kick every time it happens.

Picture: Dunbar accepting an award from Stephen Beaumont


John Lang said...

Sean has been a great supporter of our Perth-Andover, NB events like the Gathering of the Scots and our Whisky Pairings Dinners. Many thanks. John Lang
PS. He is planning to do a BEER Pairings Dinner for us in the fall of 2009 "OktoberFest" style ?
We should all be buying local- Picaroons, that is.

Troy Burtch said...

John - I've had the pleasure to meet Sean when he came to Toronto for the Canadian Brewing Awards gala, and thought he was a great guy, and a very passionate brewery owner.

Thanks for reading the blog.


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