Can a craft brewery survive in sleepy Pasadena, Newfoundland?
For Jim MacDonald, Newfoundland and Labrador is the land of opportunity when it comes to the craft beer business.
“I’m from Ontario and the craft beer market there is almost saturated,” MacDonald says. “Here it’s not. It’s almost like a frontier area.” MacDonald, along with business partners Norm MacDonald (his dad) and Jennifer Galliot, are hoping to blaze a successful trail through this virgin territory with their venture: Western Newfoundland Brewing Company Ltd.
There are six licenced craft breweries in the province, but Western Newfoundland Brewing Company is the only one operating on the western side of the island. Located in the town of Pasadena, an hour’s drive south of Gros Morne National Park, the business was incorporated in 2014. As this magazine went to press, the fledgling brewery was finally ready to sell its product to the local market — mostly licenced bars and restaurants in nearby Corner Brook.
Western Newfoundland is no metropolis, but roughly 300,000 people visit Gros Morne National Park each year. MacDonald thinks they can sell a lot of suds to thirsty vacationers heading to and from the park. “Tourists often ask, ‘What’s the local beer?’ There wasn’t one,” he says.
Now there is, and the plan is to start small and grow from there. The company only has three employees (MacDonald, his dad and Galliot) and is currently capable of producing 120-160 standard kegs of beer per month. It will sell its draft beer in kegs servicing the local market for now, but the owners want to graduate to selling their brew in cans.
They also have dreams of exporting the beer beyond the cozy confines of western Newfoundland, which could be a challenge considering how many craft breweries have sprung up in Atlantic Canada of late. “We can sell Newfoundland as an idea, put it in a bottle and sell it outside the island,” MacDonald says. “Craft brewing is a phenomenon, and I think it’s here to stay.