Shane Steeves had been brewing beer at home for more than 20 years when, encouraged by years of positive reviews from friends and family, he decided to try his hand at commercial brewing.
In February 2014 he delivered his first keg, and Hammond River Brewing was off and running. Just over three years later, Steeves is moving into a new facility in Rothesay that will increase his output, and keep up with growing demand for his beer.
Timed with an announcement today from Hammond River Brewing and ONB we spoke to Shane to learn more.
ONB: First, what are you and ONB announcing, and what does it mean for your company?
Steeves: We are announcing that I am making a move to a great new facility in Rothesay, adjacent to the Barrel’s Head Gastropub. I’m going from a 900 square foot brewery to a 3,000 square foot production facility and tasting room.
I’ll be brewing both 15 and 30 barrel batches of beer, dramatically increasing my output. Until now all of my beer was delivered only via keg. Once we’re established in the new location the tasting room attached to the Barrel’s Head will allow customers to come in and fill growlers or stay for a pint. A bottling line is being added as part of this expansion as well, so I’ll be able to deliver bottled product, both on-site and on Alcool NB Liquor (ANBL) shelves.
ONB support will help with the expansion, including equipment purchase and leasehold improvements.
ONB: There is a real enthusiasm in New Brunswick for craft brewing. It has grown tremendously over the past few years. We had only six small breweries in the province in 2013; now we have 29.
Steeves: I can’t speak highly enough about the industry here in New Brunswick. All of us craft brewers in the province are friends; we’re all helping each other grow. It’s an amazing industry to be a part of. I’m happier doing this than any other business I’ve worked in, the camaraderie amongst brewers is amazing.
And yes, it’s fantastic to see how much the industry has grown in just the three years I’ve been at it.
ONB: When we spoke to Red Rover’s Adam Clawson he noted the same thing. Local brewers were among their earliest supporters. It’s not a case of people looking out for themselves, fearing new competitors.
Steeves: It’s so far from that type of environment. My tanks arrived from P.E.I., and the first person on-site was Sean Doyle of Long Bay Brewery up the road. He was here to help out. That’s the calibre of people I’m working with.
It’s not about seeing a competitor; people here see a like-minded individual. I’m ecstatic that there are three of us in the Kennebecasis Valley now. People are more likely to come out and sample three different breweries’ beers versus one.
ONB: Can you speak a bit more about your relationship with ONB?
Steeves: I’ve been dealing with ONB for a couple of years now. It’s taken a while for me to get my ducks in a row for this expansion, but ONB has obviously played a big role in helping the company grow to this point, as well as ACOA and our BDC. My hat’s off to all three parties as this wouldn’t be possible without them. This ONB announcement will not only mean increased output, it will help me create three new positions. So I won’t be a one-man show anymore.
In terms of future work with ONB, we’re now looking at export development opportunities. After the new location is running, and I’ve got bottles on ANBL shelves, the next goal is exporting beyond New Brunswick. I intend to start with Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and go from there.
ONB: As a one-man show, how do you go about marketing?
Steeves: To be honest, I can barely keep up with demand as is, so there’s been no need to do much marketing beyond free social media platforms. We’ve got Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I’m a big fan of UnTappd, a social network for beer enthusiasts. I used it before I became a professional brewer myself and follow activity on it pretty regularly. It’s interesting to see what my patrons are saying about our products and what else they’re drinking. I definitely think it’s driving awareness and getting more people to try us out.
ONB: Final thoughts?
Steeves: I cannot reiterate enough how amazing this industry is to be involved with. The brewers are such a good group, ready to help. That includes me; I’m here to help up-and-coming brewers too. This is a very pay-it-forward type of industry. It’s been an awesome ride so far, and I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level. We hope to make the KV, and New Brunswick in general, a beer lover’s destination.
Written by Jason Boies
Images via Hammond River Brewing