While colleagues at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), Joe Allen and Ray Fitzpatrick were well-travelled and enjoyed a good beer. So much so that they made it a point to sample local beverages in every city and town they visited. “If there was a local beer we tried it,” says Allen. “When we discussed starting our own business, beer just made sense. It was something we were both clearly passionate about.”
Allen says the duo soon realized, however, that Fredericton already had its fair share of breweries as the craft beer craze had already taken off. “There were already so many great breweries in New Brunswick, but when we were in the ideation stage there was only a handful of incorporated distillers in the province. That was our opportunity.”
That’s the Spirit!
Founded in January 2018, Devil’s Keep Distillery is already making New Brunswick proud with an impressive array of award-winning products.
The company’s first big win came in 2019 with a platinum win from the SIP Awards, an international consumer judging competition. Subsequent award wins include a pair of silver medals from the Canadian Artisanal Spirits Awards, a silver medal from the World Gin Awards, and back-to-back gold medal wins at the World Vodka Awards – the only Canadian brand to manage that feat in 2020-2021.
Support Makes the Difference
Both founders maintain full-time jobs beyond the distillery, so support from various corners of the province has been essential. Allen credits Grand-Falls-based CCNB Research Chemist Mike Doucette for his help in creating their award-winning recipes. “Mike is truly a godsend to the province’s craft alcohol sector, he’s helped just about every distillery, brewery, and winery in New Brunswick and beyond.”
Allen says the ability to connect easily with partners like CCNB is New Brunswick’s most notable business advantage. “Our smaller size makes it easy to connect with people. CCNB, ACOA, DAAF – all the support you need is at your fingertips. Any time a new initiative comes up I get contacted by ONB to make us aware; there’s been great communication between us. It’s a very cooperative and collaborative environment in New Brunswick.”
The Buy Local Movement
Support doesn’t end with the public sector. Allen says the Buy Local movement – strengthened over the past year in the face of COVID-19 – has been a boon for the distillery. “People are supporting local vendors perhaps more than ever now. We were fortunate enough to be featured in Excellence NB’s Holiday Gift Guide last year, a great initiative for local businesses.”
Allen also notes the ease with which he can contact his fellow NBCAPA members for help with challenges. “You can reach out to anyone, even competitors, and people want to help. Everyone recognizes we’re all in this together.”
Early Export Success
Devil’s Keep is now selling products in Nova Scotia and has its eyes on Prince Edward Island and beyond. Allen says they are focused on solidifying their domestic market before making a full-court press into foreign regions (ONB’s Steve Kelly advised exactly that in a recent piece). “We are thrilled with our progress so far, but we know we need to own our backyard first. When people think Devil’s Keep, we want them to think New Brunswick.”
The company walks the walk – all raw materials are purchased locally through groups like the New Brunswick Seed Growers Co-Op. Allen says people should not be afraid to buy local, because New Brunswick competes with the best in the world. “Our craft alcohol scene really is world-class, and we need to be more vocal about that. If you have doubts, park them. Enjoy a New Brunswick beverage proudly.”
Learn more at https://devilskeepdistillery.ca/