FREDERICTON – Like many great businesses, Fredericton’s Grimross Brewing Company got its start as a hobby.
Co-owner Stephen Dixon loved the science and craft that goes into making beer, which led him to brew his own creations in the basement of his home for friends.
“For years, I was always exploring different beers. So many people would drink that one flavour of beer all the time. It was often a very light, low-taste, fizzy yellow water,” says Dixon. “To me, that’s like eating macaroni and cheese for every meal for the rest of your life. Why would you do that?”
He was on a mission to turn his friends on to as many kinds of beer as possible.
“Whenever I would have friends over at our house, I’d do a little beer tasting, whether it was my beers, other craft beers or imported beers,” he said. “I wanted to expose people to what beer is beyond the one beer that they have known their whole life. That was fun for me.”
Soon Dixon realized his fun hobby had the potential to be a full-time job and career,
“There was a point in my life where I wanted to do something different,” said Dixon. “I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing and it was the right time to start a craft brewery. I talked to my wife, Dawn, and she thought it was a good idea,” said Dixon.
“We thought let’s take that love of creating beer and that love of sharing beer and bring it together and open a craft brewery.”
In 2012, Grimross Brewery was incorporated. For the first little while, the business was still being run out of their basement. In fact, they were the first brewery in New Brunswick to be granted a license to operate out of a basement.
“Initially, I had a 10 x 17 ft room in my basement. That was the very first brewery for Grimross,” says Dixon.
“One day I was in talking to Sean Dunbar, the owner of Picaroons, who is a friend of mine, and he said, ‘I got this brewery downstairs we’re not using on Queen Street, why don’t you use that?”
Grimross moved to the basement of Picaroon’s Brewtique on Queen Street in downtown Fredericton. Dixon worried that it’s too much space and that they wouldn’t be able to sell all the beer they produced.
He was mistaken.
“We started brewing there and from day one, we were unable to keep up with demand,” Dixon says. “As soon as we pretty much got going, the demand was so high, we realized it was time to put the business plan together to open the space we are in now.”
In 2014, Grimross opened its brewery and taproom at 600 Bishop’s Drive in Fredericton. The location has since become more than just a brewery, but a gathering place for people in the city. Grimross hosts regular events ranging from live music to trivia and game nights.
“I think our space has a niche in Fredericton,” says Dixon. “We have the bars downtown that have awesome small venues for bar nights and things like that. Then you have venues like the Playhouse or the Fredericton Farmers Market and those are great for big events and concerts, but you really have no medium option. We’re small enough to be cozy, comfy and intimate, but big enough to bring in an exciting crowd.”
Grimross beers are now carried throughout in all NB Liquor stores and throughout restaurants around the province. Recently, they’ve expanded into Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. They also have retailers out west in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“That’s been going quite well,” says Dixon. “We’re pretty pleased with our growth in that regard.”
The brewery has come a long way from its humble beginnings. But it couldn’t have gotten to where they are today without the help of organizations like Planet Hatch, which helped Grimross secure the funding they needed to grow.
“The problem is very few people want to take a chance on entrepreneurs, especially when they’re very small and they don’t have a track record. To get bank debt or even most government programs, the barriers are too high, because most people don’t have $100,000 just sitting around in their wallet to be able to play with,” says Dixon.
“Small business is what really drives our economy; that you can lower the barrier of entry for some people is incredibly important.”
The brewery has no plans on slowing down its growth. Dixon says they’re currently working on growing their exports, with plans to continue to grow in Canada and expand into an international market.
“It’s relatively new for us to be in Nova Scotia and P.E.I., Alberta, and Saskatchewan,” he says. “We’re looking mostly to grow those markets and then to look beyond to international markets.”
Where they plan to go internationally is still being determined.
“What I’m doing right now is I’m meeting with advisors. I’m exploring and researching different markets to find out what would be best … Right now, I’m doing my homework to figure out where we should really focus our efforts.”
This story was sponsored by Ignite Fredericton.
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