Canada's oldest and largest independent brewer is learning to think small, in a bid to compete with a fast-growing craft beer market and meet consumers' demand for more variety.
Moosehead will open a small batch brewery and taproom on Saturday after spending approximately $5 million to remodel a portion of its main brewhouse in Saint John, N.B.
Moosehead's president and CEO, Andrew Oland, sipped a cold beer Friday and said consumers have become far more interested in experimenting and trying different brands.
"This project ... gives us lots of ability to experiment and innovate," he said.
Oland said the small batch system allows them to produce up to 40 kegs at a time, as compared to their main system where batches are 700 kegs.
New craft breweries are opening at an impressive rate across Canada, offering consumers regional and seasonal choices on site, or to take home in bottles or growlers.
Much of the attraction has been their small size and ability to experiment, and Oland said he hopes consumers don't think Moosehead is too big to do the same thing.
"We are who we are. We're Moosehead. We're not super big, but we're bigger than most of the small folks," he said.
"We think that we have a very authentic story. We think that every craft brewer ultimately would like to grow up to be Moosehead and become multi-generational."
Moosehead celebrated its 150th anniversary last year. The company was founded in 1867 by Oland's great, great, great grandmother, Susannah Oland.
The first beer that she brewed was a October brown ale, and as a tribute, the new taproom has an October brown ale inspired by her recipe.
The taproom, brewery and gift shop are all housed in a tidy 2,500-square-foot section of the main brewery, and all tours will begin and end there.
Aside from the October Brown Ale, the new taproom has other small-batch beers including a stout, Dunkel-Weizen, Bock and Session IPA.
Oland said they hope to be able to experiment and offer others as time goes by.
"Typically on a Friday afternoon, my brother Patrick and I and a group of our brewers will just sample 30 or 40 different beers from around the world. What do we like about that, or like about this? This just gives us the opportunity to brew so many more styles of beer," he said.