Inspired by the four rivers that flow into the Bathurst harbour – Nepisiguit, Tetagouche, Little and Middle – Four Rivers Brewing Co. has been delighting New Brunswick microbrewery and beer aficionados since opening at the start of 2018.
We spoke with co-founder René Legacy about the burgeoning microbrewery scene in New Brunswick and what he feels keeps customers coming back.
How did you get into this business?
My oldest son Chris was attending university in Halifax and noticed how popular microbreweries had become during the time he was there. When he came back to Bathurst, he looked at the feasibility of importing microbrewery products back to the Bathurst area, but that turned to discussions about making our own beer instead. It’s something that we felt could hold a lot of potential.
It seems as though the microbrewery landscape in New Brunswick has just exploded over the last decade. What do you attribute its’ success to?
Flavour has a lot to do with it. Microbreweries use natural, fresh products to make their beer and once people get a taste of that, they tend to want to expand their horizons. I think it’s also the experience that microbreweries offer; they give people the opportunity to sample something they might not have tried if they hadn’t gone to the microbrewery itself. But I think the biggest reason behind microbreweries’ success is the fact people want to support locally-made products.
With so much growth in this industry, do you worry about the fact there’s a significant amount of what could be perceived as competition?
There’s a very cordial relationship between the brewers in the province. We share information among one another and work well together. It’s been a rewarding experience. But I don’t know that any of us see other microbreweries as competition. I think we each have our niche, and, because people are more likely to try other microbreweries once they’ve tried one, there’s room for everyone.
What do you like about this business? What don’t you like?
The most obvious part of what we love about the business is the sense of local pride. It’s not just about us selling beer, it’s about people in the Bathurst community and the product serving as an ambassador of sorts for the region. It’s stirred up a real feeling of pride among those here in Bathurst and those people who might not be living here anymore. People have been quick to send us messages about how much they enjoy the product.
And honestly, I can’t say there’s really anything I don’t like about the business just yet. We’re still in the honeymoon phase. There has been a bit of a learning curve for all of us, but it’s been exciting.
What was a challenge you faced in this business?
Every day tends to be different, but one of the biggest overall challenges so far is how everything seems to take a lot of time. It’s hectic, but not in a negative way.
Being a small province, I’d consider the biggest challenge is the population density, especially in the northern part of the province. If Bathurst was a city of 100,000 or 150,000 people, it might make the business easier to run in some respects. Logistically speaking, we have to go further to get our product out there to the rest of the province, but it’s not impossible by any means.
What is it about your work that inspires you?
The fact that it’s a creative, youthful environment. It’s a lot of fun to be around and also fun to be a part of because we regularly encounter people who are interested in more than just the beer. They come in wanting to sample the region’s food and get a taste of what we’re all about.
Can you think of an example of how you support local?
We buy as much as we can locally, from our merchandise to some of the ingredients we’re using. We’ve started reaching out more to the agricultural community for product ingredients, and we also support them by giving our grain to farmers to help feed their animals.
Do you have any advice for others looking to start a business?
Plan ahead and, most importantly, stick to the plan. There will be a lot of curves in the road, and while it may be tempting to deviate from your plan based on the advice or opinions of others, you ultimately have to stay true to yourself.
What would you say to others asking why you choose to live and operate a business in NB?
Truthfully, I’ve never bought into the negative stigma about NB. I think you’re going to get out of your business what you put into it. I’ve always been a big believer in my hometown and my province and think we all win when we rally behind that. Virtually all successful business people in the Maritimes have weathered tough times but ultimately figured it out. Nothing is easy but you’ll emerge stronger in the end.
What do you think about this initiative to encourage NBers to buy products and services made in NB?
I think it’s great because if I have a product I want to sell to the world, how can I successfully do that if I can’t convince the people in my backyard to support it? I have no doubt that New Brunswick-made products can compete on the world stage.