This week Picaroons is opening the newest of its locations in Saint John. The new brewtique will offer a selection of beer, produced locally, as well as operating as something best described as an artisanal general store. But it’s just one part of the bigger puzzle that Picaroons is putting together. In fact, it’s only one of three locations they’re opening in New Brunswick this year.
Sean Dunbar is a dangerous man. He will sit you down with a beer, which is all well and good; as the owner of Picaroons, the largest craft beer brewery in the province, it’s his primary business. But once you’ve had your beer, and you’ve relaxed a bit, he’s going to get you talking, and then he’s going to get you thinking. Beer is the gateway drug he uses to hook people into dropping their inhibitions, and start talking about their ambitions. It’s the way he gets people to become innovators, and leaders, and builders in their communities.
Dunbar is willing to go so far out of his way to accomplish this that Picaroons is opening three community spaces across New Brunswick. Coincidently, each location also brews and sells beer.
The first location has been a big move for the company: the development of the former Gibson Roundhouse on Fredericton’s North Side. The location, which after a couple years of work, now serves as their primary brewery and office space, both of which only occupy a fraction of the available space. An already large building that’s even deceptively larger, there’s an almost intimidating amount of potential. Facing outward onto to Saint John River, next to Fredericton’s Walking Bridge, the area was redesigned with community in mind, providing opportunities for a beer garden, a community space, a venue, a bike-through growler fill-up station, and a tourism centre. But also maybe canning equipment.
“I don’t know what the heck to do with it,” says Dunbar. “I have some possibilities, but these are just some open possibilities developed a year ago. The problem is that some days it looks like a big party space, and most days it looks like a place that I want to put brewing equipment.”
The second location is on Saint John’s Canterbury Street, in the old car park. It’s part of a larger uptown rejuvenation project by Historica Developments that also houses Real Food Connections and the Buckland Merrifield Gallery. Stephen Kopp, one of the architects at The Acre, who have designed the Fredericton and Saint John locations, explains that the Saint John location is meant to fill a gap in the uptown community: that of a much needed general store, “It’s really a beer tasting table within a store. It’s going to have custom curated crafted objects and we called it the General Store for that reason. So you can maybe buy diapers, mouse traps, tooth paste, along with curated items. That’s what a general store used to be: they were places where you could kind of get anything.”
Besides being a place to pick up artisanal craft goods and essentials after many uptown shops close for the evening, The General Store is also intended to be a community meeting place, and an adaptable space as necessity dictates. But did we mention that they also intend to brew and sell beer?
The Picaroon’s General Store is scheduled to open sometime this week, pending final approval from ABNL.
The third location will be at the old CPR train station at 5 King Street in St. Stephen, and opening around the long weekend in May. Picaroons will be partnering with Lisa Aronson, a former chef from the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrews to create ‘The Five Kings’ restaurant inside of the brewery, or vice versa. Dunbar explains the choice of location wasn’t an idea of his own, but an opportunity brought to him where he saw the potential to do the most good, “I tend to be a sucker for doing something with a bigger ‘why’ to it than what we’re doing. St Stephen is a group of citizens who are trying to rebuild their town. How do you say no to that?”
Dunbar says that Picaroons will continue to produce and sell beer from their Brewtique on downtown Fredericton’s Queen Street, but expects a decision will have to be made whether to maintain two outlets within the city.
The full expansion of all the microbreweries will mean a combined potential to quadruple last year’s production levels. Philosophical output across the province is expected to increase exponentially.
“All these people have these ideas; they never get together, they never sit down and have enough beer to convince themselves that they can actually do it. That’s one of the roles of what we do. Beer brings people together. Beer helps people be more honest. When you’re honest with each other you start to trust each other, and good things flow from that. That’s how ideas come about. That’s why towns need a place for people to get together and do those sorts of things. A quiet public place to talk about ideas is an amazing thing. Beer helps take you over that edge of, ‘Alright, this is going to sound crazy, and I normally wouldn’t tell you, but I have this idea…’ and if you talk to enough people and have that conversation, you run into enough people that go, ‘That’s not a crazy idea at all!’ or ‘Give me another beer and I might think that’s a good idea.’ That’s how innovation happens, and community planning, and community thinking, and building businesses. That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we make beer.”
For more information visit www.picaroons.ca
As a thank you to our supporters, Adam Travis’s complete photoshoot from Picaroons’ new brewery on Fredericton’s north side can be seen on our Patreon account.