McAuslan Brewing began operations in January of 1989. Located at 4850 St-Ambroise Street in Montreal’s St-Henri district, it has established itself as Quebec’s foremost micro-brewery.
The brewery launched its first beer in February 1989. St-Ambroise Pale Ale was an immediate success. Its distinctive hoppy-ness and clear reddish hue set it apart and gained it an instant following. Shortly after, McAuslan Brewing became the first micro-brewery to offer its product in bottles.
Since that time, McAuslan Brewing has steadily expanded both its brewing capacity and its place in the market. In the ten years since launching St-Ambroise, the brewery has introduced four new beers: St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout in December of 1991; the Griffon brands, Griffon Extra Pale Ale and Griffon Brown Ale in April of 92; and Frontenac – first test-marketed in the Quebec-City area in November 1995 and then launched province-wide in April 1996.
In June 1997, the brewery launched a family of seasonal beers. The four beers are brewed exclusively in season and include: Apricot Wheat Ale, brewed in the spring; Raspberry Ale, available during the summer months; Spiced Pumpkin Ale for the fall; and Strong Ale, for the winter.
In 1998, McAuslan, in conjunction with Verger du Minot, began distributing cider on draft. Mystique Cider in bottles was launched the same year.
McAuslan Brewing is essentially the result of president Peter McAuslan’s belief that he could brew a better beer and that Quebec consumers would provide a loyal following for it. Although he had been brewing his own beer for more than 25 years, it was only during the early ’80s that he began seriously considering going into commercial brewing. In August 1987, he left his position as a senior administrator at Dawson College and dedicated himself to turning his vision into reality.
The next year was spent consolidating funding, acquiring expertise and equipment, as well as gathering a team of people with the skills and temperament to make the venture a success. An English brewmaster was hired to develop the recipe for St-Ambroise and he, along with Ellen Bounsall, a biologist who trained as a brewmaster, set about the important task of establishing the brewery’s reputation for distinctive beers that have since been acknowledged by critics internationally as being among the world’s best. The brewery’s beers have now won over 12 medals in international competition including a platinum medal, a gold, five silvers and one bronze.
Although the staff at McAuslan Brewing has expanded from five to 40 people, the brewery retains its character as a business on a human scale and with a human face. McAuslan Brewing’s commitment to being active in the community has been affirmed as the company has grown. Critical to this has been the company’s support of the arts, community events and charities that are a vital part of the social fabric of the communities in which its products are sold.
Chronology of McAuslan Brewing
- August: Peter McAuslan devotes himself full time to planning and founding McAuslan Brewing
- January: Business plan is completed
- May: McAuslan Brewing is incorporated, and financing is completed
- August: British brewmaster Allan Pugsley is hired. The necessary brewing equipment is purchased
- September: Construction begins at the St-Ambroise Street location
- December: Construction is completed and the brewing equipment is installed. The St-Ambroise recipe is completed
- January 17: McAuslan Brewing begins operations in the St. Henri area of Montreal at 4850 St-Ambroise Street. First brewing of St-Ambroise Pale Ale
- February: First sales of St-Ambroise Pale Ale
- May: St-Ambroise becomes the first micro-brewed beer in Quebec to be sold in bottles
- Sales increase by 306% over 1989
- February: St-Ambroise Pale Ale receives a three-star rating in the Simon & Schuster World Book of Beer
- December: St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout is introduced, and production of five-litre mini kegs of St-Ambroise Pale Ale begins
- October: First exports to New England
- April: Griffon Extra Pale and Griffon Brown Ale launched
- May: Brewery expands production capacity to 20,000 hectolitres or nearly 250,000 cases of beer
- April: McAuslan Brewing products become available at Ontario L.C.B.O. retail outlets
- June: McAuslan Brewing brews their 1000th batch of St.Ambroise and Griffon. 15 million servings !
- November: Sales in the U.S. expand to include Connecticut and WashingtonD.C.
- October: St-Ambroise Pale Ale is called the best beer in Quebec by preeminent beer author and critic Michael Jackson during a visit to Montreal.
- September: St-Ambroise mustard, Quebec’s first beer mustard, is launched
- November: St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout wins platinum medal at World Beer Championships in Chicago, St-Ambroise Pale Ale and Griffon Brown Ale win silver medals. Griffon Extra Pale Ale wins a bronze
- Exports to France begin
- U.S. exports triple
- McAuslan Brewing holds its first official poster contest. Over 220 entries were received.
- March: McAuslan Brewpage on the WWW launched. McAuslan is the first Canadian Brewery on the internet
- November: Brewery test markets Frontenac in Quebec City
- McAuslan Brewing expands by 40% during 1994/1995: hiring new staff and increasing production
- McAuslan Brewing receives award for the development of new export markets from the Club Agro Export du Québec.
- January: New $300,000 Krones filler added to production line increases bottling speed and extends shelf life of beer
- March: New bright beer tanks expand capacity from 15 thousand to 26 thousand hectolitres
- April: Frontenac launched province-wide
- June: Griffon Extra Pale Ale takes the gold medal as the best beer in the Golden Ale/Canadian-Style Ale category at the World Beer Cup
- June: McAuslan launches full line of seasonal beers. Raspberry Ale for summer, Spiced Pumpkin Ale for fall, Strong Ale for winter and Apricot Wheat Ale for spring
- July: McAuslan begins distributing Verger du Minot Cider on draft
- August: McAuslan Brewing announces that it will collaborate with la Compagnie des Bières Supérieures and represent Beck’s, Double Diamond and Caffrey’s draft product in Quebec.
- September: McAuslan Brewing participate in the re-opening of the Corona Theatre, by sponsoring a 1950-2000 music retrospective.
- October: At the Great Canadian Beer Challenge, McAuslan Brewing’s St-Ambroise Pale Ale scores highest and takes home first place in the Ale category.
- McAuslan Brewing and Verger du Minot Orchard, together start a new company, Cidrerie Covey Hill, and launch a new product, Mystique apple cider.
- November: The Prometheus Project and McAuslan Brewing to help keep kids in school. The program engages volunteer mentors to motivate high-school students at risk of dropping out.
- Peter McAuslan named honourary president of La Dame, votre nouvelle carte d’affaires – a revitalization project for Notre-Dame Street in Montreal.
- McAuslan Brewing, in conjunction with la Fédération de natation du Québec, sponsors the Masters Swim Program, a competitive swim program for swimmers aged 20 and over. One of the Federation’s representatives working with the Masters at the time is Patricia Noall, winner of the 1988 Olympic Bronze medal in the 4X100 metre medley relay.
- Apricot Wheat Ale is voted the most popular beer in its category at the Montreal Beer Festival -Mondial de la bière
- Represented by Churchill Cellars and Premium Beer (distributors of Double Diamond, Caffreys and Beck), St-Ambroise and Griffon brands are now widely available in select Ontario LCBOs, beer stores, restaurants and bars.
- At the Coupe des Nations/Cup of Nations – an international beer competition held in Quebec City. St-Ambroise Pale Ale and Griffon Brown Ale both won gold medals, while Griffon Extra Pale Ale won a silver medal.
- In Ontario, sales of St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout on draft doubled sales of Beamish Stout, a brand that has been on the market for a number of years.
- St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout chosen by 10 European, American and English beer writers for their list: “Top ten favorite beers in the world”.
- McAuslan sales in Quebec increased 17% in 1999, in spite of the increased number of local brands and competition from imported beers that were widely available in the grocery stores and depanneurs.
- McAuslan Brewing, in collaboration with IDEM éditions, celebrates the arrival of the millennium by giving Quebec contemporary artists “carte blanche” to create four limited edition coasters.
- McAuslan continues to support the Montreal Gazette Christmas Extravaganza and the Mayor’s Foundation gala dinner held at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montreal. The Foundation raises funds for a range of activities in the Montreal community with a particular focus on youth employment.
- St-Ambroise Vintage Ale is launched. The only limited edition beer bottled in numbered bottles packed in individual boxes, and only 300 cases available. McAuslan Brewing will celebrate each new year by brewing Vintage Ale on our anniversary. This product is our only beer signed by Master Brewer Ellen Bounsall.
- McAuslan partners with the champagne distributor, Sociète Champexport. They are based in Épernay, 100 kilometres east of Paris and are best known for Grand cru chardonnay, J-L Malard. Sociète Champexport distributes four McAuslan products in France.
- Six beers by Montreal-based McAuslan Brewing have been singled out as the best in their class by the popular Quebec consumer magazine Protégez-Vous and and at the international food festival, Coupe des Nations. The May edition of Protégez-Vous, evaluated more than 30 Quebec micro-brews. St-Ambroise Pale Ale received the highest score of any beer rated (18 out of 20) while Frontenac Extra Pale Ale and Griffon Extra Pale Ale scored 16.
to be continued…