The Nonsuch was the first trading ship to reach Hudson Bay in 1668. Originally the former British Navy ship was seen as too small for such a voyage, but her small size instead was ideal for narrow and shallow waterways, plus she could be pulled out of the icy water during winter. A meticulously handcrafted replica of the Nonsuch now sits in a gallery of the same name at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.
Naming your brewery after a ship whose name means “unequaled” sets a lofty goal from day one. Nonsuch Brewing Co. in Winnipeg, Manitoba takes that very seriously, and it shows in their product. When it comes to themselves, though, there is nothing serious about it.
We ran into the refreshing trio at Barn Hammer Brewing near Polo Park, where three of the four founders are headquartered for the time being. Matthew Sabourin, Président (accent his), and Ben Myers, Vice President, pictured from right to left above, talked with us about the challenges in finding a proper space, among other standard points of frustration for business owners in their infancy. Not pictured is Tyler Johnston, Brand Artist, while the fourth co-founder and Head Brewer, Mark Borowski, is below.
Currently, brewing is taking place at contracted space within Barn Hammer’s brewhouse. The founders strongly want to open in the Exchange District, and hopes are still high that a move will happen this year. One coveted space fell through this spring due to poor structural integrity, so the search is back on.
Mark, a decorated homebrewer and veritable beer engineer, was happy to show off the miniscule brewing system that the team is using to deliver their current flagship, Saison. The Ss Brewtech setup is smaller than most brewery’s pilot systems and the quality of beer achieved on a glorified homebrew scale is mindboggling.
But I may have buried the lede here in favor of a proper intro. The most fascinating aspect of Nonsuch is a novel and advanced approach to their profile of beers. Rather than follow trends, stick with the basics, or play to the overdone theme of “our twist on a classic™”, Nonsuch is brewing beer to be cellared. That’s not to say that the beer doesn’t fulfill its destiny when fresh — we thoroughly enjoyed a fresh Barleywine as well as a Belgian Quadruppel– instead, it guarantees some sort of evolution over time.
Consider not only how unique this concept is, but also the foresight of brewing beer with the intent to cellar. As aging beer has become more popular among craft beer enthusiasts, it still isn’t commonplace the way it is with wine in North America. Growing enthusiasm for aging beer promises only to continue, while the battle for freshness, both on Manitoba store shelves as well as during shipping, is always an uphill one. Nonsuch does more than encourage cellaring, they make it easy. The beer is bottle conditioned, high-ABV, and packaged in black bottles–three conditions which promote happy cellaring.
Beer has been available to the public at city events as well as at The Forks’ new craft beer hall, The Commons. Demand for kegs at The Commons is so high and the Nonsuch system is so small that very little beer goes into bottles and feeding supply to liquor stores is simply out of the question.
Since our visit in July, though, big changes are underway. Fermenters have arrived, as shown below (human for scale), and the team hopes to be putting bottles in the hands of the public in about two months. Cheers, new friends, and santé!
Production levels rising. pic.twitter.com/igtqqbqkT6
— Nonsuch Brewing Co. (@NonsuchBeer) August 4, 2017