A Norfolk couple are realizing their dream of operating a farmhouse brewery.
Both were born in The Netherlands and came to Canada around the turn of the century.
Mischa Geven worked as head brewer and recipe creator at New Limburg brewery in Nixon, Ont. that his parents launched in 2015.
Estelle van Kleef and her family were curious to visit the nearby Belgian-style brewery, where she met Geven.
“At the start I spoke Dutch, had my Smart Serve, and was asked to help out for a busy weekend,” she recalled. “I liked it so much I stuck around.”
Van Kleef said she formed some ideas for a farmhouse-style brewery, and Geven’s parents gave their blessing to branch off and start Meuse Brewing Company.
“They let us brew out of their facility to start, and then got some sales going through LCBO,” she said. “Restaurants and bars in larger cities are shifting more to a bottle shop focus, offering beers that aren’t available (widely), so we’ve been able to move some of our other beers that way.”
The brewery will operate out of a quonset hut behind their home at 1853 Windham Rd. 3. Located just west of Highway 24 south of Scotland, the operation is adjacent to 10 acres where their barley is grown.
“We hope to start retailing on Friday, Feb. 26,” Geven said. “We have all our licensing in place, and will start brewing here next week. We just have to figure out what we want to brew.”
The head brewer said continuing to make some of their larger volume products at New Limburg would allow them to focus on specialty brews at Meuse.
“Come summer we hope to have an outdoor sampling patio, with people coming in to see the brewing space,” he said, adding that eventually the retail and tasting space will move to the farm market they own down the road at the intersection of Highway 24.
Varieties of beer and swag will be available for purchase when Meuse Brewing Company opens its retail location near Scotland, Ontario later this month.
Saison de la Meuse is a traditional farmhouse-brewed beer, taking ingredients like barley from the farm, combined with their house yeast to deliver some spicy, peppery and citrus notes.
“Our real passion, which is why we started the brewery, is for the Belgian-style sour beers,” Geven said. “We have our Meuze and Rouge, and fruited versions of those.”
Meuze is inspired by Lambic traditions of making beer aged in oak barrels.
“A Meuze is a special occasion beer,” Geven noted. “When we were talking to some brewers in Belgium, they told us stories of back when they were younger. The Lambic beers were Sunday beers. You wouldn’t drink that during the week. They were too fancy.”
The couple are proud that Meuze won silver at the Canadian Brewing Awards in the Belgian-style sour category. The brand also won silver in the European sour ale category at the Ontario Brewing Awards, only to be beat by their own Rouge product that won gold and best in show.
“No one in the area is doing beers like this,” van Kleef noted. “We’re hoping to bridge that gap between the craft beer scene already established here, and blend that in with the wine culture that’s already fairly present in the area.”
They were able to source wine barrels from local wineries, and say the Rouge and Flanders Red-style drinks a little more like a wine that what you’d traditionally think of a beer.
“We made a booth for Eat-Drink-Norfolk in April that was supposed to be our debut into society,” van Kleef shared. “And then COVID broke loose. So we’re really happy to finally get our own place going and interact with customers.”
She said that selling their brands in restaurants and LCBO’s is a great way to get the beer out there, but it doesn’t afford the opportunity to connect with the people trying it.
“That’s really the fun part of a brewery, is to get the engagement and conversation with people that come to your place,” she said. “We’re really excited to get that going.”