Island’s Craft Brewing Scene Grows with Montague Addition

Copper Bottom Brewery set to open its doors by summer

Montague is getting a new craft brewery this summer. Singer-songwriter Ashley Condon and her husband Ken Spears are getting set to open Copper Bottom Brewery (CBB) with an eye to selling their craft beers across the province. The husband and wife team plan produce kegs of beer for local restaurants and, eventually, canned beer for Island liquor stores. Plans are also in the works establish a taproom and live entertainment space at the brewery.

The brewery is taking over the Eastern Graphic building (567 Main Street) in downtown Montague and renovations will start just as soon as the newspaper vacates.

Music will play a huge part in creating the atmosphere at the brewery.

“It’s one of the parts of the project I’m really excited for being a musician myself,” Condon said. “I have been travelling around North America, Europe, and the
U.K. for the past several years and have met so many amazing artists and really look forward to welcoming some of those artists to the brewery. Microbreweries are becoming the community gathering spots and our
hope is that CBB will be no different in that respect.

“Being a brewery owner is an expansion of what I do as an artist and I believe my many years of experience in the entertainment industry will be a huge asset to my role as event manager.”

The ambience of the brewery is set not only by the music that fills it, but by the physical space itself.

“We are working with an architect and the design of the space is really coming together. It will be a cozy space with lots of exposed wood and large windows overlooking the Montague River. The kind of place you want to sit and chat with friends over a pint or two. We will be creating an intimate space that will work great for music shows and other special events… Brewery tours … will give people the opportunity to explore the brewing operations on the ground level of the building. We are also planning on having a retail space on the south side of the building just for can sales and growler fills.”

Condon is hoping where the brewery is situated will be a real draw.

“Our location is really unique,” she said. “The building . . . is 79 years old and has been a number of different fixtures in our town – from the first Town Hall in 1938  to the home of the Eastern Graphic.

“Our location on the south side of Montague offers a rare perspective on the town and…the view from the tap room is spectacular.”

The company is still deciding what its first beer offerings will be. They hope to eventually offer a range of beer styles and some new flavours to PEI beer drinkers.

Spears, the company brewmaster, has been brewing for over 14 years. His career began in 2004 when he worked Propeller Brewing in Halifax. “John Allen at Propeller Brewing has been a mentor to Ken over the years and has inspired Ken to move forward with his dream of opening a microbrewery.”

Research has been key to the couple’s concept of every facet of the brewery.

“Ken and I spend lots of time travelling and usually visit every single brewery in our path,” she said. “We spent two months travelling through the U.K. and Europe last fall and were taken aback by how many small breweries and brew pubs there were in England alone. Every little town or village had at least one brewpub or brewery and sometimes more.

“Atlantic Canada has an amazing number of microbreweries as well and the number is growing all the time so we are lucky to have met several brewery owners who have inspired us to move forward with our vision . . . I guess you could say just drinking lots of different beers has informed our vision as well. It’s a tough job trying so many beers but someone has to do it.”

All of that knowledge and experience has come together for Spears and Condon.

“When we moved back to PEI six years ago, we built a ‘nanobrewery’ or pilot system in our barn and this is where Ken has been developing his tasty beer recipes,” she said.

The brewery has received support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to make leasehold improvements and purchase brewing equipment, while the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism will provide repayable support for the purchase and renovation of the new facility and non-repayable support for the purchase of equipment.

Condon said they are going to focus on the growing PEI market for now but that “there is definitely a
market outside of PEI and Atlantic Canada.”

About Rod Weatherbie

Rod Weatherbie is a writer working in the hospitality industry. He spent a number of years in Toronto as a member of the financial press before returning to PEI. Rod has published one piece of short fiction, one book of poetry, and has had work published in Red Shift, the Antigonish Review, Mitre, and the Toronto Quarterly. He has also recently co-produced, co-directed, and acted in a stage production of old television shows.

He also like writing about food. Go figure.

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