DIEPPE – CAVOK Brewing Co. hasn’t had its grand opening yet, but the open concept taproom and brewery is already pretty popular on weekends. Now it’s also open during the weekdays, so customers can buy or re-fill their growlers.
The brewery also plans to bring more of its beers to the liquor store next year.
“The design, the cans are already made for two of our next products. So early 2019, we’ll have those products on the shelves,” says Serge Basque, who owns the business with his friend Serge Nadeau.
Currently, consumers can find only the Leger Corner Honey Ale at NB Liquor, while all of CAVOK’s other products are only available at its taproom or through taps at various restaurants and pubs.
But early next year, the Serges plan to have the Petitcoudiac Rye IPA and its Foxtrot 33 oatmeal stout with vanilla and dark chocolate canned for sales in liquor stores. Both are popular with customers, Nadeau said.
CAVOK [read: kav-oh-kay] is an aviation abbreviated term meaning ‘Ceiling and Visibility OK.’ It’s fittingly located at the Airport Commercial Centre close to runway 1129 of the Romeo LeBlanc International Airport. Basque and Nadeau, both air traffic controllers, didn’t pick the location because it’s near an airport but said it’s a good fit.
They had dreamed of opening a micro-brewery for a decade. They met on the job in Montreal even though both came from Northern New Brunswick and went to school at Université de Moncton, with just a couple of years difference. At the time, there weren’t many microbreweries or taprooms in New Brunswick.
“We were already brewing, but we were not good brewers at the time. We were already travelling and visiting breweries all over the world – in Europe, in the States,” Basque said.
Basque began brewing in university “so it would be cheaper,” he said.
But as a young musician, when his band played in Belgium, he saw products of various microbreweries at a bar there. That planted the idea of opening a microbrewery at home in Canada.
Nadeau, on the other hand, fell in love with a brewery he saw at a field trip to Boston when he was a university student.
“I thought, ‘Oh, we can have something different than the commercial beer’,” he said. “From then on, I visited a lot of breweries and taking notes all the time. The dream became stronger and stronger.”
Basque and Nadeau love the creative process that comes with brewing – making something from scratch, and mixing ingredients from nature using biology and chemistry.
When they decided to raise their families in their home province, they asked for a transfer from Montreal to Greater Moncton, where there’s an air traffic control centre in Riverview. The two began to make beer together and studied online to learn how to brew better.
Although microbreweries have been mushrooming in New Brunswick since their conversations in Montreal, people’s reaction to their beers at various tasting events encouraged them to open CAVOK.
A soft opening took place on the last weekend of September and a grand opening is planned for early 2019. CAVOK now brews approximately 3,600 litres of beer a week, with a master brewer on site. Whenever possible, CAVOK uses ingredients from local sources. This includes the honey in Leger Corner and most of the hops in its beers.
“We like to brew a little bit of everything because we like to drink a little bit of everything. So we’re more into getting different products out for customers,” Nadeau said. “People want to try different kinds of things. That’s why we have 21 taps. We have guest taps from brewers around town or New Brunswick. Then we have a listing of our own taps. Right now we got seven, but we’ve got 12-to-13 recipes that we’ve served already and people liked.”
Two or three of the CAVOK products on tap are only made available for a limited time. This way, Nadeau and Basque can get feedback on their unique recipes. But it’s not just the beers that are unique. The pair said their open-concept storefront also provides a different experience, allowing customers to see and smell the process.
We wanted a space where there are no windows that you have to look through to see the brewery. [We want people to] feel a part of the process. When you walk in through the door, you can see all the way to the back of the brewery,” Basque said.
CAVOK’s taproom has around 60 seats on the first floor and 30 seats around a community table on a second-floor mezzanine that fits 40 standing guests. Designed, built and branded by local firms, the space can be reserved for events.
It has a modern industrial feel, with its glistening silver fermentors and simple furniture. But it also feels warm and rustic with wooden accents in the furniture, a booth, a fireplace, and leather couches near the back. Merch for sale also fills shelves on one wall.
We wanted to create an atmosphere where people will feel comfortable. Almost like you’re at home, at your couch, hanging out, but with the brewery feel,” Nadeau said.
“People are welcome to bring their own food, but we’re also going to have a small menu, like a charcuterie board,” Basque added.
Currently, CAVOK offers snacks like beef jerky, popcorn, salty cheese and cheese curds from local suppliers. It also offers non-alcoholic options like kombucha on-tap from a local supplier, coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
CAVOK’s owners are rolling out their business slowly, but they have a lot of plans for the future. Those include selling more kegs through restaurants, canning more products, and maybe a barrel aging program.
“We want to make sure everything is working properly before we go full throttle,” Basque said.
CAVOK is open Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from noon to 11 PM, and on Saturday from noon to midnight.