Picaroons Finds Support in the Fredericton Area Community of Brewers

The Picaroons Roundhouse in Fredericton is flooded. Image: Submitted

FREDERICTON –  The St. John River flood waters have displaced residents in the Fredericton area and created headaches for businesses. But companies like Picaroons Traditional Ales are finding support from the surrounding community.

“[There’s been] tons of love and best wishes from customers. Tons of offers to help,” said owner Sean Dunbar. “It’s sort of the brewery community – from breweries to consumers – sort of giving a little bit of a hug. So, it feels good.”

The Picaroons Roundhouse on the North Side of the river, has been closed for nearly a week due to the flood. The company could see a shortage of products if it doesn’t re-open the facility soon, Dunbar said. But other breweries in the area have offered to help.

“We’re doing some keg cleaning at Grimross Brewing. We’re maybe sending some guys out there to do some work because they could use some help, and our guys can use some work. So [Grimross has] offered to do that,” he said. “Big Axe Brewery [in Nackawic] has offered to let us brew on their system, and we might actually pick them up on that next week.”

For now, Dunbar hopes brewing can continue at the Picaroons Brewtique, a smaller facility on Queen Street. The company also has some finished products stored in an offsite warehouse.

“But probably the week after next we’ll start to see some product shortages on the shelves if we don’t get back to work real soon,” he said. “By the look of things, as soon as we can turn the power on, as soon as the water recedes so that it’s not actually coming into our building, I think we can brew a day after the time that that happens. So, it’s all a waiting game.”

Like other businesses on the river banks, Dunbar said the company has taken all necessary precautions to deal with a “visit” from the river. The Roundhouse’s design includes a drainage system meant to deal with flooding. All equipment and electrical work were placed more than three feet above the water line, and all of the pumps are made detachable.

So far, these design features have worked well. But work has had to stop because the high water level has made it difficult for employees to access the building and there’s no power in the facility.

Dunbar doesn’t expect the facility to re-open in the next two weeks.

“This [flood] was a bit quick, so it did catch some people by surprise and frankly, it’s staying around longer than most people thought,” he said. “The length of time that the water stays high is always bad. Just being shut down for production. So, time is really our biggest concern at the moment.”

And although Dunbar expects everything to be recoverable, it will take time.

The best way to help us is to drink a beer – it’s really easy and kind of fun.”

On Wednesday, the Emergency Measures Organization said water levels in Fredericton are expected to remain high for the coming days without significant signs of receding. The water level hit the 2008 level of 8.36 metres this week. The highest the water had risen in the last 75 years was in 1973, when it hit 8.61 metres.

“Water levels south of Fredericton are expected to rise over the coming days, exceeding the 2008 levels and potentially topping the 1973 levels,” said Premier Brian Gallant at a flood update streamed live on Facebook.

Bruce McCormack, the General Manager of Downtown Fredericton, an organization that represents property owners and businesses in the city centre, said most of the buildings are “fine,” except for some water in the basements.

“Most businesses are still in operation and they’re not affected,” he said.

It’s the traffic, and lack of parking and customers that have impacted businesses in the downtown core, he says.

Government and municipal officials were asked to work from home to avoid adding to the congestion, as there are fewer access points to get to downtown from the north of the city and vice versa. Around 1,000 parking spaces are also rendered useless because of the water, McCormack said.

“Through the day, Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, we have over 12,000 people that work downtown and so when those people are told to stay home, that has some impact,” he said. “So our businesses, in some cases, they’re down slightly, but they know the reason why.”

McCormack said Downtown Fredericton might have funding to help fix facades and parking spaces. But both Dunbar and McCormack noted that it’s the homeowners that are most affected.

“People with flooded basements and things, the homeowners, are a lot, a lot worse off than we are,” Dunbar said.

“It’s the personal effects, the homes, and other businesses outside of the downtown, that’s where the true concern is,” McCormack said.