Taking beer to the next level in Pembroke, Ontario as the owner of Square Timber Brewing Company.
Originally from a small town in Saskatchewan, Marc Bru’s adventures started from working with his Dad in the brewery field, discovering craft beer and then touring as a musician for a decade, which led him to the Valley. With creative brew names, community involvement and a brewery located in the coolest place, you can clearly see that his knowledge runs deep and the art of creating delicious beer takes precision and passion.
I know you’ve warned me it’s a long story, but why the brew life? What led you HERE?
My dad worked in beer his whole career. He wasn’t a brewer, but he worked in distribution for 20+ years and then moved over to the packaging side of the operation. I grew up with Labatt and the Molson guy, worked at my dad’s warehouse at about 14-16. The fridge always had beer in it, and it wasn’t until my early 20’s I found craft beer, even though there were not a lot of craft breweries in Saskatchewan.
I then spent a decade touring with a band, where 80% of our gigs were in the States. We also did a few tours in Europe and of course Canada. I played with the April Verch Band and toured a lot of breweries in the 2000s. From playing quite a bit at breweries that had stages and spaces for musicians, I got to know a lot of the brewery owners quite well over time, which led me to start the brew making process myself. We were on the road most of the year, so I would get started with a batch, head out for a few months and play, then once I got back, would finish up the batch. I began to realize that I couldn’t really continue the tour life, and since I was really into the craft beer scene it seemed like a natural path to take.
I saw an open market in 2007 when living in Pembroke and began to create plans; from there we opened in 2014.
I’ve heard you are really involved at the grass roots still in terms of connecting with your customers. Can you tell me why it’s so important for you to meet them?
We are still a small brewery – it started out with just me for the first 3 years and I felt it was important, especially coming from a band setting, when you meet a lot of people. There is definitely a similar approach, with samplings, cold calls and more. I found that during the start it was important to really be there, be present and face to face with clients.
I still love doing my own deliveries, whether it’s a couple times a week or a month. I can see my customer, continue conversations that may have happened in past deliveries and get feedback. I think most of our clients, especially bars and restaurants, appreciate that the owner is involved and still wants to keep that grass roots relationship. I think the personal aspect of it for my customers is interesting, because it’s the owner that is working, showing up, delivering. Since summer of 2017, when we got into canned product and away from growlers, I hired a part time brewer, so it’s allowed me to focus on the product we have. I can talk about my beer, put my passion out there.
Especially when we do community events such as the Ottawa Valley Craft Beer Festival, I make it a point to be there and I think it’s great for the customer to know that this is our life.
I really love that you make it a point to be involved with the community and make sure that you still have customer contact. Can you tell me where I’d be able to find a delicious brew?
All of our beers are available here at the brewery and our tasting room. Right now, we have Pembroke Pils (not double L – laughter) at the LCBO in certain locations; Pembroke, Petawawa, Beachburg, Deep River, Barry’s Bay and Killaloe. It’s very hard to get a listing in the LCBO and it takes quite some time. As of November, it will be 1 year since we’ve had our listing!
I’m noticing that your beers have some really great flavours to them. Can you describe one of your seasonal beers and maybe a little bit about that process?
Belgian Waffle is our springtime syrup seasonal beer. That beer is made with maple syrup rather than maple water. There are a variety of ways to make maple beers, some will put maple syrup after the beer is made. To get that maple flavour can be very hard during the fermentation process. Since yeast is eating sugar, it can be hard to get that flavour to come out. This is a secret, but we take double the amount of water with sap and create the Belgian Waffle. It has much more colour, more pronounced flavour and it bumps up the sugar which bumps the alcohol content naturally. It’s a big beer, Belgian style and weather dependent. It’s one of our signature beers and is available Spring and early Summer. With the season being so short we didn’t do it this year but we are really hoping to get a full batch next year.
I love that you can use the sap from your property to infuse with beer! Can you tell me what you offer currently?
We always have 4 beers within the brewery, especially with how our brewery is set up. Sometimes five depending on a seasonal:
- Hefe Weizen, our German Wheat Beer – it’s the most popular and the first beer we came out with.
- Pembroke Pils, our bohemian lager – reminiscent of the commercial beers and great for those who aren’t into craft or who are new to craft.
- Our French style, called Lala Saison – it’s named after my girlfriend, Carla. Her two nieces couldn’t say her name so they called her Lala, and it’s hard to find a name for beer, but she liked this style of beer so I surprised her with that and we released it last Summer.
- Our hoppy Americanized IPA, called Slabtown – named after that small stretch near B-line that used to be called Slabtown.
Then our winter time stout that we brew in November is called Matrimonial Cake. Fun fact: what people called date squares everywhere else in the world, in Saskatchewan, where I come from, they’re called Matrimonial Cake. It’s a date square beer, but that did not sound as good as Matrimonial Cake.
Now, your location outside of Pembroke is a true hidden gem. Some of the other breweries I’ve been to are in open spaces, cityscapes and more. Can you tell me why this was the spot?
The original plan was to be in the city of Pembroke, and then life happened and using my property became clearer. The plan was to be here for 3-5 years and possibly make a move. It’s a nice place for people to get off the beaten path, it’s different. It’s called Square Timber brewery for a reason, since we are in the trees.