Exchanging Words is an ongoing series of conversations with the people behind the places in the Exchange District. If you would like to be featured, please email [email protected] with “Exchanging Words” in the subject line.
Sometimes all it takes is thirst. A thirst for something more than your career, a thirst for something new and exciting in your community, or just a thirst for a perfect craft brew.
Little Brown Jug is a new open concept brewery, located at 336 William Avenue, offering a delicious signature brew, the “1919”, and a beautiful space to drop in and enjoy a pint. But there’s more than just craft beer on tap, you’ll also find unique events taking place in this historic building that are like no other.
“A few weeks ago we had a pop up concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra where a 30-person orchestra just flooded in here,” says owner Kevin Selch. He also notes they’ve hosted potlucks and yoga accompanied by live bands.
Little Brown Jug, which opened in December, also has upcoming plans for community supported agriculture boxes. Meaning 16 weeks out of the summer, people will have a weekly opportunity to pick up boxes of fruits and vegetables directly from the farmer.
“We have a big walk-in cooler where we can do this,” Selch says. “We’re not charging anything for this, it’s just a great neighbourhood building thing to do.”
It’s this neighbourhood that Selch chose to return to after a decade-long stint working as an economist in Ottawa. Not only does he work in the Exchange, he lives here.
“I like that we have two parts of the Exchange, the East and the West,” he says. “I live behind the Concert Hall on the East and it just has a very different feel than the West Exchange. It’s pretty incredible to walk through there and see the streetcar tracks. On the West side, there’s those two blocks around Albert where it almost looks like you’re in the West Village of New York. It’s pretty remarkable any time of year just to look down that streetscape, it’s almost magical.”
Over the course of three and a half years, Selch came back and forth from Ottawa to check out different spaces in Winnipeg, eventually landing on the former Red River Motor Coach Company building.
“We had some very specific requirements because first and foremost we’re a production brewery, not a brewpub,” he says of the 10,000-square-foot space, spread across two buildings (equipped with an energy recovery system, which recycles the heat from the energy’s boiler back into the building). “Having this kind of footprint so we can grow into the space and increase our production to where we want to be, that’s important.”
Little Brown Jug’s signature brew is the 1919, which is more than just a nod to the Winnipeg General Strike.
“We use Brewers Gold in our beer, the first commercially available hop in the brewing industry,” Selch explains. “It has a great piece of Manitoba history in that it was made by crossing a wild Manitoban hop with an English hop, done in 1919.”
He describes the Belgian pale ale as one with a bit of a floral and herbal aroma to it, with a sweet malt flavour in the middle.
“It’s really meant to be an everyday, easy-drinking kind of beer,” he says. “I was inspired by a brewery in Vermont where there was a Belgian golden ale, not a pale ale, and I used to bring as much of this beer back to Ottawa as I could. Ottawa in the summertime is a lot more humid than in Winnipeg, it feels like you’re in a swamp. I used to walk to work and back, and I’d think about getting home so I could open up that beer!”
It was those visits to Vermont, home to over 40 maker breweries, that truly inspired Selch to return to his hometown and open his first business.
“I couldn’t really come up with a reason not to do it,” he says with a laugh. “I looked at what some of these small breweries have meant for the communities in which they’re based, and that’s why I chose to not only come back to Winnipeg, but to the Exchange.”
Visit littlebrownjug.ca for more information.