Sébastien Gagnon has made the long, hard climb to the top of the craft beer world, from 2004 when he founded Quebec’s first microbrewery beer bar, Vices & Versa, in Montreal at the age of 23, to the creation of Brasserie Dunham in June 2011.
Set in the historical town of Dunham, in an apple growing region and near where Quebec’s first commercial vineyard was founded in 1982, the brewer has grown to 40 staff. Today, Dunham’s brews have an average rating of 3.83 out of 5 on UnTappd and is a well known visitor to Belgium’s beer festivals.
Gagnon says his inspiration comes from classical European brewing traditions. For example the brewery’s Deze Monnik Is Dronken Supermoine # 3 is brewed in the style of a Belgian quadrupel, 11.2% ABV, but briefly aged in Chianti Sangiovese barrels in Tuscany with Iranian Shiraz figs.
He founded Vices & Versa after travelling through the US and saw the large number of craft bars that were sprouting throughout the country. Quebec’s beer scene was quite young at the time and he saw opportunity, a handy insight to have when one has a degree in entrepreneurship and management.
Small is good
“At that time it was tough to find good beer, good breweries,” Gagnon says in an interview with the Beer Idiots. “Since that time, almost 15 years, this Quebec scene has expanded a lot.”
He describes the new Quebec brewers as taking different traditions, from Belgium, the UK and Germany for example, and mixing them together to create their own true traditions and styles.
Since Montreal was too expensive to set up a brewery he turned to the town of Dunham, about 1.5 hours away, close to the border with Vermont in the US. The brewery produces about 4,500 hectalitres a year.
“We don’t want to be bigger than that,” he says. “The target is between 5,000 and 6,000 hectalitres. It’s a choice. Me I am a beer lover… I love what I do. I am not a businessman that wants to manage a big shop. I don’t care about that. I love the liberty that we have as an independent.”