Newfoundland Brewery Tour: Bootleg Brew Co., Corner Brook
Corner Brook can seem like a far-off land for those of us who live in “Sin Jawns”. It even felt like a foreign city in a far-off nation; familiar yet new and yet like many places in Newfoundland, a craft brewery has sprung up. Bootleg Brew Co. has set up their taproom in downtown Corner Brook and is serving some interestingly unique beers. The brewery, which looked to create an original, yet local sounding name that stood out decided to name their business after Newfoundland’s large role in bootlegging prohibition.
The first brewery in Corner Brook opened its taproom in January 2018. Bootleg is the brainchild of Matt Tilley and Morgan Turner-Crocker. These cooks turned brewers who hail from Newfoundland met while working at Newfound Sushi in Corner Brook after returning home from working in the industry on the mainland. “While working together at Newfound Sushi, we realized that we were both very passionate about beer and decided to start brewing together at home on our off days for fun,” Tilley told The Racket via email.
Tilley and Turner-Crocker enjoyed this hobby so much that they began to produce more beer that they could not only drink for themselves but also share with friends and family. “[They] encouraged us to keep going because they liked everything so much,” said Tilley. With the support of those closest to them, Tilley and Turner-Crocker decided to bring samples of their brews to restaurants in St. John’s that the cooks admired. “When they said they would carry [our beer] if we were producing on a commercial scale we figured we might have something,” said Tilley.
With that, the pair went to Navigate, a program that operates out of Memorial University’s Grenfell campus in Corner Brook and helps to address the needs of entrepreneurs at the start-up level as well as connecting them to individuals, resources, programs, and agencies to meet their entrepreneurial needs. With the help of Navigate and Sean St. George, Tilley and Turner-Crocker wrote up a business plan, and two years later opened Bootleg Brew Co.
Tilley said that he believes that while every brewery in the province has a similar goal, the thing that makes Bootleg different is that, “we stand out with our styles and flavours of beer.” “Everyone has different tastes, so Morgan and I are brewing beer that we would like to go out and drink,” he said. He noted that while most breweries offer the standard IPA or pale ale, Bootleg is trying to differentiate themselves by offering visitors things like their Breaker Room Grisette, a wheaty beer that uses new world saison yeast, and the Just The Tip Spruce IPA which uses locally foraged spruce tips.
Bootleg’s taproom is an inviting space with local art hung on the walls, a number of tables as well as seats at the bar. There are classic board games like Snakes and Ladders and Scrabble for patrons to play and a space in the corner where you can envision live music. (The night before our visit, an indie hip-hop showcase had taken place, with a number of other unique shows planned including the band Mother’s Garden performing Nirvana’s album Unplugged in New York). There were six different beers on tap and Bootleg’s flights allow you to try all six as opposed to the standard choice of four. There was also a Radler option that mixed session ale with their house-made citrus syrup and ice.
According to Tilley, different breweries he and Turner-Crocker were able to try while living on the mainland including Flying Monkeys, Phillips, Beaus, Manantler, Big Spruce and Trailway influence the beer they brew at Bootleg. “[They] all have their unique style, and while we're not trying to copy them, we like to take bits and pieces from everywhere and make our beers our own,” he said. When it comes to personal taste, Tilley and Turner-Crocker are big fans of sours and saisons, both of which they are currently in the process of brewing. Tilley sometimes prefers a beer that is more malt forward while Turner-Crocker tends to enjoy bigger IPAs.
The beers on tap at Bootleg during our visit may have had some interesting ingredients like spruce tips and oats or have been types that were unfamiliar like the grisette, neither of the options felt too overpowering or overwhelming even for the newest drinker of craft beer. During our visit, a local woman who seemed to be in her mid-forties brought in a group of friends and was explaining to them all about what a flight was and what some of the beers were, including the Radler. This says a lot about Bootleg’s ability to appeal to everyone interested in craft beer, as well as their ability to relay product knowledge to customers.
Tilley said he and Turner-Crocker are “overwhelmed” by the amount of support Bootleg has received since opening. “We thought it might take a bit longer to get people into drinking funky things like a sour, but we were pleasantly surprised when our one keg test batch sold out in a day and a half,” he said. “It's a really good feeling to know that our customers are willing to try anything that we want to do and end up discovering a new style of beer that they didn't know they liked before.”
The Racket’s Recommendations for a Flight: East Coast Pale Ale, Class Act Oaty Session Ale, Breaker Room Grisette, and "Just The Tip" Spruce IPA.
***As with the nature of breweries and small batches, these brews may not always be on tap.***