Gone Pro: Devil May Care Brewing Company (Winnipeg, MB)

Gone Pro is a series of Q&As with breweries with homebrewing roots. If you would like to see a brewery featured here, please send an email to kathy@canadahomebrews.ca.

What is your name, and what do you do at the brewery?

Steve: Steve Gauthier, and like many new to brewing, I do a bit of everything from brewing to distribution to packaging and keg washing.

Colin: Colin Koop, and I do all the tasks that require brainpower and good looks (Steve wrote this). Steve’s too modest to say that he’s our Head Brewer, but he is. He’s right though—we both end up doing a bit of everything when it comes to our day to day operations. We don’t really conform to titles very well.

How and when did you start homebrewing?

SG: Something like ten years ago. I started with the “wort in a bag” style kits and quickly moved on to all grain brewing.

With the beers that I like to drink being rare, stored warm and pricier than I would like at our local government stores, I brewed more often and branched out into many styles. Worse yet, I loved to experiment with unusual ingredients and processes. Best of all, I got to meet some great brewers that I could bounce things off.

CK: I think maybe seven years ago. I started with partial mash kits and quickly decided that wasn’t for me, so moved on to all-grain brewing within the first six months. For me, it was a case of not being able to get the beers that I wanted in our market, so I set out to replicate them myself… some results were definitely better than others.

Why did you decide to go pro, and what was the process like? 

SG: There were several factors that made us make the jump. I was homebrewing far more than I could ever drink. I gave away beer just so that I could brew more. I was spending an inordinate amount of my free time in the beer world—tastings, brewing, training, competitions. The local [brewing] laws were changing to allow models that were more in line with what worked in other areas.

Probably the biggest push for me though was my business partner and friend, Colin. I would never have done this without him. In a relatively short amount of time, we’ve developed a great relationship that values other’s strengths and helps with each other’s weaknesses.

CK: That’s probably it in a nutshell. I know as a homebrewer everyone hears the “you should sell this!” line from friends and family, but it took hearing some real honest feedback from our now-peers in the industry to give us the push. When I started homebrewing with Steve, things really took off—he elevated my own beer and we had such a great relationship that it was more of a “how could we not?” kind of situation. You might call us co-enablers; the two of us combined are definitely more crazy and daring as a duo than we normally are individually.

As for the process, to say it was an ordeal would be an understatement. When we first set out to start DMC, we didn’t have a ton of money backing us and that made situations with banks difficult. We had investors back out, partners drop out, locations fall through—if you can think of something to go wrong, it probably happened to us. So we had to be flexible with our model and realize that we would have to adjust our plans accordingly in order to just get our first beers out the door.

How has your homebrewing background helped your career in the brewing industry?

SG: A better question is “how hasn’t it?”

CK: That’s exactly right. It influences everything we do, because we’ve carried that knowledge and resourcefulness into the pro world. Homebrewing felt like 75% problem solving and thinking on our feet, and I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved our bacon in the pro world.

What is a favourite beer that you’ve brewed (homebrew or pro) and describe it in three words.

SG: A honey wheat ale that I brewed numerous times. It was a favorite among friends and was a great beer to bring to a diverse group of people. I’d describe it as “hazy, citrus, and easy”.

CK: I used to brew a coffee-infused brown ale at home, which eventually became DMC’s Living In Arabica. My description: “coffee, malt, and coffee”, which was perfect for me because I’m a serious coffee junkie.

What inspires your brews?

SG: Popular culture is a big one. We also look at the craft culture and beer world outside of our market and what’s happening in the rest of the world. And one of the big pieces is always trying to improve. There are always things we can do better and it’s important to not be stagnant.

CK: We’re both pretty big foodies, so we like doing nerdy things like food pairings, recreating deserts, and classic cocktail-inspired beers. We’ve done a bunch of that and we have a blast coming up with those recipes.

But on the bigger scale, we take a lot of inspiration from classic American craft beer. We often reminisce about Sierra Nevada and New Belgium and how those were our craft gateway beers. So in our own way, we also try to pay homage to those roots too by brewing American Pale, Brown Ale, and West Coast IPA as our core brands.

What is something unexpected that you learned while transitioning from homebrewing to pro brewing?

SG: For me, it’s how different the craft beer industry culture is from the inside than it is as a craft beer fan.

CK: Maybe it’s cliché, but I think the big thing for me is how much work it is not just to produce beer, but to also run a functioning business. When we opened, suddenly we were responsible for brewing our beer, packaging, distribution, sales, finances, social media, and everything else in between those things. No matter how much work I thought that was going to be, it was always way, way more.

What sets your brewery apart from others?

SG: We try to be authentic in everything we do. We make mistakes but we try to get better every day.  We try to treat people well and hope that it is reciprocated. We’re pretty simple guys that want to show folks how beer can be—warts and all.

CK: Our motto from day one is “brew it to 11”, which basically means that every beer we put out is planned, designed, and meticulously fussed over until we’re happy with the result. A lot of what we do is focused around just making the best beer that we can and hoping people like the result. And if we try something and it doesn’t work out—well, nobody gets to see those because they go straight down the drain.

Any tips for folks thinking about going pro?

SG: If you can do anything else, just do that instead. Sleep is at a premium, and it’s hard on the body. Brewing is not a “get rich quick” thing so you’d better love it. Or have business partners that beat you over the head with their blind enthusiasm.

CK: Obviously people will tell you to have more money, but that’s not helpful at all. You can make beer and sell beer with minimal funds to start up but be prepared for frustration. I have a wealth of experience in the field of frustration.

But above that, seriously love what you make. Don’t sell anything you wouldn’t drink yourself. And oh yeah—don’t let any pro tell you that you can’t do it because you’re “just a homebrewer”.

Devil May Care Brewing
http://devilmaycarebrewing.com/
Unit 9-1875 Pembina Hwy
Winnipeg, MB
R3T 2G7

Kathy Yan Li is a director of the Canadian Homebrewers Association, and lives in Shilo, MB with her husband and dog Barkley. She is always looking for Canadian homebrewing and brewing content, so feel free to get in touch with her with ideas and suggestions.

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