Jennie O’Keefe and Chris Johnson have started up Rough Waters Brewing Company Ltd. and are planning to operate out of Burin.
About a year ago, the young 20-something couple, who are currently living in St. John’s but will be relocating in the near future, saw how well the Port Rexton Brewing Company was doing on the Bonavista Peninsula. They decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it as well, O’Keefe told The Southern Gazette Wednesday.
“This has been a really positive experience, which is kind of surprising,” she said. “You expect everything to go wrong – that’s what you need to prepare for – but so far, so good.”
Johnson, whose family is from Grand Bank, has a background in mechanical engineering technology, and will handle the brewing part of the operation, O’Keefe said, adding she will be responsible for marketing, distribution and other aspects of the business.
O’Keefe, who is originally from Conception Bay South, explained Johnson developed a passion for craft beer while working in an oil industry job in Colorado.
“They have a huge craft beer industry going, so when he was there he really fell in love with it,” she said.
After a couple years, he came home and started brewing his own beer, eventually turning O’Keefe on to the world of craft brewing after they met.
“I thought that I didn’t like beer until I had tried all these different types of craft beers,” O’Keefe said.
The craft beer industry has exploded across the country in recent years and Newfoundland is beginning to catch on. A number of microbreweries are starting to pop up around the province and are in various stages of getting off the ground.
O’Keefe said the pair decided it would be wise to jump in now before the market becomes too congested.
Rough Waters Brewing Company will be the first craft brewery on the Burin Peninsula.
“I’m sure there will be another one coming to the Burin Peninsula at some point because there should be enough interest to be able to have two of them, but we’re excited to be the first,” she said.
O’Keefe said the Port Rexton Brewing Company has been “absolutely incredible” in providing support.
“We’ve apprenticed there a few times now and are still going back. They’ve been amazing,” O’Keefe said.
The brewery will operate in a space adjacent to Smugglers Cove Roadhouse Bar and Grill in Burin. O’Keefe said construction will begin this fall. Mike Brennan of Smugglers Cove has been a big help, she said, and Rough Waters Brewing Company will be the only beer on tap at the establishment.
O’Keefe said the company is planning to offer four regular brews. They have the first three nailed down – a wheat beer, a blonde beer and a porter – and are working on the fourth.
“We want to have four that are there all the time, and have two to four rotating beers that are going to be very different,” she said. “So it’s something that we’ll have to introduce to the Burin Peninsula.
The pair was initially looking at locating the business in Grand Bank and calling it the Grand Bank Brewing Company, O’Keefe said, but when that didn’t pan out, they went with Rough Waters, which she said ties into the heritage of persistence in Newfoundland.
“We’ve done nothing but persevere, through the cod moratorium, even what’s going on now. It’s more like a challenge,” she explained of the meaning behind the name.
The duo plans to be up and running by the May 24 long weekend next spring.
“I’m all for trying to launch sooner, but Chris is a bit more hesitant, so for sure May Two-Four,” O’Keefe said.