Gray Stone Brewing already making beer thanks to help from fellow brewer

Fredericton’s latest craft brewery, Gray Stone Brewing, should be ready to open by the end of June. For now, Wes Ward, the new brewery’s owner and operator, is pleased to have his first two commercial-sized batches of beer fermenting at his new 221 King St. location.

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Photo: Sean McCullum/Daily Gleaner Archive

If all goes according to plan, Fredericton’s latest craft brewery, Gray Stone Brewing, will be ready

to open by the end of June, giving local beer fans a new line of flavour-filled suds to sample.

However, there’s much to be done between now and then. For now, Wes Ward, the new brewery’s owner and operator, is pleased to have his first two commercial-sized batches of beer fermenting at his new 221 King St. location.

“Our equipment, which was supposed to be here in March, got delayed until July. So we basically had to come up with a new plan. Our building is going to be ready in about three weeks. We wanted to find a way to have some beer earlier,” he said.

“So we went out and bought a couple of fermenters from a company in Prince Edward Island.”

Ward said Fredericton craft brewer Paul Maybee allowed him to use his hot-liquor tank, mash tun and boil kettle to complete the brewery’s first commercial-sized batch on a day the Maybee Brewing Co. wasn’t using its brewing equipment.

When the batch was completed, they moved the wort down to the new Gray Stone site, where it will soon be ready for the required testing process.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” he said.

“For them to allow us to come in and invade their space for a full day is asking a lot, but they’ve been very accommodating. It’s an industry where everybody seems to be willing to help others out. Obviously, the more craft beer that’s out there, the more people are going to try it, the more people who are going to get turned on to craft beer, the more potential customers. It’s sort of a ‘rising-tide-floats-all-boats’ kind of thing. I hope to repay them somehow, someday.”

Maybee said he was pleased to offer a helping hand, explaining that he had the gear available and wanted to help them get a jump on their production cycle.

“With any business – but especially this kind of business, which has a high start-up cost – cash- flow is critical in the early stages,” he said.

“There are various delays and that’s why we wanted to help them get going. They brewed a batch of beer here and then pumped it into their truck and fermented it at their place. I got a lot of help from the other brewers in town – both Picaroons [Traditional Ales] and the Grimross [Brewing Co.] were a big help to me and others around the province. So I’m paying it forward to the next guys coming down the line. I really want to see them succeed. It’s great to be part of such a generous, collegial industry. I’m glad I can be part of that as well.”

Ward said that in order for local beer fans to wet their whistle with an ice, cold Gray Stone, he has a number of things to accomplish over the next few weeks.

“We have two brews on right now. The first one will be done, probably, in the next seven to 10 days. We have to send it away to get tested in order to be able to sell it in New Brunswick,” he said.

“That process takes about two weeks. With all of this, we’re hoping to get beer ready by the end of [June]. That’s when we’ll have some product ready. We also have to make sure the building is ready, the licenses are in order. A lot of things have to come together, but so far we’re on the right track.”

When the project wraps, the new Gray Stone Brewing facility will house a craft brewery, a retail counter where people can fill growlers for take-home enjoyment and a tasting lounge, where people can wrap their lips around the business’s latest brews or hang out with friends.

“We’re looking at doing, comfortably, about 2,000 barrels a year, which is roughly about 4,000 kegs,” he said.

“That’ll be in the back-half. In the front, we’ll have a tap-house. We’ll probably have seating for maybe 40 people. We want it to be a community-oriented space, where people can come in and spend the afternoon – have a coffee or have a beer, maybe do some work, and then buy a growler and go home.”

Through it all, Ward, who also owns The Capital Complex in the Tannery, has been juggling this project and the daily operations of a bustling nightclub simultaneously.

“Sometimes I get a little overwhelmed, but I have a great team down at The Capital [Complex] that are looking after things while my focus is here,” he said.

“And I have a great crew here, helping me get this place ready. It can be overwhelming, but you’re into it now. You just kind of put your head down and keep going. The next month will be big, when everything that we’ve planned over the last year will come together.”

This new brewery will create some new jobs in the Fredericton area.
“We’ll probably be hiring front of house staff in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

“Between the brewers, the front of house staff, and support staff, right off the ripper we’ll probably be looking at eight to 12 people. We’re putting in 24 taps. When we’re up and running at full capacity, we hope to have anywhere from eight to 12 beers of ours on tap. And then we plan to offer 12 other beers from local brewers. Hopefully, we’ll be busy.”

Down the road, after the business is fully open to the public, patrons will be able to tour the brewery, and see how the magic happens.

“I’m planting 60 hops plants beside the patio out there,” he said.

“The idea is that once they mature, we’ll be able to use them in our beer. But we also figured that’d be great for brewery tours, where we can show people what we’re using. A lot of people haven’t seen a hops plant. We will be giving tours at some point, but they probably won’t start until we get everything situated. Obviously, we’re still getting up and running and getting our beer out there.”

It’s an exciting time for fans of craft beer, he said.

“With the [Trailway Brewing Co.] opening this weekend, and us not far behind, there’s lots of good things happening,” he said.