The new monthly Hastings Trailblazer Series celebrates our pioneers who excel in their industries, and who thrive on thinking outside of the box and being innovative. They have community as a deep-rooted value that lends to their success, and being authentic, yet anything but ordinary, is what they strive to achieve. Hastings is proud to be home to so many trailblazers who are strong contributors to our rural economy, be it tourism, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, retail or services. We thank you for your ambition and perseverance through uncertainty.
Scott Williams and Al Shaw know what goes into a good beer.
The long-time friends turned business partners spend their days brewing, canning, serving and selling a variety of different beers at their establishment, 7/62 Craft Brewers, in downtown Madoc.
The idea of starting a business together came to Williams in January 2018, after he was inspired by a discussion he heard at a local economic development meeting. He took his idea to Shaw, who didn’t hesitate to commit.
“Sunday afternoons we’d often crack open a few beers and taste them together,” Williams says. “So, we were already having that conversation. He wasn’t surprised.”
Opening a brewery seemed to be the right fit for the pair. Williams is a retired business owner and entrepreneur, and Shaw, a homebrewer with a background in product and quality control.
“I only knew drinking beer,” Williams joked, adding Shaw – now the company’s official brewmaster – had vast knowledge of the science behind creating great beer. “Al was a homebrewer for many years – and not just a hobbyist.”
Opening a niche business in a small community hasn’t been without its challenges, explains Williams. But throughout the process he and Shaw have remained steadfast in their commitment to bringing their idea to fruition.
In July of 2018, business plan in-hand, they took possession of their building at 162 Russell Street, and began what would be a rewarding yet challenging journey. It’s taken an incredible amount of time and energy getting the project off the ground, says Williams.
“We’ve had to invest a ton of money,” he says. “Scads.”
“If we knew how much it would cost in the end I’m not sure we would have started,” he reflects. “There was no guarantee it was going to work out – but there’s never a guarantee it’s going to work out when you open a business in a small town.”
An added snag has been the recent pandemic, with many businesses, including 7/62, fearing they may not make it through. Williams says he has watched his business and other local businesses transform in the face of adversity.
“I am fascinated and so impressed that everyone has pivoted so fast,” he said. 7/62 has added home delivery options and online services. “The business challenge of adapting to a new normal is quite fascinating to me.”
Not only has the brewery continued to operate by offering curbside pickup and delivery, but it has also supported the community by producing more than 2,000 bottles of hand sanitizer. After more than seven weeks of altered operations, Williams is feeling more confident every day that things will be fine.
Despite the setbacks, Williams and Shaw are both glad they persevered. The community has been supportive, and the brewery has become a focal point in the village since it opened late last year.
Williams and Shaw founded the business on three core values – craft, community, and sustainability. They purchase Canadian equipment and ingredients as much as possible, and are mutually supportive of other businesses in the area by featuring local products and utilizing local services.
Ensuring the brewery honours the heritage of Madoc and caters to area has always been a priority, Williams says.
“It’s all about the contrast between current times and history – and the common thread is the community,” he says. The design on 7/62’s beer cans showcases the rich history of the area, as well as a mural in the brewery and taproom.
At the end of the day, 7/62 Craft Brewers’ aim is to produce “simply good beer” that caters to a wide audience. It’s not necessarily about creating a different tasting beer, because, as Shaw points out, there’s really “no uninteresting beer.” Instead, they focus on crafting a beverage that has unique flavour but is also appealing to a broad range of customers.
“We’re not trying to differentiate ourselves by having a crazy beer, but instead we focus on the quality and the craft,” says Williams. “Our challenge is to satisfy a broad range of tastes and have enough speciality beers to keep people interested.”
This process of experimentation has led them to crafting four core flavours of beer: Best Bitter, Dark Red, Canadian Ale, and their most popular brew, Little Irish. Each brewing day is around 12 hours and involves several steps, and each batch brews between 600 and 900 cans of cold, refreshing beer.
With more than 30 batches under their belts, Williams and Shaw are ready for what lies ahead. They’re hoping for a busy summer season and an opportunity to brew a great tasting product for their returning customers and new buyers. It’s a process that keeps evolving, notes Shaw.
“I’m learning something new every time and I’m making great beer,” says Shaw, “As long as I’m making great beer, I’ll keep going.”