Meet The Guys Behind Behind Winnipeg's Newest Craft Brewery

Over the past few years, Winnipeg’s beer scene has been blessed with a bevy of newcomers. From taprooms like Torque, Barn Hammer and Little Brown Jug to full-on brewpubs like Brazen Hall and One Great City, there are plenty of cool local spots to grab a cold one.

Later this month, craft beer lovers will have yet another option. Founded by home brewers Colin Koop and Steve Gauthier, Devil May Care will begin brewing out of Stone Angel (9-1875 Pembina Hwy) and make their debut at Flatlander’s Beer Festival.

We recently caught up with Colin to chat about the launch. Check out the interview below.

What made the two of you want to open a brewery in Winnipeg? Why together?

Steve and I have always enjoyed a camaraderie between us, both as good friends and as brewing partners. We have a certain yin-yang effect on each other, both filling in gaps where the other maybe lacks a little and where our personal tastes don’t overlap. We’re both super passionate about craft beer. It’s a partnership that spawns a lot of creative ideas and timely solutions to challenges. We’re a great team, so Devil May Care (DMC) is really just a natural extension of our existing relationship.

As far as Winnipeg goes, we’re both big Winnipeg fans. We recognized years ago that our craft beer scene was lagging far behind almost every Canadian city in terms of selection and local options. If you looked across the country two years ago, cities with a quarter the population of Winnipeg had lots of craft breweries – and not just in numbers, but also in quality. Cities like Regina had a bustling, thriving craft beer culture and Steve and I were jealous. Winnipeg deserves that and more, so it made sense for us to use our passion and our skill to give Winnipeg what we thought it was missing. We love this city and we wanted to bring something special to the community we call home.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds. Were you both born here?

I’m a software developer who has been working in the non-profit sector for nearly a decade and a half. I have a degree in computer science from the University of Manitoba. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, having grown up in North Kildonan. I currently live in the Corydon/Crescentwood area.

Steve is a school teacher with an education degree, also from the University of Manitoba. He grew up in rural Manitoba and moved to Winnipeg later on. He currently lives in the Windsor Park area.

Combined, we have exactly zero professional brewing experience but we have been home brewers for years – Steve for over a decade and myself for over six years. We don’t really envision the step up to professional brewing as a huge hurdle, as we have some great brewers to learn from in the city and have really done our homework on making the transition.

Steve Gauthier (left) and Colin Koop of Devil May Care Brewing. 

How did you come up with the name and what’s the overall vibe you’re going for with your brand?

Naming the company was probably our first real struggle, actually. We knew we wanted our name to represent something rebellious and irreverent. The trouble with that was that every time we came up with a good name, it was either directly taken by another brewery from far away or it was far too close to another beer brand. So we did what anyone in the computer age would do – we hit Google! On one of many late evening brainstorming sessions (of course, over beers), we stumbled upon the phrase “devil-may-care attitude.” Something about that really struck a chord with us and we investigated further. The meaning of the phrase fit perfectly with our approach to beer – it means to be happy-go-lucky, casual, flippant, wild, or reckless. We knew we had something there, so we frantically searched for breweries and businesses with the same name and to our surprise found none. I believe we registered the name at the Companies Office and bought the domain the next day.

To me, Devil May Care represents fun. It represents shrugging off responsibility and enjoying a carefree moment or two. You can’t sport a name like that and be a stick in the mud. I think you’ll see some of our own personal sense of humour come through in the branding – a little cheeky and a little irreverent. We’re both pop culture junkies so you’ll probably see a lot of subtle and no-so-subtle nods to our favourite things – be it science fiction, movies, music, comic books, literature, or whatever. In the end though, the aim is for that carefree, whimsical attitude to carry over into the beer itself. We’re going to have a heck of a lot of fun designing and brewing the beer and we want to pass that experience on to the drinker by making them just as much fun to drink.

How is DMC different than the other craft breweries in Winnipeg?

I think one of the main things we’re going to do differently is focusing on the seasonality of beer. Sure, we’ll have core beer brands that will be around all year. But you’re going to see us play around with a lot of seasonal or one-off releases as we really try to stretch our creativity. And you’ll see us try to keep in step with some of the beer trends going on in more established markets, bringing new beery concepts to Winnipeg. Our model really has a lot of built-in flexibility, so we plan on utilizing that to the maximum extent. We have a lot of crazy ideas for beer and we plan on brewing many of those into reality.

You mentioned some of the startup challenges in your launch announcement. What inspired you to keep on going and make this thing a reality?

I think for us it was all about passion for what we love doing and passion for our vision. DMC is quite literally fueled by beer – the love of the industry and home brewing culture, the passion for our craft, and the desire to share our beer with others is the driving force. If we didn’t love brewing beer the way we do, if we didn’t love the city the way we do, we would have given up long ago because there were days where the challenges seemed insurmountable. There was a point where we got close to throwing in the towel, but regret is also a powerful motivator. Neither one of us ever wanted to see a future where we looked back on what might have been and regretted not following it through to completion.

You’ll be operating out of Stone Angel. How will that look exactly? And is it permanent, or do you have plans for your own physical location one day?

Stone Angel has been wonderful to us since Day One, truly swooping in and saving us in true angelic fashion. They offered up use of their brewhouse for our use and some space for us to store fermentation vessels, as well as all the expensive infrastructure that comes along with beer production. We will be brewing on the days where they won’t be, brewing with our own ingredients and producing our own product with our own recipes. And of course, we’ll be there to help out too when they need a hand. You’ll be seeing Steve and myself behind the counter quite regularly in the taproom and you’ll probably see us and the Stone Angel folks working together a lot. The relationship there is really solid and you can expect lots of fun collaborations between the two companies, as we each have different strengths to lend one another. And, of course, you’ll see DMC beers on tap at Stone Angel.

As far as timeline goes, we aren’t sure where the path ahead leads. One day, we do plan to own our own physical brewery. Whether that’s one year or two years or five years down the road, I can’t really say. It really depends on the growth of both DMC and Stone Angel, and what the market demands on each company are. What I can say though, is that we’re happy to be where we are right now and are looking forward to many happy days working with Stone Angel.

Will your beer be available elsewhere? If so, when?

You bet! We’ve had a couple of inquiries already as to what products we’ll have coming down the pipe, so that’s been really nice. Our beer will be on tap around the city and on limited store shelves too. We’re targeting having some beer in kegs around town for the end of June and you can probably expect to see cans popping up in July.

Given the nature of Winnipeg’s craft beer community, you probably know the guys from most of the other breweries in town. What has the response been like from them?

Absolutely. It’s a close community where everyone knows almost everyone. The response has been extremely positive and we’ve heard from almost all the Winnipeg breweries since our announcement. Of course, working so closely with Stone Angel has given us the opportunity to learn from two guys who are seriously great at what they do. They haven’t even stopped answering my endless stream of questions via text/email! We’ve had great advice from the folks at Barn Hammer and Torque. There’s been many idea-sharing chats with the Kilter and Nonsuch guys. And of course I need to reserve special mention for Half Pints and Dave Rudge specifically, who has been so supportive this whole way. His infectious enthusiasm and endless industry knowledge is a large part of how we got to where we are today. DMC owes Dave a LOT of beer.

When do you plan to begin serving beer?

We’re planning our first batches to be ready for Flatlander’s Festival, so I think that’s going to be Winnipeg’s first chance to taste DMC beer. Of course, we’ll be on at Stone Angel immediately following the festival so make sure you come down to the taproom and say Hi! I think you’ll probably see us start to pop up around town after that.

How many beers will you be launching with, and what are they?

We’ll have two at Flatlander’s. One will be an American Pale Ale (a personal favourite style for both of us) as a kind of introduction to DMC. That will be our first real release. The other will be a fun stout that will be for the festival only. I would expect to see another couple beers pop up in late June and into July but I’m not allowed to talk about those just yet 😉

Anything you want to add?

One of the big things we’re excited to try is limited can releases, where we’ll brew something crazy on a smaller scale and package it up in convenient four-packs. Those releases likely won’t make it off-site for sale so you’ll have to come down to the taproom to try it on tap and pick some up to take home. Ever bought a four-pack of cans of Russian imperial stout, barley wine, or Brett-fermented farmhouse beer? DMC is going to experiment with that model because there’s something inherently awesome about being able to do that.

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