HANWELL– After bonding over their love for craft beer and homebrewing, Shawn Meek and Rob Coombs have taken their hobby from a simple homebrewing kit to a fully-fledged brewery, Niche Brewing, in Hanwell.
Meek and Coombs have day jobs and busy families. When they met four years ago and developed a shared interest in craft beer, starting their own brewery wasn’t on the horizon.
“Our kids were going to the same daycare, and we started talking about homebrewing and shared recipes and ideas,” says Meek. “I’m not exactly sure when the idea for opening a brewery came up.”
They both have full-time jobs. Meek is a pharmacist and Coombs is an MRI Technologist, and fitting the brewery into their schedules can be difficult.
“It’s something we enjoy and we’re passionate about,” says Coombs. “When we get the extra time from work, we do what we can at the brewery, whether that’s cleaning delivery kegs or running errands for ingredients.”
Before craft beer culture took off in New Brunswick, Coombs and Meek recognized a lack of selection at bars and liquor stores. This inspired them to start homebrewing, and this hobby evolved into a passion with both Meek and Coombs writing their own blogs on homebrewing.
“It’s really amazing how much it’s changed in the last year or so,” says Meek. “There was only a handful of breweries in New Brunswick a few years ago, and now you see craft beer everywhere.”
Coombs says the popularity of craft beer is part of a broader trend around buying local made food and drinks.
“I think it’s sort of similar to the trend of people buying their food locally,” he says. “It’s healthier, and you’re supporting your local businesses and breweries.”
Niche Brewing has three beers in demand at the moment: Single Origin, Something Different, and Orange Creamsicle IPA.
“We’re trying to focus on a wide variety of beer styles, some that you might not have seen around here, like wild fermented beers. We’re just experimenting and trying to find out what’s good, and we’re going to keep making beer and take it as it comes.”
Niche Beer will be available at the 2018 Fredericton Craft Beer Festival on March 10.