Lemay, who hails from L’Orignal, and Mainville, who calls Chapeau, Québec his hometown, met at the University of Ottawa in 2009 when they were both studying nursing. They are both registered nurses and Lemay remains a licensed practitioner though Mainville has now retired from the profession to focus on his duties as head brewer at Brauwerk Hoffman in Rockland’s industrial park. “We knew early on that we wanted to do some kind of business,” Mainville said, noting that the question was what kind of business.
Mainville used to work on a hops farm that was located next to his own family’s farm operation in the Chapeau area. It did not take the two of them long to think that becoming part of Canada’s growing craft brewing industry could be a great business goal for them. “So we went on a beer trip in Ireland,” said Lemay, adding that the purpose was to study the process of European beer-making from the experts.
Following 16 months in brewing science and business management course at Niagara College, Mainville later went over to Germany to meet with and talk to some of the brewmasters there. He had the good luck to meet with the Biermeister at Weihenstephaner, one of the oldest brewery sites in the world. Beer-making has been a continuing art there since at least 1040 A.D.
“I already had a passion for German beer,” said Mainville, adding that the plan he and Lemay and their other partners in Brauwerk Hoffman had was for a German-style Brauerei, or brew pub that featured both German beer and German pub food, with everything made from local sources.
“We wanted to be true to our roots,” said Mainville, “and to keep that local connection.”
Rockland’s own brewery
Both Lemay and Mainville agreed that they wanted to have their brewery located in Eastern Ontario. The question was where. They narrowed their choices down to the Ottawa Valley region and Rockland won in the end.
Brauwerk Hoffman set up in November 2020 and began brewing eight different kinds of German-inspired lagers, ales, and other beers. Lemay and Mainville agreed that the pandemic knocked askew their original plans for launching a brewpub as part of the operation, but that remains the ultimate goal.
For now, they are concentrating on beer-making and making the best beer they can, both for on-site sales by phone and email order, and also with plans for distribution to restaurants in the region and also getting their own space on the shelves of beer stores and maybe the LCBO.
“We are actively working on our e-commerce program to provide those online sales,” said Lemay. Adding that the brewery has also secured sales for its products in Rockland at the G.A.B. Sports Bar, Virtual Golf, and Chez Boulanger.
So far things are looking good for made-in-Rockland German beer. “We’ve had some very strong feedback,” said Lemay.
The folks behind Brauwerk Hoffman are also working on building strong community ties. They had a “virtual float” set up in the December drive-through parade display that the city organized in the rear parking lot area of the Clarence-Rockland Arena. They also think that a local Oktoberfest celebration could some day be part of the Rockland community events calendar. “We want to provide a genuine experience,” said Mainville.
The two German beer enthusiasts agree that the time may be right now for a circle tour of Prescott-Russell craft breweries from Beau’s Natural Brewery in Vankleek Hill down through to Casselman and Embrun with the Casselbrewery, Brasserie Étienne Brulé Brewery, and Brasseries Tuque de Broue Brewery, and on to Clarence-Rockland with stops at The Broken Stick Brewery in Hammond and Brauwerk Hoffman.