Stéphane Pilon, co-founder of Broken 7, is trying to change the way we think about local beer with a product that gives Montrealers a feeling of nostalgia and of pride, wherever they are in the world.
But the duo behind this Montreal beer isn’t an inexperienced pair of home brewers experimenting in their free time. Between Stéphane and his business partner Pol Brisset, there are years of hard work in the industry as brand developers for high end liquors and beers ranging from Skyy Vodka and Jaegermeister to Heineken N.V. and Molson Coors Brewing Company. And they’ve seen every step of the process —Stéphane started off working in bars at just 18 years old.
Over the years, the pair has worked with brands you can find on menus around the world. They realized how they could leverage their experience to bring big brand focus to their local project: “Outside of putting out our ideas for big brands, let’s do our own brand. That’s how it came together.” Then came a realization that would shape their new company:
When you’re outside of Montreal, you can’t find Montreal beer.
“We wanted to build a beer from Montreal,” Stéphane remembers, “to create a beer that’s all about Montreal, that you can sit and drink in Paris or in New York.”
That’s how their first beer, MTL Premium lager, was born. It combined the experience and taste of those famous export beers with Montreal’s spirit. What they ended up with was a mix of both worlds: “Noble ingredients from Europe and modern ingredients from Canada. That’s Montreal. Montreal is a mix of the Europeans who built Montreal and the Canadians who give it its modern ways.”
But the MTL Premium Lager only reflected one side of Montreal — the care and passion that the city pays to it’s gastronomic culture and the world class products that emerge from that culture. The other side of Montreal is its workers, its artists, its students, its small business owners, and amongst all of them, its sports fans. That’s when they decided to start Broken 7.
They were still looking for the nostalgic, Montreal taste of their previous beer, but this time the memories they were trying to bring back were of pick-up games in the local park and watching Montreal’s favourite teams on the living room couch. So they set out to create a light, refreshing beer that felt like home. And when it’s not found on tap in bars or restaurants, it can only be found in one format: the classic 500ml bottle that recalls the sports culture it’s built around.
“The Expos rumour is coming back, so I think it’s good timing. Our thematic is baseball right now, but we support every type of sport — we sponsored an ultimate frisbee team last year, fixed gear racing with Bikurious, and even triathletes. It’s not just about hockey and baseball, even though those are the big Montreal sports. We support fans of all kinds.”
They started selling in 14-15 bars and restaurants in Montreal, and now—in their fourth year—they are listed in more than a thousand points of sale in Quebec as a blonde ale and an IPA.
Despite that growth, Stéphane maintains that a small team created Broken 7, and that they’ve stayed that way: “It’s a beer from us. It was made here, created here, and it tastes like the city of Montreal. Sometimes people think we’re a big company, but we have just me managing, Julian who is the master brewer, Maxime who’s the assistant brewer, and Gabriel who’s our sales rep. That’s the small team.”
What helped that small team spread their work was the support and backing of the Terrebonne based Brasserie les Deux Frere, who have helped them with retail and distribution.
“Now we have a big team behind us at the distributor in Terrebonne, which is good. We couldn’t have grown fast without them. Hopefully small breweries like us will grow too and the market will open much more.”
Stéphane let us know that he hopes to see that growth continue in Montreal, to bring the city together around its fans, both of local sports and local business. And most of all, local products.
Broken 7 just released a brand new IPA, is working on an organic red, and wants you to know that you can actually order a keg of their craft beer from their location at 370 Rue Guy.
For more info on Broken 7, visit their Facebook page.