ST. ANTHONY, N.L.
If all goes according to plan, St. Anthony area residents and tourists will be able to enjoy locally-brewed craft beer in the Northern Peninsula’s first brewpub in time for the 2019 Iceberg Festival and Come Home Year.
Last week RagnaRock Northern Brewing Company cleared the two final hurdles to making St. Anthony home to the latest addition to the burgeoning Newfoundland and Labrador microbrewery industry.
On Oct. 1 the provincial government released the company from its environmental assessment. The next day the company announced it had signed for its remaining funding.
“We were so excited, because we’ve been planning for it and waiting and waiting and anticipating and when we finally got the go ahead, we were ready,” said Brad Simms, the brewer and one of three directors along with his wife Jennifer Simms and Lauren Smithson.
They were so ready, in fact, they couldn’t wait to get inside the Clock Building on West Street and get to work.
“After we got our permit and knew we had our funding secured, a couple of us girls had a bit of a demolition day, we were pretty enthusiastic about that,” Jennifer said. “Officially, within the next week or two, the contractors will start demolition.”
RagnaRock will be completely redesigning the interior of the building to accommodate the brewery and pub, but will restore the exterior to original condition.
“The outside will stay as close as we can to the historic,” Brad said.
What it will look like on the inside on the other hand, they are keeping pretty close to their chests.
“We don’t want to give away all of our secrets, but we want to utilize a bit of history and the local environment; we’ve got a few things in mind that we’d like to do to spruce the place up,” Jennifer said.
The name RagnaRock is a twist on the Viking word ‘ragnarok,’ which means ‘end of the world,’ with the spelling of ‘rock’ standing in for Newfoundland’s nickname, ‘the rock.’
“We called ourselves RagnaRock because we’re at the end of the Viking Trail and the end of the brewery line,” Brad explained. “It feels like when you come here you’re at the end of the world.”
But while the Viking connection might suggest a tourism focus, Jennifer said the business will be first and foremost designed for the local population.
“Our main idea was to have something for our local community,” she explained. “We love hanging out; we wanted a place to go, and we figured a lot of people around here did.”
Brad added that even though they have yet to sell a pint or can of beer, the support has been amazing.
“We just had a recent event at the Dark Tickle Company (St. Lunaire-Griquet), and we did a survey and it all came back good reviews, the beer, the event, and everybody in town is looking forward to have that type of venue here in St. Anthony,” he said.
They have also enjoyed political support.
“It is always positive to see new investment and business interests on the Great Northern Peninsula,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for Flower’s Cover – L’Anse aux Meadows and Newfoundland and Labrador tourism minister. “These businesses add to the local economy and also our tourism product offerings.
“I certainly support the concept of what these entrepreneurs are looking to achieve in the town of St Anthony and wish them much success as they work to open their business.”
The town is also behind RagnaRock.
“We’re very supportive of RagnaRock and it’s great to see them advancing their project in the community,” said St. Anthony Deputy Mayor Krista Lynn Howell. “Congratulations to them for all their hard work.”
In addition to operating its own tap room, plans include selling growlers for take-out, sales to other bars and restaurants, canning its brews for the retail market as far and wide as they are able and getting involved in beer tours.
Ultimately, though, priority one is the local market, Brad said.
“We think a major part of the success of this venture is local support and we’re going to gear a lot of our products and our business towards the locals because locals are 100 per cent behind us, so we’re really appreciative.”