By Stephanie MacFarlane
The new Lagabière beer production plant, built at a cost of $11 million, is now operational in the Iberville industrial park. In addition to considerably increasing the production capacity of the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu brewing company, the place is now at the cutting edge of technology.
The team left its former production site, with an annual capacity of 1,000,000 liters of beer, to settle in its new address at the end of 2021.
The grain is stored outside in two watertight silos with an individual capacity of 30 tonnes. A system makes it possible to convey the grains from the silos, to grind them, then to include them directly in the recipe of the brewer.
The new brewing system, which allows three recipes to be concocted at the same time, is connected. “We have data on our cellphones: temperature, pH, density, sugar, etc. It’s super precise. This is the big improvement. It’s less traditional, but it’s better for the quality of the beer,” says Sébastien Laganière, co-owner of the brewery with his brother Francis.
After brewing, the beer is cooled and then transferred to one of six fermenters of 12,000 liters each. Eleven more will be added soon. Yeast is added. Lagabière has acquired a yeast propagator, equipment that allows it to be more competitive and more efficient.
The shortest stay in a fermenter is about two weeks. It is the pilsner that stays there the longest, about six weeks.
The plant is now equipped with a centrifuge, equipment that accelerates the settling of particles. This also helps reduce deposits. The beer is then transferred to a conditioning tank to be canned.
The containers are rinsed before being filled. An X-ray can detect the level of the beer. “Before, we weighed the cans manually,” says Francis Laganière.
The can is then sealed, then the containers are put into crates. This step is currently done by hand. However, a cartoning machine will be added to the equipment in order to automate this step.
The plant also has a laboratory. “All the batches that come out are analysed,” explains Sébastien Laganière. The alcohol level, bitterness and color of the beer are analyzed in particular. “Before, we had 10% of all that. These analyzes make it possible to ensure the stability of the product”, continues Francis Laganière.
The place now houses a large refrigerated warehouse, which the company did not have before. An advantage for maintaining the freshness of brewing products. “Heat makes beer age,” says Francis Laganière. The Laganière brothers have also invested in equipment to produce non-alcoholic beer. They are still in the testing phase.
Lagabière currently produces some three million liters of beer per year. Its new factory has the capacity to make seven million. “Fermentation tanks give us flexibility. We don’t have plans to produce seven million liters annually,” says Francis Laganière.
This flexibility allows them to diversify their production – their range now includes around twenty products –, to brew exclusive special beers as well as to offer philanthropic beers. Lagabière is notably associated with Celtix du Haut-Richelieu and Arbre Canada.
Lagabière beers are currently sold in more than 2,000 outlets in the province. They are beginning to be distributed in Maxi grocery stores as well as in Couche-Tard convenience stores in Montérégie. The two brothers are also developing the bar market. They aim to serve 200 by the end of 2022.
Their beers are also offered internationally, including the United States, Japan, and even Dubai, United Arab Emirates. “Dubai is marginal, but it’s fun to say that we are sold there,” says Francis Laganière.
The new building, erected on 3e rang Sud in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, has a floor area of 19,000 square feet and a total area of 23,000 square feet. It houses the administrative offices of the company. These are arranged on a closed mezzanine.
The new Lagabière address also hosts a tasting room, also called Tap Room. Customers can therefore taste the products before leaving with beer. A few tables also allow people to have a drink there, but unlike the brewpub in Vieux-Saint-Jean, the hours are reduced.
Since their factory is located near the La Montérégiade bike path, the two brothers aspire to organize tours of their factory on Saturdays. The Lagabière team, including the Vieux-Saint-Jean brewpub, has about fifty employees.