Ursa Minor Brewing, started by the Nicholas family at their Ootsa Lake farm, became an instant local hit, despite starting their business during one of the toughest years.
Last year, Nathan and Gwyn Nicholas hosted a beer tasting for their newly launched brewery, in June. The brewery, located at the family’s farm at Ootsa Lake, opened during a global pandemic, seeing a lot less visitors than expected. However, that didn’t stop the family-owned and operated brewery.
“A lot of the COVID-funding that the businesses were eligible to get, we couldn’t get it because we haven’t been in business long enough. That was the downside of having started the business in the middle of the pandemic but the upside is the people in the community have been very supportive,” said Nathan.
Last year, while the brewery didn’t get any international visitors, they got quite a few visitors from Smithers and Prince George and the furthest anyone visited the brewery was from Calgary and Toronto.
“We were surprised at how many people came last year despite COVID. Because we are small, we are hoping to make us more of a destination and a tourist point,” he said.
The brewery now has big plans for summer and are currently working on getting an endorsement to have a picnic area for people to come out, bring their lunches, while enjoying the brewery’s beer and stay longer.
“This was something that came up a lot with our customers and they wanted our place to be more of a destination. So we are taking steps to work on all that,” he said.
“We are also always working on new brews. I have a group of people in Burns Lake, some friends, who are like my tasters. So I make small batches and test it on this taste group. We are also working on some experimental brews with smaller batches and ones that would get popular with the customers, would be put into larger production,” said Nathan, “I am the kind of guy who is always experimenting with new stuff.”
Ursa Minor Brewing is truly a family business in the sense that the entire family is involved in some way. What started as Nicholas’ passion project, was turned into a business after the couple started brainstorming and planning the actual brewery. They started working on plans for the brewery four years back and finally launched the brand last year.
The brand, the labels and the design has all been designed by their daughter Mandy. Their older daughter, Molly helped out with the brewery last summer and is hoping to come work part-time again this summer when she returns from university.
Currently, the brewery is hoping to raise funds to support The Pines. Last month, the family gave a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their newest brew in supporting the Give a Hug to our elders in the Pines. They donated $10 from each of the 20 cases of Misery Slippers Winter Ale.
The Nicholas family has set up an account at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union and is encouraging any businesses and individuals wanting to donate, to do so by the end of April.