In 2018, the Kahnawake Brewing Company (KBC) opened its doors as the first majority Native-owned microbrewery on First Nations territory in Canada. Now, they’re turning heads far beyond the crowds in Kahnawake.
KBC took home the business-of-the-year award at the Recognition Gala of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Greater Roussillon (CCIGR).
“It was a nice surprise for us and a very big honour for us,” said head of brewing operations at KBC, Drew Stevens, of the recognition. He accepted the prize at the CCIGR’s fourth annual gala, held on October 26.
Stevens said this award came as a surprise to himself and KBC co-owners Matt Deer and Fred Leblanc, since it’s not a category for which businesses can register themselves. Instead, it’s voted on solely by the jury, which is a group made up of judges from chambers of commerce across the province, hence the award also being referred to as the “jury’s favourite.”
KBC was a finalist in two regular categories – lodging, restaurants, recreation-tourism, arts, and culture; and manufacturing business. “We were already pretty blown away that we were finalists for two of those categories, which was amazing,” said Stevens.
This also marks the first-ever Kahnawake business to enter the CCIGR, submit their application for the awards, become a finalist, and take home an award.
“These are all firsts,” said David Bergeron, general manager at CCIGR, calling this edition of the gala “historic.” KBC was one of 28 businesses who were candidates in this year’s award ceremony across 13 categories.
The idea for KBC to join the CCIGR came about when in talks with Bergeron, who’s also involved in the beer scene, to discuss and work on funding opportunities for KBC to expand its tourism offerings. The relationship grew from there on.
The “Business of the Year” award is meant to acknowledge a business that may have fallen short of an award but that truly stood out to the jury regardless due to its overall character, explained Bergeron.
“I was very pleased to see the quality of the applications that we had this year, and the number of businesspeople who were at the event because considering the economic situation, which is a little unstable, seeing all these come together to celebrate all these entrepreneurs, it was really a nice evening,” he said.
He is also glad to have a united economic region, noting that the CCIGR used to be divided into two chambers of commerce prior to 2019. He believes that delimitations between cities and regions often inhibit prosperous economic growth. “We all have an interest in working together. By working together, we’ll go further,” he said.
“Of course we’re proud, we’re glad the people were there, and it’s always touching to see the people, the finalists as well as those who are the winners. So it was an emotion-filled evening too,” said Mélanie Lafaille, coordinator of events and member services at CCIGR.
As for KBC’s future, Stevens said they’re constantly looking to expand their offerings and products and are looking into non-alcoholic options as well. All the while, the team is also trying to build ties and engagement within the community.
“It’s the people that come here on the everyday, so when you have a chance to give back from time to time, it’s important,” said Stevens.
This article was originally published in print on Friday, November 10, in issue 32.45 of The Eastern Door.