CHRIS PHILLIPS:

WHAT’S HE GOT BREW­ING ON THE SIDE?

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - FRONT PAGE -

WRIT­TEN BY PAULA ROY PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY MARK HOLLERON

Chris Phillips is known to many as one of the Ot­tawa Se­na­tors’ most valu­able play­ers. Since be­ing the top NHL draft pick in 1996, Chris – dubbed Big Rig by his team mates thanks to his Fort McMur­ray roots – has played a key role both on and off the ice in Ot­tawa. With his wife Erin, he serves as hon­orary co-chair of Ot­tawa’s Can­dle­lighters chil­dren’s can­cer sup­port char­ity, and he’s also a part­ner in Big Rig Brew­ery. Ot­tawa at Home shared a pint with Chris to talk about his fond­ness for the pop­u­lar brew­pub.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO GET IN THE RESTAU­RANT BUSI­NESS?

I’d been in­volved in other restau­rants be­fore and have al­ways en­joyed it. Some friends and I started talk­ing about open­ing a place like this and as soon as we met our brew­mas­ter Lon Ladell, it all came to­gether. It was a lot of work to get the doors open but I re­ally en­joyed it, hav­ing had a strong vi­sion of the kind of space I wanted this to be – in­dus­trial, but also warm and friendly – the kind of place peo­ple want to visit of­ten.

WHAT ROLE ARE YOU PLAY­ING IN THE BIG RIG OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION?

I’m kind of an ambassador for the Big Rig brand. I visit the restau­rant as of­ten as I can, just to walk around and chat with cus­tomers. I’ll also be pro­mot­ing the beer at events, es­pe­cially now that we are sell­ing our Big Rig Gold through the LCBO. I par­tic­u­larly en­joy the beer side of our op­er­a­tion and en­joy work­ing with Lon, tast­ing and giv­ing feed­back on the dif­fer­ent beers he is craft­ing.

WHAT KINDS OF BEER DO YOU LIKE?

I usu­ally look for lo­cal, craft beers wher­ever I go. When Big Rig first opened a year ago, our ByWard Brown was my favourite, but now I’m par­tial to our flag­ship Gold beer. I’m even work­ing on grow­ing hops for this brew on my Man­otick farm.

DO ON-ICE EX­PEC­TA­TIONS OF YOUR FANS AF­FECT YOU ANY MORE NOW, KNOW­ING THAT SOME ARE WATCH­ING FROM SCREENS AT YOUR BAR?

They do, but it’s not a dis­trac­tion – it ac­tu­ally adds to my joy of be­ing in­volved in Big Rig.

DO YOU SEE EX­PAN­SION IN THE FU­TURE, THINK­ING DOWN THE ROAD TO YOUR RE­TIRE­MENT?

We would cer­tainly like to ex­pand, par­tic­u­larly so we can in­crease our brew­ing ca­pac­ity. We’d also like to look at grow­ing our beer dis­tri­bu­tion side. I know a lot of folks in Al­berta who would like to get their hands on Big Rig beer!

IS THE HOS­PI­TAL­ITY BUSI­NESS WHAT YOU EX­PECTED IT TO BE?

Yes and no. There are a mil­lion de­tails that can­not be an­tic­i­pated, but I find my­self get­ting more drawn into it as time goes on. There is so much I want to learn, es­pe­cially about the brew­ing process. It’s been hum­bling to see the op­er­a­tion have so much suc­cess – I was pretty ex­cited the first time I walked into an LCBO and bought a six pack of Big Rig beer. I feel like the brew­ing world, es­pe­cially in Ot­tawa, is a lot like hockey. It’s a true brother­hood and I re­ally love that about it.

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