(Above: The covered bridge in West Carleton. Photo by Barry Gray.)
Romantic, historic, picturesque. Idealized in story and movie, covered bridges have a special nostalgia about them.
Of course, they can also inspire brewing companies. But let’s take a step back.
In the late 1980’s, commodities trader Greg LeBlanc became associated with an old-style farm in West Carleton. Originally built in the 1840s or 1850s, there was a creek on the property that dissected the farm.
Of course, a bridge was required to get over the creek. LeBlanc wasn’t having much success with his bridges. “Whatever we built just rotted,” he said.
Hailing from a small town just outside of Moncton, New Brunswick, LeBlanc loved the history of the covered bridges. The real inspiration came from a weekly Sunday night CTV television show featuring aspects of rural life called Regional Contact.
“Blame most of it on Regional Contact,” said LeBlanc. “Every time I saw an episode I would get a new animal or idea.”
Over the course of the summer of 1999, construction took place. The bridge is built from local red cedar, with hemlock for the decking that came from a bush being removed for highway expansion. The steel was repurposed from the weigh scale from a farm that was being taken down.
“It was just happenstance that it fit,” said LeBlanc.
Building the bridge proved to be a group effort – everything from milling the lumber to hauling the steel to actual construction.
“It made me realize that you can accomplish some things you think are good ideas,” said LeBlanc. “Ask for help. There is often help around.”
Originally, the bridge was named Jim’s Bridge in remembrance of Jim Harley who formerly owned the farm. Eventually, it became known as just the Covered Bridge.
As time passed, LeBlanc subdivided the farm and houses were built. As part of the planning, LeBlanc wanted to preserve the covered bridge and built another bridge, creating a circuit for people to walk along and enjoy.
“Preserve, connect, enjoy,” explained LeBlanc. “Whatever order you want. I think it’s a good notion for the community.”
That’s were John vanDyk enters the story. He has a house on the subdivided farm and every night he and his wife, Kathy, used to take the very active Husky they had for walks around the circuit that LeBlanc created, crossing the covered bridge.
Then several years ago, he was encouraged by his wife to purchase a $20 Mr. Beer home brewing kit.
“I wasn’t a big beer drinker,” said vanDyk. The purchase of the $20 kit changed all that. “It got me into the whole rabbit hole of brewing.”
“Home brewers generally name our breweries,” said vanDyk. “I live on Covered Bridge Way and liked the quaint nature of it.”
A friend developed a logo, based on the covered bridge, to go on vanDyk’s home brewed bottles.
At the recent West Ottawa Food and Wine Show, LeBlanc recognized his covered bridge on a bottle of beer.
“I thought that was fun – fantastic!” said LeBlanc. “So many things in this area deserve celebrating.”
And so the nostalgia of the covered bridge lives on. LeBlancs’ vision is commemorated as the covered bridge is preserved, he and vanDyk were unknowingly connected through the bridge and many enjoy the results of vanDyk’s Covered Bridge Brewery.
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