The pair even brew a white Indian Pale Ale called ‘La Ciel Ouvert’ (The Open Sky), using water taken from a lake that has accumulated at the bottom of the mine. When that beer was released, it got people talking, but Pellerin was unperturbed.
“We had the water analysed and it is perfect,” he says. “People wanted to taste it.”
The award-winning brewery is now draws Quebec’s many bikers who stop off at Asbestos while touring the countryside.
“We’re not on a major tourist route, but people come regardless,” explains Pellerin. “At the moment, we employ about 19 employees, between the bar and the brewery. We’ve experienced good growth, and we’re hoping to increase production by 30% next year.”
Pellerin is confident the town is finding its feet again, despite keeping its toxic name.
“People are coming back, with experiences in the cities and from further afield,” he says. “I think they’re coming back to a place that has changed, and that is much more open, and with less of a closed mentality.
Rising to the challenge
Hugues Grimard, the Mayor of Asbestos, recognises that the roughly 7,000 inhabitants of Asbestos faced a major challenge when a controversial $58 million Canadian ($45 million US) government loan to support the mine was cancelled in 2012, leading to its closure.
The town has seen a decades-long exodus as the industry has waned, with its population falling from more than 10,000 inhabitants at the mine’s peak in the 1970s, to just over 6,000 in 1999, the year the UK fully banned asbestos imports. The mine’s final shuttering was a blow, but it hasn’t resulted in a fresh exodus.