A born and raised Calgarian, P.J. L’Heureux — founder and president of Craft Beer Market — is proud of his roots.
“I’ve seen the ups and downs, and the people who’ve shaped the city,” L’Heureux says. “I’m super happy to be one of the ones who have welcomed other people into the city, and watched it triple in size.”
L’Heureux was a very young entrepreneur, and with help from supportive parents, started a successful DJ company back in high school. He studied business at university, but his business life was far more important. With partners, he opened his first in a chain of nightclubs at only 23 years old.
“I was very successful at what I was doing at a young age,” he recalls. “I’ve done so many things before Craft, but most people attach me to it. It’s also what catapulted me to the next level.”
Throughout his DJ and nightclub days, L’Heureux was always into beer – good or bad.
“I was always into beer that you couldn’t get, so I was one of the guys a bit against the norm,” he says. “At 17, I was brewing beer in my basement.”
He opened Jamesons Irish pub in 2003, but it was after opening St. James’ Corner in 2008 that he started travelling to different cities to investigate restaurants, bars, pubs, brewpubs, and breweries.
“You name it – I was going to them, and that’s where the vision of Craft Beer Market came in,” he says with a laugh.
L’Heureux knew Craft was a special concept when people asked him to open in other cities.
“Now we’re in Ottawa and soon to be in Toronto,” he says. “Competition fuels greatness; we have 120 beers on tap here, and 140 in Vancouver.”
Asked about his latest venture, Trolley 5, L’Heureux’s eyes light up.
“I’ve always wanted to brew, and I’ve probably visited more breweries than most people will ever visit in their lifetime,” he explains. “It’s very much a passion project. I’m passionate about beer, and I’m passionate about bringing people together through beer.”
So what is L’Heureux’s special bottle?
A bottle of Pliny The Elder from the Russian River Brewing Company is sitting on the table.
“I didn’t pick it out of a liquor store, I picked it because I went to the brewery and tried a lot of their beers. It’s not about accolades — it’s touted as one of the best beers in the world by those who know,” says L’Heureux.
The brewery is in California, and it has beer people talking.
“It’s very difficult to get that beer, so when you see it on tap in California, you want to try a Russian River – you’ll never see it on tap in Canada, unfortunately,” L’Heureux adds.
“I went to Napa and I was tasting wine, which is a little bit out of my element, and I only had a few hours to spare,” he recalls. “I had to go down to Russian River as it’s one of my favourite breweries, and one of those great stories, so my experience was very personal and individual.”
And when is he going to drink it?
“For me, beer is never something you drink alone. It’s usually shared with people who love beer, and who are going to appreciate it. Beer is about community and bringing people together. I would open it with a few people. No special occasion needed, just the right people at the right time,” says L’Heureux.