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  • Gary Crallé

Good ol’ Bootlegging and Beer

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

I’m sitting in Moonshin’hers Café Bistro with framed photos of past nefarious activities decorating the walls. Mario Nadeau from the Festival de le Bagosse bootlegging festival and Janice Arsenault of Edmundston Tourism, New Brunswick are giving me the savoury details.

Fact and fiction have long been part of Edmundston’s quirky history. Next door’s Petit-Sault Brewery continues the tradition when naming its beers. Louis XVII amber ale alludes to Madawaska native Dr. Carl Nadeau’s claim to being heir to the French throne. Soeur Catherine IPA is a serious nun spoof (Sour Sister Catherine?). And La Tante Blanche Witbier honours a woman who saved the community from starvation in 1797.

All told, the list of beers is a who’s who of local heroes and legends, whether made up or not. What’s real is the perfect quality of water in the Iroquois River basin for brewing beer.

Speaking of fact and pulp fiction, twin paper mills on opposite sides of the Saint John River between Maine and New Brunswick operate as partners by transferring a slurry of pulp across the border through a mile-long high-pressure pipe. The two regions weren’t always on the same page, though. Back in 1839 it was a boundary dispute over a paper mill that sparked the so-called Aroostook War.

This area which was once defiantly declared the Republic of Madawaska is still honoured as such by residents on both sides of the border. So are bootlegging and prohibition, exemplified by stories about businessman Maxine Albert who was nicknamed the “Al Capone of Madawaska” for his smuggling operations. He once disguised himself as a priest to cross the border into the U.S. with coffins full of liquor.

Well, at least he kept the spirits together.

The annual Bagosse bootlegging festival (August 25-28, 2022) includes a working still in Maxime’s house to celebrate those times. And just to complete the circle, the current Petit-Sault Brewery occupies the site of the former police station.

Photos and text

© Gary Crallé 2022

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