Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Secret Sausage Maker’s Tragic Start

This is a story about meat passion. A happy one? No, not yet.

I received an anonymous tip on Twitter about a mysterious sausage maker in an unlikely location. To my knowledge, the workshop is completely hidden from view and is owned and operated by an oldschool 5th generation sausage maker.

The Main Street and Broadway intersection is a busy hub that’s lined with hip cafes and indie shops. It’s also where a fire destroyed five businesses last November. Somewhere among the rubble lies a passionate pair of meat craftsmen with an inspiring story to tell.

It began more like a drug deal than a charcuterie tasting. Mainly Main and I met our guide in the back alley. We nodded at each other as confirmation. He led us behind a fence, down a few steps, and into the secretive workshop.

Once inside the antiqued-mint-green workshop, we were greeted by a friendly giant with a firm handshake. He invited us over to a steel counter that showcased a dozen different artisinal meat products. As we sampled on his offering of liver pate, salami, headcheese, and my favourite, pork jowl prosciutto, Drews shared his admirable and tragic story behind D-Original Sausage Co.

The first thing I noticed when I tasted Drews’ meats is how clean and authentic they tasted. The salami tasted just as it should – comprised of little more than salt, spices, and quality meat. I was skeptical when he offered me a slice of bologna, which I haven’t had since the squishy mayo sandwich days in elementary school. But wow, it tasted nothing like the processed foam I remember. It’s a complex, grown-up version that I’d be happy to see in kids’ lunches.

What makes their product stand apart from the rest?

Meat selection is extremely important. Each pig is raised locally and hand-selected. Every product requires thoughtful preparation. For salami, the meat should begin frozen but the initial temperature for each product differs. Moisture is naturally removed during the freezing process which also destroys the cell structure. If the meat starts out dryer, they can use less salt and sulfurs. This is a process that many sausage makers “don’t bother with anymore” and Drews is “bringing it back to life”.

Who is Drews Dreissen?

He’s a fifth generation sausage maker that has honed his craft for 35 years. He’s from a family of German butchers and has settled in Canada for 21 years. Before starting his business, he was the production manager at Grimms and later, the plant manager at Fletcher’s. One day, he decided he’s finally had enough. It’s “time to do something good, something fun, go back to the roots”, he explained.

The crazy story behind the location.

D- Original Sausage has been in this Main Street space for just over one year. The previous owner was a semi-retired elderly man that wanted to make some side money with sausage making. Sadly, he developed Alzheimer’s disease and lost much of his memory. Every morning, he drove into work, sat down, and didn’t know what to do. He only allowed his son to enter the workshop as he became increasingly “wondrous”. As a result, he ordered and discarded thousands of dollars worth of meats, casings, and spices. When Drews found out about the situation through the son, he offered a hand.

After 6 weeks of initial clean up, the son asked if Drews would like to rent the space and they shook on it. Drews’ friend came down from the Okanagan and the two spent 6 months renovating the space. “Tragic figures, but we had a lot of fun.”

When everything that could possibly go wrong, does.

Every single fuse in the space blew in the first half-year of operation. Drews and his partner worked very long hours to bring the workshop up to specs. When everything was finally up and running, the old pipes that accumulated dust over the years ignited. Drews called his distributor to inform everyone that there was “no more product”.

The partners hurried to fix everything up again. It all seemed to pay off when they signed a big contract with a business that immediately dropped all their other meat suppliers. They thought they were set.

“Two days later, boom”.

That’s when the epic Main Street fire struck. Their building fortunately did not burn to the ground like the neighbouring ones did but their workshop still suffered tremendous damage. Their power was disconnected for six weeks and held back any renovation plans. “What a nightmare… and this was during Christmas,” Drews recalls.

Oldschool Hospitality

Drews and his partner walked us through the smoke room, curing room, and the walk-in fridge. After the tour, they pulled out even more meats for us to sample and a generous amount to take home. I was overjoyed. When I asked him where my readers can purchase his product, he replied, “I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask my distributor… but everything will be on the website soon”.

At the moment, his website is still a domain placeholder but he managed to open a twitter account. I hope that their plunge into the murky waters of social media marketing will help their small business excel.

Thanks Drews and his silent partner for their generosity and sharing their remarkable story.

If you cannot see the photos, View the Flickr Set or get Adobe flash player

  1. April 26, 2010 by Fearless Kitchen

    It’s great that they were able to keep the business going through all that… it’s getting harder and harder to find this kind of artisan.

  2. April 26, 2010 by Leela

    Great story, Mel! I’ve noticed that great food is often found in obscure places. If it means I get to be surrounded by these delicious sausages (and hopefully sample a few), I’d be hanging out in the alley too.

  3. M – This is such a neat interview with the Drews! I can’t wait to sample their artisan sausages someday!

  4. April 26, 2010 by Sushicat

    don’t wait to taste Drews creations – you should all be enjoying them now, ’cause I am!

  5. April 26, 2010 by Ivy

    Congratulations for being one of the other 23. Great post and interview.

  6. April 27, 2010 by The Duo Dishes

    These little secret finds are great! So nice to keep the local artisans going.

  7. April 28, 2010 by Maria

    It’s great to support businesses such as this … it is hard to find fresher, more flavorful products somewhere other than a local artisan. Kudos to them for keeping the tradition up and to you for highlighting it!

  8. April 28, 2010 by Shauna from Piece of Cake

    Awesome report, Mel! Felt like I was there, all the way from San Francisco. Great, great job.

  9. April 29, 2010 by catty

    That is so interesting! I love finding out stories like that, that is like a secret to your city. Great photos too :)

  10. May 02, 2010 by The Cilantropist

    That is such an interesting story, their perseverance is inspiring! Lucky for you that you got to check out such a special and authentic shop. :) Love the photos, it makes you feel like you are right there!

  11. May 05, 2010 by Teresa

    What a great touching story. It’s little gems like this business and the people behind them that make Vancouver food scene even more interesting and deep with culture and respect. I’m glad their business still thriving

  12. May 05, 2010 by eatingclubvancouver_js

    Great story! I wish we could buy some of his products soon. . .

  13. May 08, 2010 by Edible Vancouver

    Thank you so much for sharing this story! We love hearing about these so well hidden gems. This is one fascinating sausage story, and I hope you’ll keep us updated and let us know if/where/when we can buy his products.

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