Switching Careers: Building a Brewery

Well well well. A homebrewer who has a dream of opening their own brewery. What an original idea right? Lets face it if you are a homebrewer the idea has crossed your mind. “I make good beer that people seem to like. I am going to make it professionally and sell it!”. Then they tend to look into what actually goes on at a brewery and they learn that their dream of brewing beer as a career is actually 90% cleaning, 9% legal paperwork and 1% making beer. Not to mention running a business is completely different than a hobby. Also worth mentioning is the ever growing saturation of the market. By the time a new brewery opens they have to fight to get a line at a bar. They have to struggle to sell their IPA on a shelf with over 100 IPAs already.

So why am I going into it and what is “it” exactly? “It” is Reverence Barrel Works. If the name doesn’t already give it away Reverence Barrel Works will have barrels. Lots of them. If you have run into me in online communities or in person you know what my favourite beers are the funky and/or sours. Reverence Barrel Works is going to essentially be a mixed fermentation warehouse. Not a single beer will be made without Brett. Reverence Barrel Works will be in house sales with next to no distribution. So that is the “what” now here is the “why”. My day job is OK but I can’t see myself being here until I retire. My dads family is nearly entirely entrepreneurs. Great grandfather? Moved to Canada during WWII to start his own business and succeed. Grandmothers brother? Started his own business and retired a happy man. My father and his brother? Both run a business. My Mother? You guessed it business owner after retiring from a 30 year nursing career. Relatives still over in the Netherlands also for the most part were business owners prior to retiring. Way back in the 1500s an about 15 x Great grandfather owned and operated a small brewery in the Netherlands. Maybe it’s in my blood. Maybe it’s cause the Dutch are stubborn as mules and hate to work for other people. All I know is it has been a dream to be a business owner since I was very very young.

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How and why in the saturated beer industry? Small, in house and niche. I’ll be starting out by contracting a single brew as the brick and motor location is established and built. once the location is up and running it will be a ~3 bbl system with barrels upon barrels of funky and/or sour beer. The “big guys” (craft breweries in stores and in every bar around the area) can fight among themselves with distribution and all that stuff. With tapline “bribes”, hop contracts and the loathed LCBO I struggle to see how and why I would want to go big. Smaller means less employees and I can focus on small sales of higher end products than bulk sales of standard pale ales. Sure there will be a few specialty bars that focus on my kind of beer that I will try to be in, but for the most part this will be a brewery to customer transaction. With the availability of online sales with direct to doorstep shipping in my area I can supply sour and funky beer lovers with the beverages they love in the comfort of their own home.

There are a lot of people I want to thank for getting to this point. The fine folks on the homebrewing subreddit, the old homebrew ledgends like John Palmer for teaching me in the beginning, my local homebrew club GTA brews, Escarpment Labs, Blogs like Brulosophy, The Mad Fermentationist and The Sour beer Blog, everyone who has contributed to Milk the Funk, the IRC crew, my family/friends and last but not least my extremely supportive and loving SO. She tolerates quite a bit of my BS and understands what being a small business owner will do to our relationship.

I plan to still be actively involved in the homebrewing culture and to hopefully work with educational folks like Escarpment Labs to bring more knowledge to the beer industry and hobby. I also plan to continue sharing recipes and techniques. I wouldn’t be where I am without other sharing so I will pay it forward. Thanks to everyone for the support! It’s a slow and legal path to opening a brewery but I look forward to following in my family steps of becoming a small business owner.

If you want to follow along and watch the building of my brewery check out and follow Reverence Barrel Works on Facebook and Instagram.

Cheers,
MD

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Wild Saccharomyces Results plus B2017.2

Oh yeah. That feels nice to finally have in my hand. This past summer I harvested some wild yeast off of some berries in the bush. Wild Yeast Isolated covers the back story. The beer came out quite pleasant. Notes of honey dew melon, poached pears, banana, green peppercorns, clove, cardamon, sage and light citrus. Finishes dry with a white wine/dry mead like quality.

First fermentation had an apparent attenuation of 96%. Flocculation was medium/medium low. Alcohol tolerance so far is happy at 7 ABV upper limits to be tested still. Ferments happily from 66-77 more ranges to be tested. This weekend is going to be brew 2 with this yeast.

This batch will be a Belgian pilsner base with some Munich and Melanoidin. Bittering with German Magnum. This time around because of the honey dew flavours I am going to use some German Huell Melon hops at flame out and dry hop time. Ale will be named Melon Head Gildemeester.

The barley wine in chugging along just fine right now and will be oaked this weekend. The black NEIPA hybrid recieved it’s final dry hop addition and will be packaged this weekend while the Melon Head Gildemeester is being brewed.

Aside from the brewing schedule there are 2 up coming competitions I will be entering. first is a small group competition called the “Winter Warmer” happening early February. I am mainly just looking for feed back here on 3 brews in this one. I have already entered them as 16A, 21B (Black Imperial) and 25B (Standard Pale). The second competition is a Great Lakes Brewery and Short Finger Brewing Co. collaboration called “SFBC X GLB HOP SHOP IPA CHALLENGE”. As from the name you can guess its only a competition for IPAs. Again I have 3 submissions all that are yet to be brewed. 21A with a NEIPA build, 21B (revised Black Imperial) and 28A (21A NEIPA build fermented with a unique Brett courtesy of Escarpment Labs.). After that it is back to regularly brewing.

Cheers,
MD

02/13/17: Beer won 3rd place in a local competition under saison category!

Wild Yeast Isolated

This past summer I collected some berries and plopped them into a small sample of wort. One sample was filled with wild raspberries and the other had black berries. After a few days the samples began to ferment. I took these samples to a local yeast lab (Escarpment Labs) and had them isolated. In all two strains of Saccharomyces as well as what is thought to be Hanseniaspora uvarum were discovered. One of the Saccharomyces was able to ferment a wort of 1.052 down to 1.000 in just 7 days! I will soon be picking up some test samples and fermenting with them. I plan to brew an “All Ontario” Saison with the powerhouse Saccharomyces. Yeast had an apparent attention of Over 95%! The yeast has been unofficially named Gildemeester ale yeast.

All Ontario Farm Ale

Grist:

  • 8 Lbs. Barn Owl Lager Malt
  • 2 Lbs. Barn Owl Munich Malt
  • Mash in with a thickness of 1.6
  • pH of 5.35
  • SO42-/Cl of 2.0

Starting mash temp 113 and ramp up to 148 over 45 min.
Rest for additional 40 min before raising temp to 168 for 10 min
Fly sparge at 168 with 4.5 gal of distilled water.

Boil:

  • 60 min add 2 oz Ontario Crystal 3.21% AA
  • 15 min 1 whirlfloc tablet
  • 15 min add add 1 oz Ontario Crystal 3.21% AA

Chill to 68 and collect 6 gal of wort.
Pitch MWY001 (Blackberry Saccharomyces) at a rate of 750000 cells/ml/P.
Leave in primary for 21 days.
7 days before packaging dry hop with 1 oz Ontario Crystal 3.21% AA
Package and carbonate with 3 vols.

Targets:

  • OG 1.048
  • FG 1.001
  • ABV 6.2
  • SRM 5.75
  • IBU 28

Brewing of this ale will happen mid-late December and, will be enjoyed in the new years.

After this Saturday I will have finished brewing the first version of my house stout, IPA and Belgian golden ale. The BSDA on Brett is slowly fermenting away. RIS is coming out of the barrel, lambic is going in this Saturday. I plan to brew 3 batches next month instead of the standard 4-5.

Cheers,
MD

Over 200 lbs of Grain

Just did a massive bulk order of grains to save a couple bucks down the road. 1 sack Chateau Pilsen malt, 1 sack Thomas Fawcett Pearl, 2 sacks Thomas Fawcett Maris Otter and a 1/4 sack of OiO toasted oat flakes. These sacks should help me really narrow down my core 3 beers I want to have at the brew pub. An Oatmeal stout, a Belgian golden ale and a NE IPA.

The next brews I have planned are as follows: This weekend NE IPA V2.0, Oatmeal stout V1,  barley/wheat/rye wine (cannot decide what grain to use yet), A kellerbier (my first lager) and lastly Belgian golden ale V1.1. In that time I will have bottled my barrel aged RIS, filled the barrel with the lambic I just brewed this past weekend, bottled and served the beer for Pencil Kit Productions and, bottled the Irish red I made with my cousin for his school project

So 2 weekends ago after I got back from Royal City I met up with my cousin and brewed up an Irish red ale for a school project he is doing. They have to do research on Ireland for architecture. Somehow he got the go ahead to make Irish style beer for his university class. This past weekend I brewed up a lambic beer doing a traditional turbid mash and long boil. took me 9 hours to get it into the conical for fermentation.

Cider fermentation is coming along well. Already have some good flavours developing after just a few weeks. Barrel aged beers are coming along nicely. Again a busy month but I’m starting to get more and more into the grove of it.

Cheers,
MD

Brew day at Royal City Brewing Co.

This past Saturday I have the honor of being a guest brewer at Royal City Brewing Co. in Guelph. What? How? Why? Let’s back up a bit.

A few weeks ago my friend Claren contacted me about brewing beer as a fundraiser at an event. The event is produced by Pencil Kit Productions run by Claren and others. The event will be what I can only call an art installation. There will be art in a variety of mediums such as performance, visual and projector. I am very excited to be a part of this and to be able to serve my “art”. When I was asked if I wanted to help out I said “Hell yeah!” without hesitation.

Here is where things got interesting. In order to legal serve home brew for sale the beer must be made under licence at a brewery so that all taxes and such are paid into the greedy pockets of the government. I took to GTAbrews group to figure out how to do this. Long story short Doug -whom I had never met before- seemed like he made a personal mission to help me. Within a few days he had set me up with Royal City Brewing Co. If you have not had their beer go to the brewery! Some very creative and taste stuff. If you cannot make it to the brewery try the Hibiscus Saison or Smoked Honey from the LCBO. They are to die for.

We worked out the details over email and a brief phone conversation and we were ready to rock and roll. Saturday I showed up and was told I would be brewing with the owner and brew master himself! Cam was one of the coolest guys I have ever met. We brewed 11 Gallons of a Belgian pale ale with all American hops. Half will receive dry hop additions and the other half will be aged on spent wine chips and receive dry hop additions. As well Cam had me help move 35 hl of beer into a bright tank. I had an absolute blast hanging out with Cam for the day.

Here is a bit of information about the event (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)event

A huge thank you to the Royal City crew for accommodating me for the day. An even bigger thank you to Cam for sharing so much information and, being excited about what a home brewer is doing.

Hope to see a bunch of people December 9th and 10th!

Cheers,
MD

Cider and Late October Updates

Great Month of brewing and It is not done yet! Cask days was awesome lots of great beers but the best was the cider. Activated charcoal!? Hell yes. Brew slam beer did OK, nothing special but, hey it’s my first comp. The IPA took a bit of yeast on and was not fresh due to the long fermentation. Lavender beer is still mellowing but is great so far! The fractal beer is just WOW. About 40 ABV and dangerously smooth. The pale kellerbier has been pushed back to a date that is TBD still.

The saison I brewed with my cousins is done but, a bit sulfuric. A 1-2 Week period of lagering should clean that up though. The roggenbier is done and that too will be lagered. The FXS has had peanut butter added and will be bottled very soon as well. Belgian Strong dark ale has stalled at 1.045 so, once out of the barrel next weekend the plan is to dry it out a bit with some Brett. B. Then the RIS 1.120 will be moved into the barrel. The BSDA in the barrel is tasting fantastic. Oak and spirit were coming through just after 2 weeks.

Unfortunately I will not be getting 60L of cider this month. However, I am expecting about 20-40L this coming Sunday. Should be fun to experiment with cider and see what I can do. I have over 200 lbs. of grain ordered to arrive mid November. I will be regularly making an IPA, session stout and Belgian golden ale. That will only leave me with 1 week a month for experimentation. Hopefully I can perfect these beers over the next few months.

Next month I will be brewing my Belgian pale ale with American IPA Hops at Royal City Brewing Co. for a fundraiser in December. More details to come on that in a later post. After that my House IPA, House Belgian golden ale, House session stout and turbid mash for a sour. Thinking of doing a Flanders red. Possibly more cider if it comes in. Again another busy month but, what else is new?

I am hoping to write more frequently next month.

Cheers,
MD