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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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