Building a Brewery

So. Here we are. We’re starting a brewery. Do we like beer? Yes. Do we know how to make beer? We would like to think so. Do we know how to start a brewery? Well lets find out.

 

Alex and I (Colin) have been making beer in our backyard to varying, but ever increasing degrees of success for four years now. Summer or winter, rain or shine. Were kind of like postmen of beer without, you know, those “tendencies”. I guess you could call it a character building experience, or some other excuse to suffer in the name of catching a buzz. Matt came over for a brew day one sunny afternoon and decided this was the life for him. We are kind of three sheets to the wind guys or caution to the wind, whatever that metaphor is. So we decided we should start a brewery. We bought a Sabco brewmagic, a staple pilot system in breweries across North America to perfect our craft. More brewing occurred, more imbibing followed. A cat and mouse game that has taken us to our current juncture.

 

A year ago we crossed paths with Paddy Sorrenti, he was keen to get a homebrew brewery of sorts started in a warehouse in the Manchester Industrial Park. After a few hundred pints together we realized that the dream needed to happen. A couple of things in the nebulous world of the Alberta Governments liquor control board, the AGLC, happened that started pushing us towards our inevitable conclusion. The AGLC removed their minimum production capacities. An outdated law that was initially made with the best of intentions was preventing a craft beer renaissance from flourishing in one of the world’s best barley producing regions. A couple of entrants have put their hats in the ring since this law was overturned but it has not been an absolute deluge. Secondly and more recently, the Provincial government has changed the excise taxation structure (boring…) that is more favourable for smaller breweries (yay.). So why then haven’t more people jumped into this?  Turns out starting a brewery is a lot of work. First and foremost, convincing your loved ones that starting a brewery is a good idea. Okay, phew. Got this one out of the way. Then you need a business plan, source equipment, get a bank loan, find a lawyer, put together enough money, source ingredients, perfect your recipes, work on your branding, begin making industry contacts, find a building to rent, insurance, find trades, and on and on it goes. Did I mention none of us have ever worked in a brewery before?

 

After hammering out a business plan that appears to be fruitful in a couple of years we took it to the banks. ATB, a stalwart in supporting small businesses in Alberta granted us a loan. We visited a couple suppliers of stainless equipment and decided to keep it local. We decided to go with Ripley’s Stainless for a couple of reasons: 1. they are local 2. They are a small shop 3. They come highly regarded in the industry 4. That Canadian dollar ain’t looking so hot these days. Al has been diligently handling the equipment ordering process. Meanwhile, I have been dealing with the City of Calgary in getting our development permit. Hurdle after hurdle this has not been an easy struggle. Some of the other guys that have gone through this have told us it is not an easy struggle to get everyone on the same page. We are still not quite there yet either. I remain hopeful though. If any of you are even thinking of starting a brewery right now make dealing with the city your very first step. 

 

Matt will be rejoining us from Australia in a month. He will be handling the sales side of things along.

 

So where are we now? Our equipment is ordered and on its way. We are still waiting for some approvals from the Alberta Government and the City of Calgary. But for the moment it is full steam ahead!

 

Stay tuned for updates!