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Eric Portelance, co-founder at Halo Brewery

Eric Portelance, co-founder at Halo Brewery

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Presented x Mondial de la Bière [June 14-18, 2017 – Montréal]

Who are you: 

Eric Portelance

Your current job:

Co-founder at Halo Brewery

In which city are you located?

Toronto, Ontario

 A word to define what kind of worker you are: 


What tools are essential to your life (app, software, etc..) 

From a productivity standpoint, I probably use Things, Simplenote and Fantastical more than anything else. Of course Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for marketing Halo and interacting with our customers. 1password because you really need a robust password manager for security. Scanbot is really helpful for digitizing receipts and invoices.

What does your office space look like? 

Our brewery is too small to have a dedicated office so I just end up sitting at the bar when we’re closed, or sometimes work from my kitchen table at home when I need extra quiet time. It’s hard to do some kind of work in the brewery when we have customers there because I end up just taking up a table.

How large is the brewery?

It’s about 1300 sq ft total and that includes the entire brewing space, cold storage, washroom and taproom/retail store. It’s pretty insane how much we managed to squeeze into that space. Everything was planned down to the centimeter. We were hoping to find a larger space but nothing was available at the time — or they weren’t in neighborhoods where we felt like we would get a lot of walk-by traffic.

The reason you started brewing? 

I started brewing when I moved to Toronto (from being in the U.S. for a few years). I walked into a liquor store here and was looking for beers of the style I had grown to love in the U.S. and couldn’t find anything remotely similar. I had been interested in trying to homebrew for a few years and it seemed like as good a time as any to pursue a new hobby. The idea was to brew things I liked but couldn’t find in Toronto.

What was the inspiration behind your brewery? 

On the beer side, we’re primarily brewing modern American-inspired hoppy beers and a variety of sours. There are a few culinary-type beers thrown in which have various fruit or spice additions. Our concept has had to continue to evolve in response to market feedback based on what works and what doesn’t work. Ultimately we brew what we like to drink, though. As for the overall concept, it is rooted a bit in geek culture but there is no profound meaning other than our desire for continuous improvement and approaching beer without too many pre-conceived notions of what it should be like.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario? 

Our biggest challenge is probably market access — specifically the ability to sell to bars, restaurants and retail stores. On the licensee side, it’s getting easier to find bars that treat the beer properly with cold storage, clean draft lines, dispensing temperature and pressure, etc. but that’s not always the case. The retail environment in Ontario is still quite archaic. We have The Beer Store, which is owned by a group of foreign beverage conglomerates, and the LCBO, our Provincial liquor board, which doesn’t seem to really understand or care too much about how beer is sold. Grocery Store beer sales are not allowed, but there are none in our area so it’s not something that I have pursued significantly. For a brewery of our size (small!) we’re just looking for the ability to sell beer to people who are going to care about it just as much as we do. 

What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?

It’s a funny mix of Indie Rock, 80s pop, 90s rock and alternative, Metal, and sometimes post-rock, blues or jazz. Really depends on the mood. Music has this ability for me to really change how I work.

Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work? 

I do. I’ve been using my own modified version of David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology for many years now. I use the Things app on Mac and my iPhone to put it into action. The principles are pretty simple… get tasks out of your head and onto paper, and always know what task you need to do next. I’ve just gotten into this flow over the years and don’t think about it too much anymore. It’s a stress-reliever because I know I have a system that I can rely on instead of my memory.

What tips would you give to improve productivity? 

Write tasks down in lists! Break down projects into simpler tasks (starting with a verb). Limit the number of times a day you process email, and when you do… deal with anything immediately that takes less than 2 minutes, and file everything else away for later action. Turn off most notifications and distractions on your phone, social media, etc.

What is the best advice anyone has given you? 

Design your own success, and don’t wait to get started.

What is your routine start and end of the day? 

This definitely isn’t a routine kind of job. Some days I start at 6, some days at 10. I tend to not be much of a morning person so I avoid it if I can. I’d rather be working late at night. Some nights I can work until 1 or 2 am. It really depends on what’s happening at the brewery on any given day.

Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not you go without? 

I can pretty much get by with just those two! A good quality pocket knife or multitool is always useful, though. 🙂

3 Ontario craft beers that we must try?

How about 3 I’ve had recently that I really enjoyed? Bellwoods’ Milkshark was a lot of fun. Tooth & Nail Vim & Vigor. Stone City Secret Beach.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?

Get started right now. Make sure you have a good team of people and resources around you because it’s really hard to do this yourself unless you’ve done it before. Know your strengths and weaknesses.