Presented x Mondial de la Bière [June 14-18, 2017 – Montréal]
Who are you?
My name is Marc-Andr e Chainey, and I am a co-owner/founder and head brewer of Waller St. Brewing. I’m also a full-time engineer/project manager at a Bridge Engineering firm and a board member of the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project (www.alivetostrive.ca). But above all else, I like to think I’m a husband and father.
Your current job?
I maintain my career as a full-time bridge engineer where I deal with pretty much all things bridges from design to inspection, to construction. At the brewery I oversee most things related to production, recipe formulation/product development, branding, as well as the brewing process and equipment (repairs, upgrades, maintenance and innovation/creation of our rather unique brewing system) I also manage our twitter account and try to follow-up on feedback from platforms such as untapped.
In which city are you located?
Ottawa, right downtown, in the basement of a heritage building, you really have to know what to look for to find us 😉
A word to define what kind of worker you are:
I would say a hard worker, the dedicated type that usually gets things done. But I would emphasize usually, but not always, I’ve been increasingly comfortable with allowing some things to slide in favor of spending more time with my growing family. I think a fulfilling life is like a good beer recipe – you need to try and find a good balance!
What tools are essential to your life (app, software, etc..)
My cell phone, clearly, google maps because I don’t usually have time to ask silly questions like “where am I and where am I going”, but mostly because I’m bad at directions I guess. Other than that, the classics of course like Excel, the Google Drive apps, and Arduino, I do a lot of some custom projects with Arduino. The keg washer I built and programmed runs on an arduino, so those the controls for our propagator, and the next carbonation system is also powered by Arduino.
What does your office space look like?
I’m not proud to say it, but a giant mess, and that’s the one at my day job… I find order in chaos, always have… Not saying it’s a good thing, just that I make it work.
How large is the brewery?
Tiny. The brewing system I built is about 4.5 hL (or close to 4 BBL). But what really justifies the term tiny is that we only have a 950 sqft space, that includes everything – the bottle shop, fridge, ingredient storage, brew-house, fermenter space… We currently have 10 different beers available at the brewery, meaning we are pumping out more than 1 beer/100 sqft
The reason you started brewing?
I started home-brewing in university, and that was actually before I truly discovered craft beer. The game plan was actually to start brewing as the first stepping stone towards having a small batch distillery. After a first couple mediocre “Mr Beer” kits, I went all-grain and really got into the science behind everything brewing. So brewing pretty much just took over everything, but the plan still remains to start a tiny distillery as well. Let’s touch base in 5 years and see if it became a reality. Starting is easy, but the reason I keep brewing is because it’s challenging. It has an endless array of variables to work with to try and formulate the perfect beer, and to be able to re-create it every time. We really dive into every aspect of the brewing science to try and understand and control as many variables as possible, yet somehow at the end of the day, the best we can do is still an educated guess.
What was the inspiration behind your brewery?
We have a prohibition theme. But the “vision” is to be a hidden gem, a tiny craft brewery tucked away in the basement of a heritage building in the heart of downtown Ottawa. A sort of open discourse watering hole of old, where people talk and make new friends over flavourful, innovative and balanced craft beer. We also really put the importance on the yeast and the fermentation, we want to show that good and proper yeast really matters and that it’s possible at any scale. I think we are slowly proving it, but we had to invent our own procedures, techniques, and equipment to even get halfway there.
What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario?
I would say that one of the biggest challenges (and surprise) was finding out just how many bars are still “controlled” by the large breweries. When you walk into the bar in you see all “Labatt” or all “Molson” products, you know you are just dropping off free beer because those tap lines are already spoken-for. With so many micro breweries in Ottawa /east Ontario (close to or above 30 now) there are very few craft beer lines to share between all of us.
What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?
We usually have some for of jazzy tunes in the background at the brewery while brewing, but I rarely seek out a soundtrack when working because I like using all of my senses to monitor the brewery, I built most pieces of equipment, so I know when they sound good, so I guess when they all sound good, that’s music to my ears (however rare that may be)
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
I like to try and split my day into three “checkpoints” where I have certain goals to accomplish and I can evaluate and adjust accordingly. If not I tend to get “too busy” to be efficient.
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
I don’t think I am anywhere as productive as I ought to be or would really need to be. I think developing a good habit of prioritizing properly and sticking to the task at hand is probably what I have the hardest time with, so I would go with that.
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
That I should listen to advise sometimes… They are still so very much right.
What is your routine start and end of the day?
I can tell you this, it’s much less demanding now than a year ago. My Monday/Tuesday used to be literally working from 7 am to 1 am between a full day of work at the day job and brewing a full batch of beer. At one point I had a sleeping bag and toiletry kit at work because driving home meant not having time to sleep… We since got another brewer on board (Dimitri aka our resident microbiologist ;)), and he has been taking the large majority of the brewing tasks. It has been a life saver because I’m not quite sure how much longer I could have survived.
Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not you go without?
I really don’t know… Arduino I guess… because manually washing kegs really sucks.
3 Ontario craft beers that we must try?
I’m always stumped at these questions.. because the reality is that I seriously do not have time to discover other craft beers. I mean, I haven’t even visited any of the other local breweries… So I don’t really think I am properly situated to recommend specific beers… But why not all of the ones that are brewed within 50 km of your home!?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
I’m not sure doing it the way I did makes any sense at all, to be honest, but I also don’t know if I would have done it any other way. But in the more general term, it would get plenty of sleep now, because a real night’s sleep may become few and far between! I would also say to approach the industry cautiously, craft beer is switching from a pull market to a push market… so more and more beer won’t sell beer on its own like was the case maybe 2 years ago. marketing will. I’m afraid that going forward, the start-up breweries that succeed will focus on marketing first and beer later. We suck at marketing, so we’ll just keep focusing on the beer and hope for the best 😉