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Mark Verok, Katalyst Brewing Company

Mark Verok, Katalyst Brewing Company

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

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

Who are you?
Mark, I’m a living in Toronto, Ontario. I started Katalyst Brewing in 2016.

Your current job
At the moment, I am of all trades, from sales to marketing, to accounting, to recipe development. I have some assistance from some key people, but at the moment, we are fairly bare bones.

A word to define what kind of worker you are

What tools are essential to your life 
Primarily Quickbooks, to ensure that I am paying all of my taxes on time and in the right amount! In terms of brewing specific software, we use Beersmith, for recipe scaling, etc.

What does your office space look like
Until we secure our bricks and mortar location, our office space is located in my house. It is a spare bedroom, with a computer, desk, and a few screens.

How large is the brewery?
As mentioned previously, we are currently a contract brewery looking for a physical location (brewing out of another brewery). We are brewing 60 hectolitre batches (6000 or 11,000x473ml cans).

The reason you started brewing
I started brewing when I was about 20 or so. I had heard of people doing it and became interested in the whole process of it all. I gradually got more and more interested in it and started brewing extract batches on the kitchen stove, and upgraded to all grain batches over time. The more I brewed, the more interested I became in the details of it all, from water chemistry to hops to mashing techniques.

What was the inspiration behind your brewery
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) actually got me into beer. As I became more and more interested and toyed around with the idea of going commercial, I thought that I would call the brewery Katalyst, since Krystal had been the catalyst for my developing interest in craft beer. Given that her name had a “K” in it, I figured that making the “C” in the name a “K” would be appropriate.

What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario?
Since we are a contract brewery at this stage, the challenges are largely related to logistics of brewing, packaging and distributing beer using another brewery’s resources. Storage and delivery usually the biggest bottleneck for us, at, we have 11,000 cans going at a time, which equates to approximately 4 or 5 pallets of beer. Delivery is another challenge for us, at the scale that we are, both orders and deliveries are done to each individual location of LCBO. Once stores distributed to hit somewhere around 100, the LCBO gives the option of warehousing with them, wherein they take several pallets at a time and deliver to their own stores.

What kind of music do you listen to while you are working?
I listen to a lot of when I’m working, don’t know how I started listening to country, but I did. listen to a lot of podcasts relating to brewing while in the car on deliveries.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
I usually like to do all of the messy stuff first, cleaning, yeast management, etc, and then do the paperwork, taxes in the evening.

What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Always make a list, helps to make sure that nothing important is left behind at the end of the day.
Use a calendar, it took me a long time to do this, something so simple is crucial in making sure that your time is used effectively.

What is the best advice that someone has given you?
Get a handle on your accounting. In any business, especially alcohol manufacturing, it is incredibly important to have a good grasp of your financials. There are several different taxes relating specifically to beer, in addition to traditional business taxes. Getting a handle on my accounting has been incredibly beneficial.

What is your routine start and end of the day
Usually, I wake up, eat breakfast, and check inventory at my licensees. From there, I call licensees that need reorders. I like to end the day with a trip to the gym followed by a cold beer!

Aside from computer and phone, what gadget can you not go without?
Omega PH Meter-I this all the time when brewing to ensure that I am achieving the correct PH balance in my beers and maximizing extract efficiency.

3 Ontario Craft Beers that we must try
Rainhard Brewing Company-Hearts Collide, a really well balanced imperial stout, there is also a barrel aged version that is amazing
Sawdust City Brewing-Limberlost, a beautiful farmhouse ale made with wild yeast harvested from the Limberlost forest.
Flying Monkeys Brewing-The Tribe, a coconut stout that is tremendously well balanced and has just the right amount of coconut.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
Do your research. I didn’t have the money to open a physical space the way that I wanted from the start, so I went the contract route prior to getting investors. That has been working for me. However, everyone’s situation is a bit different so research your options and weigh them carefully.