Presented x Mondial de la Bière [June 14-18, 2017 - Montréal]
Your current job:
I am one of the owners/co-founder of Brock Street;
In which city are you located?
A word to define what kind of worker you are:
What tools are essential to your life (app, software, etc..)
For myself, I handle most of the communications so for me its email. However, we are using a number of software programs for the brewery and are expanding our brewery software management software right now as well to include EKOS.
What does my office space look like?
Most of my work I do from my home office because of the limited size of our brewery. Our brewery is jammed into approximately 3500 ft. which includes our brewhouse, fermenters, Brite tanks, boiler room, cold storage, and tasting bar/bottle shop. We are currently undergoing a large expansion.
How large is the brewery?
3500 square feet
The reason you started brewing?
A number of years back, Amanda, my wife told me to get a hobby because I tended to work at my regular job (a lawyer) every waking hour. I decided to purchase a brew magic system, which allows Master Brewers or hobbyists to produce a keg of beer using all grain recipes. It is like a mini brewery and is a pretty cool system. We still use it at the brewery to create test recipes. My friends and I started home brewing and fell in love with it, and eventually decided to start a brewery.
What was the inspiration behind your brewery?
All of the owners live in Whitby and we love the community. Brock Street is the main street in Whitby and our goal was original to take over the old fire hall site and turn it into a brewery as it has sat vacant in our downtown on Brock St for 13 years. We worked with the town for about a year to try and achieve that goal, but the town had different objectives for the area and that plan never came to fruition. We really wanted to build the brewery in our downtown because our downtown has suffered, like many others, and we figured it would be a great way to revitalize a change in the area and help the businesses downtown, some of which are really amazing places. At present we are operating in an industrial unit as our temporary facility, and we have purchased a lot in our downtown core and hope to start construction soon on our expansion in the downtown core;
What are the biggest challenges for you as a brewer in Ontario?
Ontario has very few channels for breweries to distribute their products. Besides direct sales to restaurants, there are only four ways consumers can purchase packaged beer (not including draft from a restaurant): (1) direct from the brewery; (2) at a limited number of grocery stores; (3) the government-run LCBO; (3) and the Beer store, which is privately owned by Molson/Coors, Labatt/Inbev, etc. Restaurants, many of them, are under contract with Labatt and Molson and do not want to get involved in selling or promoting craft beer. Luckily for us, the restaurant scene is changing and Whitby is a pretty progressive town, so we have had the support of the community and many of the local restaurants for which we are very grateful. Also, most consumers are demanding local, craft beers, and many of the restaurants are starting to change to incorporate craft beer, which is great for the industry. However, getting listings at the LCBO is incredibly difficult. We have produced over 40 different styles of beers, yet we have only one approved for sale in the LCBO. There are listing fees to be paid to get in the Beer Store so this is cost prohibitive to smaller brewers and the grocery channel for distribution is in its infancy, with limited listings to smaller brewers. It would be better if there were more retail outlets and also the ability for craft brewers to open up their own Craft Beer Stores. That would help smaller brewers get their products to market and be a win-win for consumers;
What kind of music do you listen to when you are working?
My favorite would be Pink Floyd;
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
At present, with things moving so fast, sometimes I feel it’s impossible to get organized;
What tips would you give to improve productivity?
Create a business plan, adjust it as you grow and learn from your mistakes. Learn to delegate to good employees, monitor the employees and listen to their concerns, but do not micromanage.
What is the best advice anyone has given you?
When you need to make a decision, write down your ideas. Once you have a comprehensive list, identify the strengths and weaknesses of each idea/option. This will allow you to make the absolute best decision possible.
What is your routine start and end of the day?
I start the day with a coffee and I end it with a beer.
Aside from your computer and your phone, what gadget can you not you go without?
3 Ontario craft beers that we must try?
I like all craft beer. Ontario is producing some really great stuff. You can’t go wrong no matter who you choose. If you stop by and visit us, I would recommend you also visit our good friends across the road, 5 Paddles.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
It is definitely a fun business, and craft brewers love to support each other because we are all acutely aware of the obstacles that face each and every one of us in this province. When you are starting out, the best advice I can give you is this: Visit lots of breweries, ask lots of questions, and write down your ideas. Create a good solid business plan. Finally: make good beer.