Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Anique Ross and I’m one of the owners and co-founders of Luppolo Brewing Company in Vancouver, Canada. My background is not in hospitality or brewing. I was working as a project manager in the non-profit sector both internationally and at home for a number of years primarily on education and child rights projects. My husband and I started this business with another couple that is really good friends of ours. It’s a real labor of love.
Your job and current title?
I work full time at our brewery now as sort of a general manager, but being a small business owner, you end up doing a bit of everything…
In what city?
A word to define what type of worker you are:
Where does your interest in microbrewery come from?
My husband, Federico, is Italian and before moving back to Vancouver, we were living in his home town of Milan. There is a microbrewery there, Birrificio Lambrate, that’s been around for a long time that we just loved. We ended up spending a lot of time there, drinking a lot of beer, and developed a real passion for craft beer and dreamed of opening our own spot. When we moved back to Vancouver the scene was exploding here. Our good friends Eleanor and Ryan had been homebrewing for many years, had been very involved in the burgeoning local scene, and had the same dream. We started working on it and the rest is history.
What makes your beer unique? Why?
Our brewer, Ryan, loves to experiment and we have really excelled in sour and mixed-fermentation beers. We don’t do a lot of packaged products, so we are free to brew whatever we feel like. As a result, you’ll always find new and interesting offerings when you come to our lounge and a wide variety of styles.
What is the size of the brewery (number of barrels per year, etc.)?
15hL Brewhouse, 750hl per year roughly
What tools are essential to your life (app, software)?
For our business, Hubdoc is a great tool for making accounting easier. You can take photos of all receipts immediately and upload them from your phone and it links to QuickBooks.
What does your office space look like?
I don’t really have a fixed office space. Some days I work from home, sometimes I’m bartending with my computer set up at the end of the bar, sometimes I’m at one of the tables in the lounge or in the back office.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
Not really. I have a lot of flexibility so it just depends on the day.
Any “tips” to improve productivity?
Lists! I love them. They help me stay on top of all my various tasks and make sure I don’t forget anything. Also, making sure there is open communication with the rest of your team. That’s super important.
Can you give us a tour of your local craft beer brewery scene?
We have an awesome brewery scene here. Vancouver is the craft beer capital of Canada. Just in the area where our brewery is located in East Vancouver (or Yeast Vancouver as we call it), there are over a dozen breweries all within biking or walking distance of each other. The area has historically been an industrial area, but craft breweries have been a big part of redefining it. On weekends it’s become super popular for people to do impromptu brewery tours and try to visit several in a day. Each one is unique, has its own character, and excels at different things.
The other nice thing about the scene is that it’s a super collaborative and cooperative industry. We have a cooperative of breweries in this area and often work together on shared marketing activities and events. It’s also old school neighborly– you can put a call out to the group if you need to borrow some hops or run out of growler lids.
How do you control the growth of your microbrewery?
We’re quite a small business so our growth has, thus far, been very organic. When we do make a decision to pursue a strategy to grow, such as purchasing new equipment, it is very well thought out, intentional, and gradual. It has to be; we’re a family run business and not part of a larger hospitality group with unlimited resources. We need to ensure that whatever we decide to do, there is a solid business case for it.
About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?
As far as marketing our products, the main avenues for us are festivals, social media, and partnerships with bars and restaurants. These approaches are all fairly grassroots, so they are accessible and affordable for us.
We’re an Italian inspired brewery so we are definitely drawing on some of those cultural values that we hope to imbue our space and vibe with such as quality, craftsmanship, community, and family. A lot of our design for our labels is a nod to mid-century Italian ads, classic wine labels, and other Italian design elements that are meant to remind you of some of those influences while remaining modern.
Design: how was it designed? By who?
Our space was designed by two amazing architects: Ron Hart of Ron Hart Architects and Allison Holden-Pope of One Seed Architecture. Our branding, labels, posters, etc. are done by Chris Von Szombathy of RXVP, who is an incredibly talented artist and graphic designer is. These are all people who are friends of ours so they understand who we are and how that should inform design decisions. All four of us owners have also been very involved with all of the design process as well.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?
Building something that is ours. It’s a lot of work being a small business owner, but there are huge rewards in seeing something grow that you’ve put your heart and soul into.
What is the best advice given to you?
Do your best to save a portion of your start-up capital to use as working capital. That helps a lot with cash flow, especially in the early days.
What are your end and start routines?
Start of the work day I try to answer my emails. End of the day I make sure to thank our amazing staff on my way out the door for doing all they do to help make our business a success.
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
For us, it was probably the fact that none of us have a business background or any track record which made it more difficult to secure financing. However, we were able to work with a local credit union that is really invested in the community and looks at things a bit more broadly than just the numbers.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brewery?
It takes a long time so be prepared! You’ll need a lot of capital just to cover the rent before you even open your doors to see you through all the time you are waiting for your permits, licenses, and renovations.
Any new projects coming soon?
We have new beers coming out fairly regularly. I’m really excited about our next bottle release which is a barrel aged cherry sour that is tasting heavenly!
At the end of the day, what kind of beer do you drink to relax?
That’s a hard one.! It really depends on a number of factors like what I’m doing, who I’m with, what I’m eating, the season, or my mood! That being said, I love complex sour beers.