Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Mike Gron. Before founded Township 24, I worked in I.T. and prior to that in finance.
Your job and current title?
I am the founder and President here at Township.
In what city?
Chestermere, Alberta. We’re located 10 minutes east of Calgary on the Trans Canada Highway.
A word to define what type of worker you are:
Where does your interest in microbrewery come from?
I guess I’ve always been a “beer guy”. I’ve never had much interest in wine or spirits, so when the craft brewery movement began here in Alberta I was drawn to the great variety and novelty of it, but I was interested in the business model and its impact on the community.
What makes your beer unique? Why?
We try to brew fairly easy drinking, approachable beers that are still unique enough to get beer drinkers interested.
What is the size of the brewery (number of barrels per year, etc.)?
The brewery and taproom are roughly 3000 sq ft. We have a 15BL brewhouse and currently 90BL’s of fermentation space.
What tools are essential to your life (app, software)?
We use Quickbooks, Method CRM, and Kegshoe on a daily basis.
What does your office space look like?
The taproom usually doubles as my office space most days, although we do have a small office/lab room that we all share.
Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?
We’re still pretty new, so that’s a bit of a work in progress, but I try to focus early in the week on outside sales and deliveries and switch focus to the taproom for the weekend.
Any “tips” to improve productivity?
I’ve tried to find tools that integrate well with each other. For example, our accounting package, time tracking, and CRM all integrate together. I think that will really help as we grow.
Can you give us a tour of your local craft beer brewery scene?
As you probably know, the craft beer scene in Alberta is fairly young, but it is exploding. There are some great beers being brewed and breweries aren’t afraid to try things as there are no set rules in terms of what people want to drink or what time of year certain beers should be brewed etc. It makes things a lot more interesting. There’s also a lot of great collaborations happening, not just between breweries, but distilleries as well.
How do you control the growth of your microbrewery?
Our biggest limiting factor right now is tank space, so we will likely look at expanding that a bit this year. We also focus a lot on direct delivery, which can be a slower growth model, but I think it’s a great way to build relationships.
What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?
We put a lot of focus on our immediate local market. We do tastings, festivals, and partner on a lot of local community initiatives.
About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?
Even though we’re only 10 minutes outside the city, we’re in a rural setting so we want our brand to reflect those roots. This part of Alberta is one of the world’s best malt barley growing areas so we try to celebrate that and tell that story through our brand.
Design: how was it designed? By who?
All of our design work is done by our friend Katie Pearce. She’s an architect, designer, and artist. We get a lot of great feedback on our brand image and packaging, so I have to give Katie a huge shout out for that. If you’re driving around Calgary you can also see some of her work displayed as large geometric murals, they look great and add a lot of color to the city.
What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?
For me, it’s the people. We have a great crew of misfits (myself included) but we make it work. And the people that come into the taproom always have a few great stories to share and sometimes they bring us baked goods.
What is the best advice given to you?
I am still a rookie, so not really in a position to give advice, but I would say try to find good people to work with and put your faith in them and encourage them to bring their vision to the table too.
What are your end and start routines?
It really changes from day-to-day. Depends if it’s a brew day or not, and what we have scheduled for packaging, sales, deliveries, etc. That’s what keeps it interesting.
What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?
It’s easy to forget that brewing is a business and we face the same challenges as any other business. Controlling costs, marketing, and growth.
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brewery?
I think doing something unique and finding your niche is really important. Cold Garden in Calgary is a great example of that. Hey, why not put your brewery inside a bowling alley or a bus station. Why not?
Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?
My dad’s old drill press. I like to come on Saturday morning and put together a few tap handles. It’s my zen time.
Any new projects coming soon?
Our head brewer, Curtis Metzger, is always working on something. He’s on a bit of a hot streak at the moment with his pilot brews. Our next beer on the big system will be a Norwegian Ale, done with a kvik yeast strain and some sazz hops. Look for it mid-July.
At the end of the day, what kind of beer do you drink to relax?
I am still a dark beer drinker, so any porters or stouts and our own Meridan Black Lager.
I drink a lot of Alberta beer, although I don’t drink nearly as much as people seem to assume I do. I am currently into the stout from Cabin Brewing, the IPA’s from Annex Ale’s, the red ale from Snake Lake Brewing and the session ale from Blindman. Great beers, but you may have come to Alberta to experience them first hand.