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Dan Mason, Head brewer & co-founder of Trailway Brewing Co.

Dan Mason, Head brewer & co-founder of Trailway Brewing Co.

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and what is your background?

My name is Dan Mason. I am co-owner and co-founder of Trailway along with Jake Saunders. I handle the production side of things, while Jake handles the office stuff. Jake is an accountant while my background is engineering so those roles came naturally.

Your job and current title?

Head brewer/ Co-owner/ Co-founder

In what city?

Fredericton, New Brunswick

A word to define what type of worker you are:

I consider both Jake and I smart workers. We don’t make too many decisions on the fly, everything is considered, calculated and then executed. I think this is something that comes from our backgrounds and education. 

Where does your interest in microbrewery come from?

Jake and I both began home brewing with all grain around 2011. From the start, we were passionate about hops and fascinated by what flavor and aroma could be achieved using certain varieties at high rates. We became pretty consumed by the hobby and were eventually further inspired by breweries like Bissell Brothers, Austin Street, Trillium. We considered the beer we were making at the time to be high quality and we wanted to share it, so we launched Trailway in late 2014.  

What makes your beer unique? Why?

As mentioned from the start Jake and I chased high aroma and flavorful hoppy ales. There was no local product in New Brunswick like the beers we were making. We had to travel south to Maine to find similar style beers in 2013/2014 when the plans for Trailway began. We utilized very high hopping rates, but our intentions were always to keep bitterness under control and low. Inevitably using the rates of hops that we use, the resultant appearance is quite hazy. We do however keep attenuation moderately high on our hoppy beers differentiating from a lot of newer hazy IPAs. I’m not a huge fan of seeing final gravities in the 5 Plato range, and we are typically targeting quite a bit lower. We find a lower final gravity allows for some contrast of hops and prevents the beer from becoming too muddled. 

What is the size of the brewery (number of barrels per year, etc.)?

We are a 10 BBL brewhouse producing approximately 2500 barrels of beer per year.

What tools are essential to your life (app, software)?

Computer with our brewery tools, like Beersmith and Bru’n Water. Our pH meter, microscope, hydrometer and much more!

What does your office space look like?

We have a single room office with 3 desks overlooking the brewery – it’s a mess, but we do have a beer fridge, so we can’t complain! We are in the early planning phases of an expansion which should see us add an additional 1200 square feet to our brewery, which will largely be space for offices/staff area and more storage.

Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?

We have 3-4 guys that complete all the brewing/packaging. We meet daily in the morning to plan out our day and what we need and want to complete. We roughly assign tasks at this point as well and then they are off and running, making sure their duties are completed correctly, efficiently and safely. 

Any “tips” to improve productivity?

I carry a notebook around all day, and I write down everything. I write down tasks that need to be completed, which really helps me visualize how the day will pan out and how to effectively allocate labor in the brewery, I write down orders, inventory, mishaps, forecasts, etc. These kinds of documentation help me plan and stay on top of things. 

Can you give us a tour of your local craft beer brewery scene?

The New Brunswick craft beer scene has grown considerably in recent years. We have a huge number of breweries, cideries, craft distillers and some mead as well. The scene is still young here but we have a lot of passionate people producing quality products, and the number of choices of locally produced beverages is quite amazing.

How do you control the growth of your microbrewery?

We keep our short and long-term goals in mind always when considering growth. It’s easy in this industry to grow for the sake of growing but we are careful to consider our values, goals and keeping our growth constant and sustainable. 

What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?

We are relatively small still as a brewery, and we don’t have a budget dedicated to marketing currently. We use social media to let people know about beer releases. Word of mouth is powerful and when people speak or post online about the quality of our product, that’s as effective of marketing as you can get.

About design, what does your brand represent/reflect? (Can you tell us about the message and reflection behind the design?)

Our brand reflects our passion to experiment and brew new recipes. It also reflects our personalities – we try not to take things too seriously and we have a lot of fun creating new brands constantly.

Design: how was it designed? By who?

We have a local designer (Kristin Killam) who branded all our core beers and continues to work with us as we grow. She’s incredibly talented. 

What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?

We are motivated by the endless combinations of flavor and aroma that can be achieved in brewing beer, and we are inspired every day as we see people enjoying the beer we brew!

What are your end and start routines?

I always start the day with exercise, which helps me remain productive throughout my day, and I end the day on the couch, ideally with a beer!  

What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

The hardest and scariest part is always committing at the beginning. It’s also challenging knowing that your business depends on you, always – there are really no vacations! But surrounding yourself with smart, talented and trustworthy people helps there. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brewery?

Make sure quality comes above everything else from the very beginning. If you don’t have quality, you have nothing. Get honest feedback on your beer from people who know before releasing to the public, the first impression is important, and you want to impress people right off the bat. Visit as many breweries as you can, talk to as many brewers or others in the industry and do your research to learn as much as possible. Be unique with your brand and what you plan on brewing. Do your best to not focus on what everyone else is doing – be different and stand out but remain true to your values! 

Any new projects coming soon? (eg products, etc.)

We have always brewed quicker soured ales, but soon we will be launching our barrel-aged sour series. This includes some beers that have been through our coolship which we think is one of the only active cool ships on the East coast of Canada. This BA sour series has been a big focus and has certainly tested our patience but the stuff we are tasting coming out so far has made it all worth it. Look for some bottles of cool stuff coming soon!

Another project on the go is getting our beer available in Quebec. We have been working with a distributor over the last several months and anticipate being available in Quebec in late 2019. We know how incredible the beer market is in Quebec and this is something we are really looking forward to.

At the end of the day, what kind of beer do you drink to relax?

Something lower in alcohol, hoppy and soft, or perhaps something with a little bit of acidity, like a Berliner or a fruited kettle sour. |