Category Archives: Marketing

Webcam is up … and almost working perfect

We have added a webcam to our brewhouse, and after earning a undergraduate degree in this kind of thing, it is now live.  While there is nothing to see this weekend, and the feed needs a little refinement, we are now able to broadcast live the process of starting a brewery.

We hope that in combination with this blog, and the other information we have put into the world, we will encourage many others to follow their dream and start a craft brewery.  It is a labour of love, but something that you will never regret IMO.

Anyhow, we will be sure to post a schedule of when things are happening, so that you can watch the process of starting a brewery from the comforts of your own home.

Click here for the link and I promise that within a couple days the feed will be more clear.  For now, the camera is pointing to the South half of our warehouse, but as things happen it will shift back and forth between both areas, so you can see everything that is going on.

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Another general update on progress and happenings at the Brewery!

It seems like I have been knee deep in the process of starting a brewery, that I have neglected to update the readers on our progress.  From the brewhouse to tanks, and forklifts to logos, there is a lot happening at the brewery, and the level of activity seems to have picked up.  In addition to the office and administrative items that have kept us busy for the past 6 months, you can add in the retrofit of our space to things to do.

For starters, Iain Hill has officially left his position at Yaletown Brewing Company to join operations full time.  For several months Iain has been burning the midnight oil after a long day at the office, and he now has the ability to focus on starting our brewery, which is amazing on many levels.  Finding a brewery (and in my case a business partner and equal) is a huge step in the process of starting a brewery.  Its one thing to be a home brewer like many of you.  You understand some of the components of brewing beer, and you have experience with the lingo and terminology, but its entirely another thing to be in charge of a commercial brewery.  With a qualified partner, the beer we make will be of good enough quality that it will offer us a chance to have success.  If you want to follow Iain Hill on twitter, his account can be found here.

We have sent out tenders for our warehouse to electrical and mechanical contractors.  This has been a bit of a process for us.  When you apply for building permit, you have a sense of where things are going to go, and this is reflected in the drawings your architect prepares for you.  However, when it comes to the technical details of these aspects of the brewery, you engage with mechanical and electrical engineers to complete these drawings.  Getting the details correct on these drawings is critical to getting accurate quotes from trades people that will be doing the work.  If you hand over a set of drawings for tender and they change immensely, you will get dinged for additional expenses throughout the build-out phase.  My advice would be to push ahead with these drawings at every opportunity, so that when you get your building permit, you are not at a standstill like we were.  We will literally lose a month from our possible start-date as we were not ready the next step.

Doing things in the brewery that don’t need a permit is also something that is very important.  We have decided to paint the inside walls of the brewery with a marine grade paint, to keep mould from becoming a problem.  Well painting a house is a job, but painting 6 metre high walls in a brewhouse that is 9,000 square feet is a little bigger of a job.  This is something that we really should have started earlier as well, but given the delays in getting started with the rest of the work, we will have this finished within the week.  Once the walls are painted we can move forward with cutting floors open, and getting our brewery ready for building.

If you ever need advice on buying a forklift, I can tell you that we had a great experience and I would love to share it with you.  At the end of the day, when you are spending so much money on everything at a brewery, trying to save money on items like forklifts can go a long way.  We managed to save about $5,000 against our budget, and while that will get sucked up quickly elsewhere, the point is you need to save money when and where you can.  We had a budget of $10,000 for a forklift, charger, and man cage (for doing work on the ceiling of the brewery).  After about 30 hours of work, research and seeing what the options were, we purchased an electric forklift that will hopefully meet all our needs for now and into the future.  Sure we might have to spend money on repairs, but we are not going to lose much money on this machine as it already has depreciated to nothing.  If you are looking; side shift, electric drive, 40 inch forks, 180 inch lift height, and a smart charger that is compatible with your machine are all must haves.

In terms of the voting on our logo, it looks the voting has ended up at 50-50!  After all that, we have a divided opinion on what we should be going ahead with!  As such, Iain and I are going to meet and make a decision on what we should move forward with.  We look forward to making a decision so that we can move forward with other aspects of our marketing.

Our landing page for the website should be up and running in about a week.  I know there has been delays (like everything it seems), but we hope to have an interesting landing page that will continue with giving everyone a sneak peak into starting a brewery and our operations.  More to come on that front shortly.

I have found an individual that has helped me with odd jobs at the brewery so far, and I would recommend to anyone else who is looking at starting a brewery, to find someone with some technical background in general labour … what I mean is find someone to help you that can do some electrical, plumbing, painting, heavy lifting, etc.  We have found a man to help us, and he has been a saviour for us.

From an equipment standpoint, we have ordered our brewhouse and we are very close to ordering our packaging equipment and conditioning/fermenting tanks.  We are trying to determine exactly packaging equipment we want, as the choice we make will help determine our entry point into the market.  If you go cans, you come across as more of a middle of the road company. If you go with bigger bottles (650ml) then you come across as more of a craft operation.  So we are wrestling with what exactly to do, and I hope we can make a decision in the next week.  As for the tanks, we are grinding the suppliers on their price, and hope to get our ideal package within our budget.  We think it is better to go a little bit smaller on the tank farm, knowing that you may run out of capacity quickly, than spend all your money on equipment and have very little left over for everything else.

Thats it for now.  Should there be anything else you want an update on, as always, let me know and I will include it for my next blog.

General Update on Things

I have received some feedback lately around wanting a general update on our progress.  There seems to be genuine interest in how the overall project is going versus what we are encountering on a daily basis.  As such, this post is a little more of a general update on our progress rather than a general rant about this process, or a specific detail of things.

So as you likely know, we have submitted a development permit to the City of Vancouver for a space in East Vancouver.  On Thursday of last week, we were told we’ll be given an answer on this permit in the next couple weeks.  We are waiting for this permit, as we can’t lease the space we are interested in without first getting approval to brew there by the City.  In Vancouver, the only buildings that you can outright lease and know with certainty you can brew is M2.  The trick is that there isn’t a lot of M2 zones, and the buildings we were looking at in M2 just weren’t right for us.  So we ended up in an I2 zone, which is one where brewing beer is conditional upon submitting a development permit.  Any potential for us to use this space hinges on getting this permit, so we are waiting with fingers crossed to get good news.  As of Nov 18th, no news!

Another big process is collecting and securing money from investors.  Luckily, an investment in our brewery is eligible for the eBC tax credit, which basically means that 30% of each investors money is returned to them in the form of a credit from the government of BC.  It looks like we need to raise over $1,100,000 so everything we can do to help secure “financial partners” is welcomed with open arms.  We are going to be collecting money in the next 2 weeks from our investors, so I hope that what people have committed is what they are going to offer us.  If not, I am sure I will post something around my frustration with this.

Financing is another part of the business that is really important.  We will need both an operating loan and a line of credit in order to make the business float during the crucial first couple years.  Opening a brewery can be a recipe for financial hardship, as the line between profit and loss on a monthly basis is razor thin.  If sales fall behind a little bit, and costs are a little higher than expected, money can go out the window very quickly.  Luckily for us we were approved for a loan and line of credit to make our finances come together.  These will total about $450,000, and when added to the money we are raising we feel like we should be in a good position to make things work.

The layout of our space and submission for building permits is something we have been working very hard towards.  In fact, this has taken the majority of our time of late.  With the arrival of our Development permit by the end of November <fingers crossed>, we would like to have our building permit submission ready to go.  This means that we need to have the layout of the space virtually complete, have the work needed by engineers complete, have all the drawings and work from our architect complete, and to have all other inputs ready to go.  It seems really easy when I sit here and type this, but the reality is that there are so many moving parts to this, that it is incredibly complicated and difficult to carry out.  Finalizing the layout of our space has taken us over 8 weeks, as there are SO MANY variables to consider.  For example: Needs now versus in the future when we grow, tasting room connection to brewing space, retail area, production flow and functionality, the location of existing services, proximity of different spaces that need to be connected, etc, etc.

Equipment is something that we need to have ready to go, so that we can be sure it is ready in time for production.  We have looked to China, Europe, Canada and the USA for our brewhouse and tanks.  To be honest, I can see why this step can be either really easy, or one of the most difficult steps.  No two quotes seem to be alike, and the unknown factors of quality, timeliness of delivery, and follow-up support make these intangibles even harder to gauge in terms of importance.  A big hurdle to buying Canadian is the price.  Companies like Newlands and Specific Mechanical are local and have a good reputation in the business, but their prices are among the highest.  Moreover, it sounds as though some of the other start-up breweries have experienced some trouble with them.  Then there are the systems from Europe, where the quality is top notch, and the price matches.  Moving East to China, the land of cheap equipment, but one where the after sale service is poor, and other local breweries have experienced trouble with having to repair brand new equipment.  All of these things make choosing one company to work with very difficult.  At the end of the day, it is a balance between all these things, and hopefully one company stands out as the best.  At this point, we have no idea which one it will be.

Another huge part of this process is our name.  For the time being we are letting this one go for a few weeks.  While we don’t have an official name yet, the focus groups we ran were instrumental in getting us closer to making this choice.  The only problem is that we are putting out other fires that are more important at this time.  Things like financing, layout, legals, accounting, etc.  We anticipate having our name by the end of the year, and that should give us 8 months to create a brand around this.  I hope this is enough time and that we make decisions that are based on sound principles.

The legal side of things is something we kind of let slip and caused us a lot of grief and unnecessary stress.  In order to raise money and run a proper incorporated company you need to have:  A shareholders agreement (aka a partnership agreement), a subscription agreement, a set of articles for your company, and a share ownership agreement.  All of these documents are tedious to create, and require the hard work of a legal team.  Reviewing and revising take a lot of time and mean that you are continually working on getting these documents ready so that you can raise money, and provide a framework to investors on how your company will operate.

There are literally hundreds of other little things to do, some of which are major and some of which are minor pieces of major components.  There seems to be nothing that isn’t important in some way to the overall picture of this brewery.  To be honest, I would love to find the time to blog about all these things, but I just feel too much pressure to write about them, rather than working away at them.

Results from the Focus Groups

Without a doubt, the 2 focus groups we held were the best ideas we have spawned throughout this process.  The opportunity to connect with craft beer enthusiasts, and more importantly, to share our basic business premise with individuals who appreciate and seek out craft beer, was amazing.

We held 2 focus groups over the course of 7 days, and they were more than effective in helping us shape the name of our business.  To be honest, the results of these focus groups will help not only name our brewery, but also determine the direction of several other important variables that we are looking at.  Things such as the layout of our tasting room, the size of bottle we are going to put our beer into, and the types of beer we are going to produce are all facets of the business that we touched on in these focus groups.

What I learned from focus groups is that a name should be short, easy to pronounce and spell, meaningful, genuine, and unique.  There was a feeling among both groups that a generic name, or Vancouver based place name (such as False Creek Brewing or Strathcona Brewing) didn’t capture exactly what we are trying to do.  More importantly, people feel like these names can come across as horribly disingenuous.  Names such as Stanley Park Brewing (brewed on Annacis Island) and Bowen Island Brewing (Northam Brewing) seemed to come to mind when people thought of place names.

For the brewery we are creating, it seemed a name that was representative of what we are doing was most applicable.  In other words, a made up name, or a word that is picked for purely interest sake, with some connection to what we are doing will show people the honesty and approach we are taking to things.  This really matters to us, and as such we took this feedback to heart.

So we took out the names like Orange Brewing, Strathcona, False Creek and even East Van Brewing Company.  What we were left with was a group of about 8 names that really stood out as top of the list.  We are currently looking into the legal side of these names, and how that will impact what we choose to do and how that effects the last part of our naming competition.

Until then, thanks for the continued feedback and interest in things …. I really look forward to sharing the last part of the the naming process:  The final few choices and letting everyone vote on those names.

First Focus Group Results …. coming soon!

On Tuesday of this week, we had a focus group with the purpose of getting feedback on naming our brewery.  It was the first time I’ve planned and implemented a focus group, so it was many things rolled into one, not the least of which was a great learning experience.

Like anything in life, preparation is the key.  It was something that I prepared myself for, and even knowing that there was a lot of work for something like this, I was blown away by how much work it actually took.  I did keep a total of the amount of time I spent organizing this focus group, and up until the minute things started, it was 48 hours of work.  Where the hell did 48 hours go you ask?  Let me tell you:  Organizing participants, preparing questions, meeting with the moderator, securing the space, getting the food and beverages, printing copies of questions and non-disclosures, etc, etc, etc.

The focus group itself went well in my mind.  There are always questions you would change, formatting alterations you would make, and slight differences you would make if you did it again.  For the second focus group that we are having this Sunday, I will likely only change one question.

A huge component of the focus group is your moderator.  Luckily I had the help of a real craft beer enthusiast and very personable, yet professional individual.  I can honestly say, that next to the preparation involved, the moderator can make or break the implementation.  Rebecca was so unbiased, and also so personable, and was able to take the outline I gave her, and worked with it in her own way.

The feedback was somewhat expected and completely unexpected all at the same time.  While I would love to go into the details, I will wait for our second focus group to complete before commenting on them.  What I can say, is that the results will help us pick the name that is right for our brewery.  What we do know is the name we pick will represent what we are doing, what words are meaningful and what name fits with the local market.

I will update everyone more after we have our second focus group on Sunday and get closer to having our list of names narrowed down to 2-4 finalists.

Onto Phase #2 of Brewery Name

OK, so thank you to everyone that has sent in their name request.  We had an overwhelming response from the community, and we are grateful for this.  I think the name of our brewery is on that list, and I hope we can now move onto phase #2 in order to find out what the general public feels.

So we now move to getting feedback from a small group of individuals in order to move us towards naming our brewery.  If you would like to comment on any of the names on the list, please feel free to send me an email, or you can post a comment on this blog.  I would love your feedback and it will help us move onto the next stage.

For now, I am going to contact some people for a focus group, and hopefully you can make the dates that are available for discussion.

Lots of other stuff going on, not the least of which is making a decision in the next couple weeks on our space, and whether we are going to remove subjects or not.  My fingers are crossed and I hope that things continue to move forward as they have so far.

How Important is the Name???

One item that I have grappled with for some time is the name of my brewery.  There seems to be three different avenues people take in naming a brewery, which appear to be popular.

The first is to name the brewery after the owner.  Think R and B Brewing, Phillips Brewing, Hoyne Brewing, and even Molson.

The second is to name the brewery after an area or landmark.  Think Coal Harbour Brewing, Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers, Granville Island, and Stanley Park Brewing.

The third is to name the brewery after nothing in particular.  Think Storm Brewing, 33 Acres Brewing, Bomber Brewing, and Dead Frog Brewing.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason why names are chosen, and some end up being good and others end up being a little less than interesting.  My belief is at the end of the day, a name is not that important.   In my opinion, If you make shit beer, but have a great name, your chances for success are not going to be great.  On the other hand, if you have a shit name, but make great beer, I think you are going to succeed.

I would love to know what people think are good names in the marketplace?  I have my opinions, and for the most part, I think having a variety of names in the marketplace is a good thing.