Humbled and Grateful

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Since opening the brewery we have found what a special place Maple Ridge is. Honestly, we’ve lived here most of our lives and we didn’t realize how tight knit the business community is. They have been nothing but welcoming and supportive. One of the main pillars of our business plan was community. Community involvement, giving back to the community, and using as many local products as possible.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this job is connecting with other businesses and seeing how we can help each other out. Once Upon a Tea Leaf were the people who gave us the idea of having yoga at the brewery and it has turned into an awesome event that’s a lot of fun to participate in. Right after we opened they asked if we could host a yoga class and this lead to monthly yoga nights and spurred the momentum to create more and different kinds of events.

We’re really excited about the relationship we’ve created with Humble Roots, a great addition to the local eateries. Kevin had a dream of doing a brewmasters dinner for awhile now and it became a reality. Tyler at Humble Roots was so helpful and enthusiastic about this collaboration and figuring out what food would pair best that his excitement made us more excited about the event. His passion for creating delicious food that is made with local ingredients makes us proud to be in collaboration with him.

Another aspect of community involvement that makes us excited is being able to give back to those in need. All the proceeds from our yoga nights goes to local families and organizations. One helped a local family who has a daughter fighting brain cancer. The strength and sense of humour of the mother is seriously humbling. This month the proceeds are going to the Family Education and Support Centre.

Brandi Hates Beer but Loves her Husband

IMG_0243     Kevin and Brandi have known each other for over twenty years and in that time, they became best friends and eventually partners in all areas of life. It seemed a natural fit for them to create an extension of themselves that mirrored their approach to life; honesty, compassion, integrity, and commitment.

Kevin found his passion for brewing in an unlikely place…in front of a computer, designing tap handles for the brewing industry. Designing so many cool tap handles and seeing all the different beer styles spurred the move into the craft beer world. His early brew days started in the carport of a friend’s house (Jesse Enders with Dennis Smith) in Silver Valley. Honestly, the best part was being able to hang out and make beer with friends. What literally brings a smile to his face was remembering how they stood around waiting for the kettle to boil and having deep and sometimes heated discussion on what to name the beers. This is perhaps what ignited his excitement in creating a community where it’s really just about having a great beer with good buds.

In all honesty Brandi doesn’t even like beer, but she does love her husband. So, when he sheepishly approached her about opening his own brewery she wanted to foster that childlike excitement into something that was viable. She wanted him to be able to create a world where at the end of the day he came home fulfilled and proud of what he did that day. This seemed like the path to that world. For her, this brewery wasn’t about a love of beer but about the love she had for her best friend and their community.

Growing up in Maple Ridge they wanted to add something meaningful to this community and they felt the drive to showcase all the amazing local businesses, talent, and locally grown goods that it had to offer. Whether through buying local cheese, meats, breads, and spreads for their food selection, bringing in local craft businesses to do arts and crafts night, or their monthly yoga class where partial proceeds go to help local families and charities they are proud to have put down roots. Being that Brandi had a background in social services and working with the more vulnerable people of a community they are excited and honored to be able to contribute to the services, such as those provided by Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Community Services, that provide the helping hand that the more vulnerable section of our population needs.

They wanted to tailor the style of the beer and brewery to the needs of the community. Instead of the straight industrial design of a lot of Vancouver breweries, there was a softer element added to make it more like a café. A place Kevin and his friends could go and hang out in a laid back and comfortable atmosphere. On the walls hang 90’s band posters, a throwback to the music they liked to listen to when growing up. Kevin has a strong connection to music, playing bass from the age of thirteen. From high school Jazz band to a touring rock band music is part of how he connects with the world.

There are honestly a lot of hard parts the first year of running a brewery. Some days feel like there are only uphill battles and these days end in frustration and tears. But there are also moments of standing alone in the brewery after everyone is gone and going “Holy sh*t, look what we created. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so proud of anything else I’ve done in my life”.

3 Things I Have Learned So Far

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Wow, what a crazy 4 months it has been! These have been some of the most satisfying and exhausting days we have ever experienced. When we became business owners it took over most of our lives. Honestly it’s hard to remember what life was like before we opened the brewery. As I was walking along the dikes of Pitt Lake it struck me that I hadn’t felt that kind of peace and calm in many months. The break gave me some space for perspective and a chance to reflect on what I’ve learned in the last four months.

1. We really didn’t know what we are doing. The learning curve has been steep and while we are getting more of a routine and streamlining some processes, everyday comes with new challenges. I think the most stressful part for me is not knowing what I don’t know. For example, did you know that there is only one bank open on Sunday is Maple Ridge and it isn’t open until 11am? This may not sound like a big deal but when you have run out of twoonies and loonies on Saturday night it’s a bit of a panic to try to scrounge together some change to get you through the first hour of business on Sunday. Luckily we had a change jar at home we could raid

2. I was happily surprised about how popular our events have been. Candle making, our first arts and crafts event, wasn’t even something I planned on doing. I happened to be walking by Kleem Candle Market on my way back from talking to a yoga studio about doing yoga at the brewery and I thought “why not?”. It turned out to be a huge hit. We tend to sell out our events within a couple days which is awesome. I like the idea of having a place for people to hang out and play together.

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3. The fastest way to learn something is when you are thrown in the deep end and have to figure out how not to drown. Kevin was always the photographer and much more proficient at social media but when we opened the brewery he was busy brewing the beer and someone had to step in and take over the marketing role. It’s definitely been a learning process for me and there is still tons for me to learn but I’m proud of how far I’ve come in such a short time. My picture taking skills are even improving and I’m even starting to enjoy it.

I’d say one of my strongest attributes for opening this business is that I’m not afraid to try something new. Some ideas are going to fly and some are going to tank…but how else am I going to learn?

The Home Stretch

It’s been roughly three years since Brandi and I started “seriously” working on the business plan and now we are just over a week away from FINALLY opening…..yeeeeessshhh. What were we thinking?!

If you’ve been following along with us on our journey, or simply asked us in person how things are going, I’m sure you’re aware of some of the issues that arise when you decide to attempt to open a brewery. However, it should be noted that the stories you hear from us have been heavily edited with all the explicits removed to try and keep things in the PG13 category. We like to keep our stories from going into “horror territory”. We find watering things down into a “teen angst/coming of age tale” is definitely more palatable and still offers some degree of optimism for anybody who decides to ask.

That’s not to say it’s been all bad. Just a lot……like…..A LOT. Like, other brewers tell you that “it’s a lot” when you tell them you’re going to start a brewery, but nothing can really prepare you for the real thing. There are so many T’s and I’s to cross and dot that you really do start losing track of them, no matter how organized you are. Same with days of the week. We’ve never relied so heavily on our calendars before. Not just to keep our weeks organized, but just for something to tell us what day it is. So, if you decide to open a brewery be sure to use a calendar. Calendars are good. What else did we learn? Ah yes. Permits!

Nobody likes permits. Permits don’t like permits. Even the people who’s job it is to write and approve permits, don’t like permits because people constantly get mad at them about the permits they just wrote or won’t approve. But, they’re super important if you want to get stuff done. See that photo above this paragraph? That’s all possible due to a demolition permit (yes, you need a permit to break stuff). Brandi, has been so involved in various permits that she’s now been programmed/emotionally scarred to analyze the potential permits needed for various things in everyday life. “Wow cool firework display! I bet that the permits for it sucked though”. So, get to know your permits. Fortunately our contractor took care of most of them, but understanding what’s needed and why is extremely helpful when it comes to trying to open on time.

To avoid too much venting in this post, I should talk about what all of the above has lead to. Having all that in place has made for some great rewards after all. Receiving all of our equipment (and finding out that it all actually fit) was an exhausting, but exciting day. As was getting our liquor manufacturing license, passing all of our inspections, and finally landing our business license. Even pouring beer out of our newly installed draft system brought a huge sigh of relief while also bringing a pretty big smile to our faces. The work to get there was intense and extremely stressful, but after years of work we were finally starting to see it pay off in tangible ways. By far the biggest was finally pressing the button to let everybody know when we were opening.

Finally announcing an opening day was both weird and euphoric. It was scary to press the “post button”, but once we did it was exciting and got a little emotional. We had worked so hard to get to this moment. It was a huge deal and it kind of took us by surprise. We were happy. Then the results of the post started coming in. Now we’re not in anyway “leaders in social media marketing”, but we like to think have made a little bit of an effort considering we haven’t even opened yet. Still, holy crap! Compared to what we had experienced before on social media, our accounts had just exploded. People were liking, sharing, tagging their friends, and those friends were even sharing. Things went nuts…..then the fear started to sink in. We are going to open. Whether we want to or not, it’s happening. And how’s our to-do list doing? Still pretty freaking long! It’s only one million things left compared to ten million things. That’s progress though right? Right?!!

Still, we’re almost there. On September 23rd, 2017 Silver Valley Brewing will open its doors for all to (hopefully) enjoy. It’s been an extremely long and stressful road, but the end is almost here. Soon we’ll begin down a whole new road. It’ll also be full of mistakes and have its own set of highs and lows, but we look forward to it. Thank you all for your ongoing interest and support.

Cheers!

SVB

What to drink on St. Paddy’s Day

NOT GREEN BEER………..END OF POST!

Green_beer

All kidding aside, if you really want to drink like a full blooded Irishman or woman, then there’s really only a few choices available to you. And, since picking a beer on St. Patrick’s Day is serious business, lets not mess around with any clever jokes or anecdotes and get straight to the goods!

The Irish Stout (aka Dry Irish Stout)

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Any red blooded (or black blooded if they drink enough of it) Irishman/woman will tell you that there’s only one style of beer to drink on this special day and that’s a fresh pint of “the black stuff”. Don’t let the colour fool you though; this is not a heavy style. Weighing in between 4-4.5%, this is a sessionable stout that will let you knock a couple back without knocking you off your seat. The go to for an Irish Stout is usually a Guinness (especially when they’re on special) or Murphy’s also makes a good one. However, there are some amazing local examples from Persephone, Strange Fellows and plenty more that you should definitely check out. This style pairs nicely with fish and chips, pork, or chocolate deserts.

Irish Extra Stout

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The bigger brother of the Irish Stout; this version simply has more of everything. More alcohol, more flavour, more hops. There’s really not much more to it then that. Food pairings would be similar, but since this is a more robust version of the Irish Stout, you may want food with more robust flavours. BBQ pork or Beef would work well, as do rich chocolaty deserts. Dark chocolate would also be quite complimentary.

Irish Red

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If stouts are not your thing, then the next runner up would be a good ol’ Irish Red Ale. Similar to an American Amber, but with a heavier malt character and less hop presence. A traditional Irish Red will usually have a similar amount of alcohol to a Irish Stout (4-4.5%), making it another sessionable beer. The problem with finding one in the Lower Mainland though, is actually FINDING a traditional version of it brewed locally. While there are some great Red Ales out there, most of the local ones you’ll find have a strong West Coast influence….meaning more hops. This makes them more of a Red IPA then an Irish Red. So, if you don’t mind breaking with tradition then check out offerings from Red Racer, Off The Rail Brewing, and Black Kettle. Roxy, from Moody Ales, also makes a great Honey Red Ale that’s offered in small batches on occasion. Otherwise Smithwicks, Kilkeny, or Murphy’s Red will offer the most traditional Irish Red experience. Roasted meats pair very well indeed.

Irish Lager

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So you don’t like Stouts and you just can’t get on board with Irish Red’s, but desperately want to stick with the Irish theme? Well you can always go with an Irish Lager.What sets an Irish Lager apparent from a regular North American Lager? Honestly, we couldn’t really tell you and there’s only one we can really name that uses that style identity and that’s Harp’s Irish Lager. It’s only a little different then North American Lagers so if that’s your comfort zone then this should suit you just fine. Harp is a little tough to find on tap in these parts, but specialty liquor stores usually have it available. Mild foods like fish, chicken, or salads pair well with Lagers.

So that’s it peoples! Have yourselves a fun and safe St. Patrick’s day and, no matter what beer your drinking, try and support your local brewer whenever you can.

Cheers!

SVB