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

It’s the most wonderful time…

It’s that special time of year again! The weather gets frightful and, in return, the beers become quite delightful. Winter Warmers, Barleywines, Russian Imperial Stouts…this is the time of year where you start seeing a lot more wax dipped bottles in the liquor stores. So what’s the deal? What do we recommend? Well first let’s get some business updates out of the way.

Demolition


Demolition at the brewery has been underway for a few of weeks now. Cool and pretty exciting, but not without its issues. The thing about the building is that it’s been estimated to have been built some time between the 1930’s and 1940’s. Don’t get us wrong, that’s admittedly pretty cool. The downside seems to be that every single tenant since then has built over top of every previous tenants stuff. That part is not so cool. So far we’ve found secret doors, secret windows, and secret walls built on top of secret walls. Just a lot of extra…stuff. No doorways to Narnia yet, but we’ll keep you posted. Our permit applications have been submitted as well. So hopefully those go through and we can actually begin to build something shortly. Our equipment is also on order and being assembled as we write this.

We’d also be amiss for not giving a shout out to everybody who submitted letters of support to the city for our lounge endorsement! They have received your letters, they have our plans, and now we wait. Hopefully we’ll have a decision in the next month or so. Big thank you again to all those who submitted. The support is fantastic and much appreciated!

More Festivals!


We’re very lucky to have a great deal of support for the brewing community as well! Not only have fellow brewers been super helpful with information on starting a brewery, but they continue to support us in helping promote our product. Maple Meadows, Foamers’ Folly, and Moody Ales continue to allow us to brew under their licenses to make sure we can legally participate in as many local cask festivals as possible. We just recently submitted for the Fall Tri-Cities Cask Festival with the help of Moody Ales, and will also be at the upcoming Winter Pro-Am (so get ur tickets!). Lots of fun and great feedback. We are HUGE fans of these events.

Collaborations


If you’ve been monitoring our social media feeds and it wasn’t already 110% clear, we now have one of our beers on tap at Maple Meadows Brewing. This one is our Dark Necessities Mocha Stout which Carlo was kind enough to help bring into reality using his brew house. It’s comprised of equal parts, American Stout, Coffee, Cocoa Nibs, and Awesome. It turned out fantastic and we couldn’t be happier! So feel free to stop by Maple Meadows for a growler fill and be sure to try plenty of their beers while you’re at it. They make some great beers that you should definitely try.

Cool beans!…..Soooooo winter beers?

Oh yeah! Winter beers. You should definitely drink those! I dunno…if it’s over 8%, and has a waxed top you should probably give it a try.

Cheers!

SVB

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year peoples! Sorry again for posts being so few and far between. As mentioned on previous posts, things have gotten a little crazy over the past few months. So what’s going on? Lots! Here’s some updates.

We’ve been doing a fair bit of brewing, but things have been stalled lately since we’ve been working out quite of few kinks with our new brewing system and brewing processes. So, as you can imagine, developing new and perfecting existing recipes has been pretty tough. Unfortunately you probably won’t be seeing any big reveals for new beers until we get that sorted. That’s all part of home brewing though. It’ll get sorted, we just need to be patient.

School! I’ve completed the first course of the Craft Beer and Brewing Essentials program at Simon Fraser University. This course was Introduction to Brewing, which covered everything from the history of beer to modern brewing practices, and even covered some of the biological science that is involved in the brewing process. Overall a very interesting and a worth while program with some fantastic guest lectures from industry heavy weights. That being said, I’d definitely recommend taking a very basic brewing course or do a few home brew batches first as a primer. Some of the science aspects are pretty complex, so if you don’t have a very basic understanding of the brewing process to reference, you may get lost pretty quick. If you live in the Tricities area, there’s a good one at Beyond the Grape in Port Moody. I’ll be starting the next course, Craft Beer Business Fundamentals, next week and will be sure to report back on that one as well.

The brewery! So what the heck is going on with that? Is anything happening? The answer to both of those questions is “something” and “yes, definitely”. Our business plan has been completed, The Silver Valley Brewing Company has been incorporated, and we have funding. Now we’re just trying to find a spot to put it. So far this has been the toughest part of the entire process. Why? Lot’s of reasons. First of all you need to find a building that meets all of your production needs (space, loading bay, floors etc.), then you need to make sure that building is zoned correctly for liquor retail and production. On top of all of that, if you want to upgrade your tasting room to a lounge license, you really need to work closely with the municipality to make sure your in the right spot for it. While a regular tasting room (serves a maximum of 12oz samples per customer) really only needs to meet zoning and municipal bylaws to get approved, lounge license approvals (no maximum sample size) are usually up to the discretion of the local counsel and community. Details like parking, walk-ability, noise, and surrounding businesses are all taken into consideration when applying for a lounge license. So, regardless of how well the space works and is zoned, it’s important to run it past the municipality first to get an idea of whether or not it could get approved for a lounge. There’s still a chance that it may not get approved since there are public hearings involved in the approval process, but it’s always smart to work with the municipality right from the get go to help increase your chances. So far we’ve zeroed in on a basic area. I can’t really share where that is as of yet since there’s still a lot of discussions going on. Even when we have a spot we’ll still have a bunch of subjects to remove before we can announce anything officially. We hope to have something to report in the coming months.

So that’s it for now. Thanks for coming back to visit and sorry again, that it’s been a while. I’ll do my best to post when I can, but just a heads up that, with school starting, it might be a while. Hopefully the next one will be about finally nailing down a location!

Cheers!

SVB

The Business of Craft Beer: A first person account

Last week we were fortunate enough to get tickets to the annual “Business of Craft Beer” event in Vancouver. This is the second year that we’ve attended this event and, mirroring the industry, it’s grown significantly. Compared to last year this was less about celebrating the industry and more focused on the business aspects, and realities of today’s craft beer market place. The number of merchants displaying their products had increased, while the number of local breweries sharing their product drastically decreased. Not ideal for the beer nerds, but since this is a business event it’s good to see that shift in floor space. The number of panels had also grown drastically from two to six. These panels ranged from talks about supply chains, legal and accounting, accounting for growth, and dealing with Provincial Liquor Distribution Board. All and all a well put together event.

Learning is hard!
Learning is hard!

So what did we get out of it? Information. Lots and lots of information. We’re talking “I probably should have brought my laptop” amounts of information. The thing that we’ve quickly learned about starting a craft brewery is that as much as the industry in BC is growing like crazy, the in depth answers to important questions are still not that easy to come by. There are stacks of great books to read, but so far some of the most important questions have been answered by brewers working in the industry. Luckily the panels were full of successful brewers who were more then happy to talk about their own struggles with opening their breweries and offering great advice along the way.

The highlight of the entire event though was definitely the final panel which consisted of Matt Phillips (Phillips Brewing), Gary Lohin (Central City Brewing), Paul Hadfield (Spinnakers), and John Mitchell (craft beer legend). While all of these pioneers had great stories and advice to share, John Mitchell definitely stole the show. If you’re not familiar with who John Mitchell is, then a quick google search on Horseshoe Bay Brewing will tell you all you need to know. The long and short of it is that he’s widely credited for bringing the craft beer experience to, not just BC, but Canada and the northern states as well. He’s now 85 years young, has great stories to tell, doesn’t mind giving an honest opinion, and carries a thermometer in his front pocket to make sure his beer is a perfect 50 degrees Fahrenheit before he takes a sip. Basically he’s awesome, and when he started talking Joe Wiebe (the MC for the panel) did the right thing by putting the microphone down and waiting until he was done. Did we have any notes from this panel? Nope. Did we care? Nope! This was more of a “sit back and enjoy” type of experience and it was glorious. That, and the free caramel popcorn waiting for us outside, was the perfect way to end the day.

Would we recommend going next year? If you’re looking to start a brewery or just interested in getting into the industry, then absolutely. It’s becoming a great event and has made some great strides over last year. So what’s next for us? Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Stay tuned!

Cheers!

SVB

The State of the Union and looking forward to 2015

If you’ve been following our blog posts up until now (THANK YOU!) then you probably already know that we’ve been in the planning phase to open our own brewery for some time now. Other then experimenting with different recipes there’s been a lot of work put into turning this goal into a reality. Logistics, financials, strengths, weaknesses, marketing, legalities, all of these either have been, or are about to be analysed and developed to make sure our future brewery is as successful as possible. As you’ve probably guessed there is a ton of information that needs to be sifted through before we can even start building a business plan. Luckily we’ve had a lot of help. Here’s a look at where we’re at so far and what we have planned for the near future.

The Business Plan

This is probably the longest, tedious, and least exciting part of the process (at least at first). Everything gets analysed and picked apart, statements need to be supported with sources that use something called “facts”, and long term goals are broken down into medium term goals, which are then broken down into short term goals. That’s all on top of figuring out how much cash is needed, who’s going to get it, what they going to use it for, and when the person lending the money can expect to get it all back. Right now we have a good chunk of this process done with a lot of help from some friends in the industry and a lovely, intelligent lady whom I’ll be marrying come September (I asked before she helped with the plan, but if I hadn’t this pretty much sealed the deal).

The good news is that once you get most of the plan done, things do start to get exciting. If you’ve done your research and planned things out properly using these “facts” you start to see the viability of your business fleshed out before you without spending a single dollar. Lucky for us we’re looking to open a business that’s part of a rapidly growing industry. So, needless to say, the outlook so far is pretty good. There’s still plenty to do before we can start shopping our business plan, but the meat of it is close to being done and hopefully we’ll be pitching it to investors later this year.

Education

While this will always be a big part of brewing for us (homebrew or commercial), we try to pursue formal classes whenever possible. Last year we attended classes that brought us all the way back to the very basics of brewing, which did wonders as a refresher while providing us with small bits of new info to stream line our brew day. We also took some classes on off-flavors and hop profiles to sharpen our palettes which were provided by the BC Beer Awards. It’s a good bet that we’ll expand on these smaller education classes this year with offerings from CAMRA Vancouver and our local homebrew clubs. On top of that I will be attending SFU’s new 8 month Craft Brewing Course certificate starting October. It’s not quite as in-depth as other offerings, but will definitely help strengthen our brewing theory as well as providing education on the business side of the brewing industry. Two areas which could really help us in the near future.

Another big change for us this year will be with competitions. Classes and such have been good for helping our brewing processes, but getting feedback from trained judges has worked wonders for perfecting our recipes. Last year our scores averaged between 30-37 points (Very Good). This year our goal is to push that average to the “Excellent” category (38-44 points) and maybe even place. The number of competitions we’ll be entering will also dramatically increase. Last year we entered three, while this year it’ll be more like ten or more. The more competitions we enter, the more feedback we get, which means our beer just keeps getting better.

Marketing and Branding

Up until now our branding and labels have more been about having fun and being creative. It’s always satisfying to have your homebrew mistaken for a commercial beer. However, lately these fun little art projects have turned into full blown market research to see how our branding measures up. Practicality has also moved into the conversation and has forced us to rethink the size and shape of our labels as well as how to to streamline the labeling process. The neck labels look really cool, but after labeling a single case of bottles we’d most likely look at the 20-30 remaining cases and let the explicits fly. In the coming weeks you’ll start seeing the fruits of our labor as we begin revealing new beers.

Our social media efforts have, so far, been paying off. Our efforts have even resulted with us being referred to as the “Silver Valley Guys” by fellow club members. Needless to say it put a big smile on our faces since it meant we were doing something right and had a name that was gaining traction. This year we hope to build on that with our expansion into Twitter and more frequent blog posts. Since there will be a lot more going on this year, there will definitely be a lot more to share. We may also begin offering apparel to those who wish to show their support. Stay tuned for that and many other cool announcements. There will be plenty in the near future.

Brewing and Recipes

Just like our increase in competition entries, 2015 will see us making more beer. A lot more beer! Between our large system and small Brew-In-A-Bag set up we have total of five beers planned already…and that’s just for February. Another brew day is already booked for March as well with more to follow once we get a few of these beers get knocked out. Don’t expect as many weird experimental beers as we’ve done in the past. This year will have a stronger focus on fine tuning recipes that we plan to eventually produce commercially. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t mix things up once in a while. After all, 2015 is supposed to be “the year of the sour”. A style we have yet to explore.

So there you have it! Lots of changes and new stuff for 2015. We’re very excited and can’t wait to share it all with you. Many of you reading this are probably already familiar with our Facebook page already, but if you’re more of the Twitter type please follow us @SVbrewing and feel free to ask us questions. We’d love to hear from you!

Cheers!

Kevin