Good Robot Brewing Co.

Brewing

By in Beer News, Brewing 0

Insane in the Spent Grain: Barley Shortage

Beer, as we know it, may be in danger.

We frequently hear of hops shortages, though rarely does one hear of an equally important problem: malted (roasted) barley shortage. While demand currently fits supply, within a decade, supply could be problematic.

How did this happen?

CLIMATE


In the past 135 years of global temperature data, 4 of the 5 hottest months on record all happened in 2015. Near-droughts, excessive rain and weather fluctuations yielded poorer quality crops in 2013 and 2014.

AMERICAN BREWERIES

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

As poor as the Canadian crops were, the American crops suffered even worse. By virtue of NAFTA, tariffs on Canadian malt were eliminated and American breweries began purchasing Canadian crops without restraint.

BEEF

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Most barley is produced to feed cattle. Canadian beef production is down. Mad cow disease continues to hurt Canadian beef export. In addition, an increasing number of citizens are eating healthier and sustainably by reducing or eliminating red meat from their diets.

GMOs

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Barley for beef feed is competing with soybeans, canola and corn, all genetically modified crops with better resilience, production and pricing than barley. Monsanto Company invested $10M over 10 years for short-season corn in Alberta, destroying barley competition in Canada’s biggest barley province.

CRAFT BEER

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Macrobreweries tend to use alternatives to malt, such as corn and rice, to cheapen production. Popular macro beers also tend to be lighter and lower in alcohol. Therefore, craft breweries use, on average, 4x the amount of malt per unit volume than macrobreweries, creating a higher demand on barley.

THE FUTURE OF BEER

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

In the next 10 years, we have 180k metric tonnes of malting capacity under build. Projections show we’ll need 1M metric tonnes (Canada Malting Group Annual Presentation, Halifax, 2015). Canada will begin importing European and Australian malt sooner than later, though the incoming El Niño cycle will likely yield a very harsh winter in Europe and hotter and drier conditions in Australia. Expect wheat beers to gain prominence since wheat is more resilient than barley and GMO wheat will likely enter the commercial market soon. Brewers may also begin experimenting more with sugary alternatives to barley, like sorghum, millet, rice, corn, quinoa, spelt, oats, and rye.

But, you know, the picture isn’t that bleak. We adapt. We’ll always find a way to get buzzed. Ever had prison hooch with rotted fruits fermented in a sock?

By in Brewing, History 4

Why Your Dad Doesn’t Like Craft Beer

“What’s your lightest beer?”
“What do you have that tastes like beer?”
“What do you have that’s like [Labatt/Keith’s/Bud Light/Oland’s/Corona]?”

These are the most common questions we get when we sample our beer in an area outside of our usual patronage, as we did at Moo Nay Farms​ this weekend. (As an aside, when these new subjects try our beer, the most common feedback we get is eyes wincing, tongue sticking out, head shaking, and a general look of disgust.)

Ironically, these same patrons happily crowded the grill next to us to try a locally made, farm-fresh, preservative-free sausage. They care about their food quality. So why is beer any different?

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Moo Nay Farms collects our used beer grains to feed their stock.

A little Canadian beer history…

Much like the US, Canada was ripe with beer at the turn of the 20th century – about 118 breweries with a population less than 7M. After Prohibition ended in 1930, the brewery total declined to about 69 breweries, which survived by brewing beer for consumption outside Canada. (Prohibition was even more devastating for the US, with over 4k breweries dwindling to about 500, which further declined to about 40 through to the 1970s.)

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Liquor barrels emptied into Elk Lake, Ontario.

After Prohibition, beer control fell in the hands of publicly owned stores and liquor boards, who imposed heavy, often ridiculous restrictions on alcohol. Many breweries consolidated, the most famous of which was E.P. Taylor’s merger of 30 Canadian breweries into one conglomerate later known as Carling O’Keefe. By 1980, Molson, Labatt, and Carling O’Keefe controlled well over 90% of the beer market.

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Vancouver Breweries in 1926, one of the breweries to form the Carling O’Keefe conglomerate.

Then, a series of fortunate events unfurled. In 1971, a group of passionate British drinkers formed the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which sought to educate the public about traditional, flavourful beers fermented in casks. Michael Jackson (no, not him) published The World Guide to Beer in 1977, which sparked international interest in beer. One year later, the United States legalized homebrewing, sparking a sudden resurgence of small breweries and brewpubs, while a disgruntled Carling O’Keefe employee decried the state of Canadian beer in a popular magazine article. British Columbia minister Peter Hyndman deregulated beer pricing in 1981 to increase competition between breweries, but the Big 3 all increased their price to the same amount. Hyndman then began handing licences to “cottage breweries” to aid in the competition. Craft brewing in Canada was born.

good robot brewing company halifax nova scotia craft brewery microbrewery north end beer taproom

Halifax’s own Granite Brewery, Canada’s 4th craft brewery.

So, there you have it. The “lightest beer” – the beer that “tastes like beer”, like a Blue or an Oland’s or a Schooner, is a pale lager, a style ubiquitous in our nation since 1930, a style the big conglomerates brewed solely because they knew it sold. Your parents drank it. Their parents drank it. And chances are, you’ve drank it. Craft beer isn’t a new style of beer. It’s mostly a reemergence of old styles that were prominent before conglomerates took the stage. Craft beer is what your great-great-grandfather may have drank. It’s in your blood. Though hopefully below 0.08.

By in Branding, Brewing, Construction 7

Brewery Construction Update 4: The 11th Hour

We’re one more week away from opening and two more mistakes away from aneurisms. The last month has been hellish. It’s difficult to even laugh at the situation, but that’s our only defence mechanism at this point, so here goes nothing.

Our timing has always been off. We studied the night before exams. We show up at bars after last call. I plan on marrying at 72, then again at 76. But this past month has truly pushed us to the limit, beginning with our equipment arrival. After several delays due to inclement weather (which we predicted in our last construction update), our equipment arrived during a record-setting snowfall at rush hour on the busiest street in Halifax. The tilt-deck truck got stuck, blocking off all of Robie St. for 45 minutes while we frantically tried to dig it out. A skidsteer attempted to pull the truck out, but also got stuck in the process.

Tilt_Deck_Truck_Stuck_in_Driveway_and_Skidsteer_Helping_Out

Inside the brewery was another nightmare. The tanks were too tall to tilt, plus the tilt chain seized up. The HVAC had to be removed and reinstalled to finish the job.

Fermenter tank stuck at Good Robot Brewing Company Wrought Iron in North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia craft brewery beer microbrewery

We thought we calculated the heights correctly. There’s a reason we’re no longer engineers.

Like the Amityville series, the nightmare continues. Since the burner on the kettle is propane-fired and American-made, it required a CSA approval inspection and sticker. No problem. We knew this last July and planned accordingly. The week of our CSA inspection, the inspector had a massive heart attack. (We’ve since found out the inspector, Andrew Johnson, has passed away. Rest in peace, friend.) With no replacement in Atlantic Canada available and Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week just around the corner, Angus pulled every string he could, negotiating between Irving Propane, Office of the Fire Marshal, and DME (equipment supplier) to obtain a temporary brewing licence by installing myriad additional safety features. The whole ordeal is too exhausting for a blog post, but Angus would love to tell you in person over a pint sometime. Most importantly, we could brew beer once the system was commissioned.

Good Robot Wrought Iron Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia North End Don Barnone DME

Don, owner of Barnone Brewing and tech. at DME.

DME sent Don (beauty) of Barnone Brewing – you may remember him from our trip to PEI last summer – to help commission our system. Day 1 went flawlessly and we celebrated our first victory in ages with wild beers at Stillwell and wild grinding at Reflections. Six hangovers and one lost wallet later, we began brewing beer – eight batches in seven days as required to meet our opening demand while still staying within the confines of our temporary burner approval – and encountered nearly every brewing problem in the books: a clogged mill, improper readings, insufficient water, and a stuck sparge. Lucky for us that Doug has an able-hand at brewing and managed to salvage everything.

Angus heating fermenter at Good Robot Wrought Iron Brewing Company microbrewery craft brewery Halifax Nova Scotia North End beer craft

Pictured: Angus blasting the fermenter with 88 deg. C water to bring it up to room temperature.Not pictured: Doug shitting himself. 

The biggest horror came when some silly goose decided to turn off the heaters in our brewery and the temperature dropped overnight. Yeasts are like Florida retirees: they like consistent warmth. We tried every trick in the book to bring the tanks back to room temperature. We jacked the hydronic heaters. We rented a 65,000-BTU propane heater. We blasted the tanks with high-temperature water from a heating element. We jogged on the spot. The air was hot, thick and sugary, like a Candy Land rainforest. We didn’t sleep that night, possibly because we were jacked on sugar fumes. But it worked. The yeast recovered. With three weeks until opening date, we had beer brewing.

Banner - Good Robot painting out Wrought Iron - way smaller brewing craft brewery microbrewery beer Halifax Nova Scotia North End Wrought Iron

ρB the Robot up to no good.

Do you like migraines? So do we. With all the ongoing construction and brewing mayhem, we thought, Hey – We’re opening in two weeks. Why not completely change our company name, brand and logo? With the guiding hand of our amazing taproom designers and branding affiliates, Breakhouse, we found a direction that worked better for us. Insane Masochist Brewing Company was taken, but Good Robot seemed to fit the bill, too. This also meant all our suppliers of glassware, merchandise, signage, tap handles and other paraphernalia could share in the migraine. We owe back rubs to Tom of Jymline, Jenna and Jake of eyecandy, Nigel of Fresh Prints, Sean Lanzner of Maritime Labels and Packaging, Roger of Atlantic Digital, and everyone else that has tolerated our childish nonsense. We also owe a huge thanks to our college buddy Marc Clauser who flew in from Toronto to help us out with everything. In some cases, the damage was already done.

Good Robot Wrought Iron brewing company craft beer microbrewery Halifax North End Nova Scotia kegs

Anyone care to make an offer on 300 kegs branded with Wrought Iron Brewing Company?

In sixth grade, I pooped my pants. I was a little on the brown side of ripe to be pulling a stunt like that and my reputation suffered. But I bounced back by laughing at myself and inviting people to join in on the laughter. That’s all we can do at this point. That’s all we can do at any point in life where everything seems to be crashing down. We’re human. We make mistakes. We’re one week away from opening and we’ve put ourselves through a hell of a grind. But we have a brewery, a brand, and most importantly, we’ve got beer. Really good beer. We can’t wait for you to taste it next week at Nova Scotia Craft Beer Week and at our brewery on Saturday, May 9th. Come drink at your expense and laugh at ours.

good robot wrought iron brewing company craft beer microbrewery Halifax Nova Scotia North Endgood robot wrought iron brewing company craft beer microbrewery Halifax Nova Scotia North EndCheers, mates.

 

Taproom Construction Update 1: Lofty Ideas

As construction continues unabated and equipment delays abound, we turn our attention to the first draft of our draft room. From day one, we knew the following about taproom construction:

  • The taproom should serve as the heart of the brewery, a place where we can educate and inebriate.
  • The taproom should serve quality beer without pretension, from table d’hote to table d’ancing.
  • Given our former careers as industrial engineers and our current careers as beer barons, we perceive the motif as industrial equipment overgrown with horticulture.
  • We do not want to be a brewpub. We want a food truck in the driveway, the option for patrons to bring in food from other establishments, and small finger foods to pad your stomachs but not our wallets.
  • We want a wrap-around patio overlooking the Robie Street hustle and a grass driveway.
  • The taproom should be a haven for free speech.
  • We will host events reflecting our personalities, including comedy nights, how-to tutorials from local merchants, silent reading and raging parties.
  • The western portion of the taproom will focus on the entrance and stage.
  • The eastern portion of the taproom will focus on the bar and street with small tables to encourage group seating.
  • The upstairs portion of the taproom will be used for washrooms and private events.
Taproom layout at Wrought Iron Brewing Company craft brewery in the North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia

Our original taproom floor plan. Dimensions are imperial, like our pilsner.

We had ideas but lacked focus. Doug wanted classy. Angus wanted cozy. To me, a bar is like a cannonball competition: the divier, the better. We hired Breakhouse to help us organize. They are ridiculously fun to work with, dissecting even the most minute details of our social media to find the underlying personality and childhood trauma. After several meetings, Gord, Vince, Peter and Andrew helped us focus our thoughts and proposed some excellent ideas:

  • Replace the patio with a ground-level beer garden to eliminate the cityscape feel.
  • The western portion of the taproom should focus on washrooms given the limited size.
  • The eastern portion of the taproom should focus on the bar with a small fold-out stage and high-seats to encourage mingling.
  • The upstairs portion of the taproom can be torn out to create a loft overlooking the eastern taproom.
Wrought Iron Brewing Company in North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia Taproom Layout - Breakhouse

Breakhouse: they know what they’re doing.

The taproom design is ongoing but we are excited about the prospects of having a local haunt. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, keep us posted. What do you like in a taproom?

By in Brewing, Construction, Finance, Friends 4

Leaves Must Fall Down: Bucks, Suds and Buds

Hi folks,

HOLY SHIT!!! We’ve got money, recipes and connections! Where can I even begin this blog post? How about with another excited outburst? MY GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY!!!

Sean (lawyer) drafting the Shareholder Agreement

Sean laying down the law.

 Now, I know you folks are dying to read about the regulations and provisions of our constitutional documents, so let’s talk turkey. We wouldn’t be here without the ever-scrupulous eyes of Marcel, our accountant, and Sean, our lawyer (pictured above). This guy is a wonder to behold. I almost want our company to get sued just to see him in action. Over the span of several months and one particularly gruelling eight-hour meeting, we covered everything one could hope to cover in corporate legalities. What happens if one of us dies? Gets sick? Switches professions? Falls in the woods and nobody’s around to hear? Even lighthearted banter is up for linguistic dissection. Take Sean’s favourite joke, for example: “A rabbi, a priest and a monk walk into a bar – WHEREAS

  1. Each of the parties hereto (also referred to as the “Subjects”) collectively are the subjects of the JOKE herein.
  2. The Bar (also referred to as the “Business”) carries on the business of a public house and related commercial activity.
  3. The Bar, to the fullest extent of its corporate capacity, has agreed to become a party to this JOKE agreed upon herein by the terms of this JOKE as they relate to the matters within its control.
  4. The aforementioned Subjects are presently all the Subjects in the Bar.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the Parties hereto have executed this JOKE as of the day and year first above written.”

 Classic Sean. 

Mark, our BDC Account Manager, finalizing our equipment loan

Clearly a staged photo. That’s not even real paper.

With our shareholder money in place, the banks began dispersing their funds. Above, you’ll see our BDC Account Manager, Mark. He has been a gem throughout this process, which began in August 2012 and finished, in signature, on December 3, 2014. BDC is an amazing resource not only for funding, but planning and execution. They critiqued our business plan, marketing strategy, distribution tactics and general hygiene. The only real humps were proving to BDC that: 1) we are not a bar, which they do not finance (in Mark’s honour, we are considering naming the taproom the “Definitely Not A Bar Taproom”); and 2) Angus’ mother is not a crack dealer from Edmonton, as the background check indicated. No joke. Once BDC processed the brewing equipment financing loan, our Credit Union Atlantic rep, Krista – a sharp cookie – finalized our taproom renovations financing loan. We’re in the money. 

Doug, our brewer, checking the specific gravity of the wort

From college to career, Dixie cups have served us well.

Of course, what good is money without beer? After tweaking old recipes for months, we’ve finalized about five styles that we believe are ready for public consumption:

  • a hoppy, citrusy summer ale perfect for co-ed softball;
  • a dark, coffee- and chocolate-infused breakfast stout perfect for pancakes;
  • a hybrid ale-lager “steam” beer with a toffee nose and bitter end;
  • a salty, citrusy and wheaty gose made with brackish water; and
  • a warming, banana-heavy German weizenbock with big American hops. 
WIBC Brewery Layout - HVAC - Renovations

Our HVAC floor plan for the warehouse. Who says MS Paint is archaic?

 Of course, what’s a beer without a brewery? With Angus’ background in construction engineering and my background in exploiting Angus’ background, we designed and drafted our own floor plans. Working with Glen of Halifax Permitting, we completed our package and received our construction permits in early December. Angus has since been contracting out the work to tradesfolk and, in some instances, getting his hands dirty.   

Fire-rated ceiling coating

Since we live above the brewery, we had to apply a fire-protective epoxy coating to the partition. Apparently, a liability letter indicating we were okay to accept the risk of burning to death should the warehouse catch fire was unacceptable.

 Of course, what’s a brewery without people? The greatest satisfaction of the past few months has come from all the personal and professional connections we’ve made. Alexander Henden of Local Connections Halifax invited us to showcase our beer at both his 12 Beers of Christmas holiday party and the Craft Beer and Local Food Celebration in January, which will mark Wrought Iron’s official public debut. Lindsay, Pam and Tracy of Ladies Beer League have drank, donated and danced their way into our hearts. Every time we run into Todd “The Beer Dude” Beal of Maritime Beer Report, we feel as if we just slipped into a bathtub that is just the right temperature. Another blogger, Chris McDonald of Atlantic Canada Beer Blog, invited us to our first meeting with the Brewnosers, a group of beer and homebrew enthusiasts. These dudes really know their beer and Doug and I were nervous heading in, but they were gracious, welcoming and, uh, candid with their feedback. Chris also shared one of the most interesting beer styles I’ve ever tried: a light, sour and smoky beer known as a “grätzer”. The sourness pairs nicely with Chris’ sweet disposition.

Canada Malting Group event - Garrison, Sea Level

Canada Malting Group event.

 Perhaps most amazing about the community is the support from other brewers, people who, by all rights, should be stomping on us. John, Josh, Andrew and Mike of Propeller Brewery hosted an awesome party at their place, including a private tour and wine barrel sniffing with Chris of Stillwell. Brian, Kellye (pictured above, second from left), Alex and the rest of the team at Garrison Brewing have been generous with their business advice and bourbon cocktails, while their head brewer, Daniel, has the most infectious laugh in the city. Kevin of Granite Brewery offered a spot in Craft Beer Week and a hit of his e-cigarette. Emily of Boxing Rock welcomed us into the Nova Scotia Craft Brewers Association with open hearts and livers. Jeff of Bad Apple Brewhouse, Greg Nash, and Hans of Jost Vineyards and Tatamagouche Brewing Co. have contributed construction tips and commiserated about legislation woes. We shared many laughs with Randy and his wife, Kathy, of Sea Level Brewing, who are pictured above dead-centre. Jake of (Rockbottom Brew Pub) gave us perhaps the funniest brewing advice to date: your beer doesn’t have to be consistent, just good. Lorne “Lefty” Romano (pictured below) of Rogues Roost always pops by to share tales, ales and Cuban cigars, as well as to bust our balls about hop additions. I’ve previously sung the praises of Don (Barnone Brewing) and Jeremy (Big Spruce Brewing) who continue to aid us and others. The list goes on and on, and there are still many brewers and reps we’re looking forward to meeting.

Josh, Lorne Romano (Rogue's Roost) and Doug brewing.

Brewing up trouble. And wort.

 One relationship worth mentioning as a send-off here is that of me and the boys. Countless people warned me not to open a brewery with my friends and the last six months have been the most trying of my life. It’s difficult to separate business from pleasure, especially when the business is beer, and the boys and I have undergone everything from simple disagreements to damn-near physical altercations. And yet, we continue to persevere. We air our grievances. We tackle our demons. Our friendship supersedes our partnership. I love these lads, which means taking the good with the bad and making something work in the face of overwhelming odds. And in the event we do end up murdering each other, at least we’re insured for $3 million.

HSSC co-ed softball team, "Poundin' Iron"

HSSC co-ed softball team, “Poundin’ Iron”.

 

Josh and Angus, friends 4 life.

Josh and Angus at The Foggy Goggle.

 

Angus and Doug at Bluenose Ghosts Festival.

Angus and Doug at Bluenose Ghosts Festival.

 

Angus, Doug and Nichy roughhousing.

A game of Kings gone wrong.

Oh, and Nichy’s a doggone saint for living with us.

Nichole playing with a dog.

 

Merry Christmas, folks. Thank you for everything.

Christmas at Wrought Iron Brewery.