Good Robot Brewing Co.

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I Made My Family Disappear: Remembering What’s Important

“You’ll be a terrible father.”

I was bitching to my project manager, Roger, about my workload. A lot of my colleagues have a problem with misusing words – I believe the term is called “malade rope” – so I thought I had misheard him.

“Guess so.”

Roger explained. “If you allow this company to make you work like you do, think of what you’ll allow your little shit-heads to get away with.”


With age, I find myself rooting for Harry and Marv.

Apt anecdote, Roger. Not more than a few weeks ago, I had sent my boss, whom I love dearly, an email after he had an episode of sorts. Work piled up and a meltdown ensued, so he disappeared off the map. While I wanted him to come back, I told him that I’d rather have him happy and gone than miserable and around. He took my advice and decided to semi-retire.


Completely irrelevant to the above paragraph. I just love this picture.

Maybe I won’t be a terrible father, but rather a hypocritical one. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie rendition of Alice In Wonderland. You know, the one that always ruins your high. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.


Here’s some very good advice: skip this scene.

It’s difficult to escape what surrounds you immediately and focus on what’s important. In this case, I let a company whose only function was to pay the bills overwhelm my dream. Lucky for me, Angus called last night and got me thinking about what’s important. He’s good like that. As of now, I feel reenergized and refocused, ready to take on the world and get my butt to Halifax. It seems like simple enough advice, but most of us ignore it. Quit a job you hate. End a relationship that’s killing you. Kick an anthropomorphic dog-broom. Otherwise, you might lose your… Well, you know.


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Don’t be mad, bro

Hey Josh,

Your brewery co-conspirator Doug here. So it looks like we got a bit of Twitter press for our incomplete website. To keep up a somewhat friendly public face, you may have noted I slightly toned down the language in your last post without first consulting you. Being myself a purveyor of free speech this pains me but at some point i do want my mother to take a quick glance and this website and be proud of me, not mildly disappointed.

So as Joy Kehoe is a lady and a Saint, I changed the words ‘mother *ah-hem* fornicator’ to ‘mofo’ and ‘mof’er’ and I never passed along your message that you would like to ‘take her out for a nice seafood dinner, and never call her again’.

…and yes Josh mof’er is a term, I Googled it, and came up with this:

Mof'er   dis not funny.

Best Regards,


Pet Sounds: How to be a Productive Pessimist

Last week, for the first time since its inception, the brewery manifested itself in the flesh. Until now, all of our meetings had been held online. We had a productive weekend of branding and business planning, and it was so great to see Doug and Gus in person, but it was painstaking for me because I was in a funk.

Get Down!

Get Down!

It’s difficult to be an optimist. That’s not me, but it’s not for a lack of trying. I watch motivational speeches and read self-help adages, all of which prescribe a healthy dose of childlike, naive optimism, a proverbial rainbow of positive radiance and can-do spirit, an energetic puppy that shits proactive kittens.

Well, fuck.

I watched a Ted Talk that claimed you can rewire your brain for optimism and productivity by keeping a daily journal of things you’re grateful for, positive experiences, and random acts of kindness, among other things. I gave it a shot. Day 1 was fantastic. By Day 2, I smoked three cigarettes simultaneously just to get the taste of optimism out of my mouth.

Marlboro Red is the only cigarette with that smooth, cynical flavour.

Marlboro Red is the only cigarette with that smooth, cynical flavour.

That’s not to say I don’t admire optimists. My friend Rob, for example, has been a wonderful beacon of light in the battle of the black dog. During the past summer, Rob and I developed Hype Crew, a positive reinforcement system used to promote happiness and attract women at bars. Hype Crew is simple yet effective: bombard your mates with high-fives and compliments, even if disingenuous, to heighten their confidence. Be the Flava Flav to your friend’s Chuck D. The way that you live will be better.

Public Enemy number FUN!

Public Enemy number FUN!

Soon, Hype Crew had wormed its way into my workplace. I would start each day by lying to myself with this mantra: My job is easy and I’m awesome at it. All day, I’d continue the lie: I’m the best goddamn HVAC engineer this planet has ever known. I am God’s gift to building condition assessments. King Kong ain’t got shit on me. And wouldn’t you know it (you would), my confidence skyrocketed and my job became not only easier, but even enjoyable.

You motherfuckers will be playing basketball in Pelican Bay when I get finished with you.

You mofos will be playing basketball in Pelican Bay when I get finished with you.

I think, and this is just me, and Christ knows I wouldn’t listen to me, that negativity is not a bad thing. It’s natural, like fear, rash judgment, and attractive cousins. It’s how you choose to react to that negativity that molds your character. I, for example, use spite as a catalyst for productivity. In high school, I sacrificed partying and chasing girls and picketing GMO labels in favour of acing every course because I envied my wealthy classmates. After college, I opted to stay in the happy bubble of academia to avoid the unscrupulous corporate world. And now, my disenchantment with the human-resource-riddled work environment, with dishonest work practices, with homogenised public relations committees, with commercial grade beers, with mega-conglomerates, and with mass production have shaped my anger into a full-bodied goal with great mouthfeel.

You are what you drink: bitter.

You are what you drink: bitter.

Try to be positive. Really. God only knows the world has enough pessimists like me, and being around negative people wears you down. All I’m saying is that you can be you and still be successful. There’s an answer but you have to find it by yourself. And when that black dog comes a-barkin’, you wrangle that mof’er and ride him all the way to the bank. Turn that negativity into something good, something productive. Write that book. Run that marathon. Or in our case, trudge our way through the bleak Cornwall streets to finish that business plan and turn our frustration with modern business ethics into a drinkable ideology.

Onwards to victory.

Onwards to victory.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Aww, kitty!

Aww, kitty!

What are your thoughts, folks? Do self-help books and Ted Talks make you cringe or fire you up? How do you feel about optimism and success? If you are inclined to negativity but strive for optimism, how do you get there? And what is Brian Wilson’s greatest musical achievement?

Joshua Counsil is Wrought Iron Brewery’s Marketing Director. His years of engineering consulting have jaded his gentle spirit. Still, he loves laughing more than anything else.

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From broken glass to stainless steel

I’ve been mulling over the topic for my first post to write on the blog and repeatedly find myself trending back to the initial feeling of really committing to this project, that being the first brew Doug and I made on our shiny new pilot plant aka Doug’s personal R&D vessel, a far cry from the first brew we worked on together in university which resulted in a shattered carboy full of warm wort spilling throughout the kitchen. Its amazing how tolerant of a sticky floor you can become after a few weeks.

But back to the stainless steel setup, after a few weeks of negotiations with the manufacturer and waiting the gruelling 8 week lead time for production and shipment, the delivery day arrived. Doug playing a bit of hooky and skipping out of work early (with proper notice, of course) made it back home to meet the delivery truck and help the poor chap with the unloading.


Doug and I chose the Sabco for the potential long term use we can get out of it down the road for test batches, along with the obvious use for initial product development. Shortly after the arrival of the pilot plant, we started to kick up our grain inventory and hop variety to prep for the upcoming barrage of brews. We also decided to move toward a 500ml swing-top style bottle to cut down on effort and time associated with capping. The cost was right when you order in bulk ~100.




Deciding on something simple to start, we chose a California style Pale Ale to christian the unit, a la Stone’s Pale Ale. Grains, yeast (White Labs) and hops all purchased from Ontario’s Great bunch to chat on the phone with and awesome prices to boot.

After some research on the pilot plant’s tendencies, Doug and I, being the Chemical Engineers we thought we were, decided that the tolerances on our malt mill should be tighter to increase the efficiency of the first brew. Cracking the grains into smithereens and having to take turns running the mill, we had a bucket full of flour and cracked husks, but its not our style to waste any materials….efficiency right?

Note the Canadian Tire bucket 5 gal…time for a new Part of Our Heritage moment?



Moving on to preparing the pilot plant for the first brew was another story. Did I mention this first brew took place in the middle of February? On one of the coldest nights of the winter, or felt it at least. Getting 15gallons of water to 170F in the middle of winter is no easy task. I’d like to chalk the effort involved as a salute to Canadian tenacity for beer drinking as a whole. After 2 hours of our propane on full bore, heating our sparge water to temp and running water source aka garden hoses out Doug’s second story window, we brought down our flour aka milled grains.



Battling ambient temps in the middle of winter is a tricky endeavour and even more difficult when you don’t know what you’re doing. Well, truth be told, we didn’t. But I like to think we’re quick learners, or at the very least resilient. After dumping in our grains and back filling the mash tun, we started our cycling pump to drive our wort through the grain bed convert our grains starches to sugars with the high temp of the water. At least that is what’s supposed to happen. Except that we experienced what’s known as a ‘stuck mash’ (a term we learned after the experience was over). Our mash was so finely milled that the flour and husks turned into one large glob of dough at the bottom of our mash tun. Being new to this pilot plant, we decided to use our mash paddle AKA really long plastic spoon to beat the hell out of The Blob. Finally getting The Blob to submit, we ended up losing some temperature to the cool February night, putting our wort’s efficiency at risk. After getting the temp back and unclogging the poor circulation pump numerous times, we managed to finish the mash and started our sparging process.



Transferring the super sugary wort to the boil kettle was simple and our hand refractometer was reading within a few thousands of where needed to be for our OG so our volumes and mash efficiency we working out. Prepping for our boil turned out to be another bitch, trying to bring the now ‘warm’ wort to 212F for the 1hour boil was problematic due to the temperatures again. Christ, Doug and I needed to take turns warming our hands on the sides of the kettle. At least we were dedicated, or morons? Don’t answer that.


The other option to keep the blood flowing was to start cleaning up.

Note: when you mill grains smaller, they are an absolute bitch to clean out of false bottoms

The cleaning was going alright and we had managed to stay warm by keeping busy, until Doug checked on the boil. We had added our healthy dose of Northern Brewer hops in our hop bags and strung it off our oversized spoon. Unfortunately, due to the rush Doug and I were in when we started the boil, we used the leafed hop bags instead of the pelletized hops bag which does a better job of keeping the ground hop extract together in the boil. Needless to say, we had a noticeable ting of hop green to our previously nice amber coloured pale ale. No problem, we tossed in some Irish Moss and hopped it we could rack it off after it flocc’d out with the yeast during fermentation.


After battling our new plate and frame heat exchanger, not realizing how hard it would be to prime the little bastard, we managed to fill our fermentation vessels AKA retrofitted sankey kegs. Little bit of aeration, lot of StarSan spray, pitching our White Labs yeast and rearranging Doug’s kitchen to make room for these two beauties brought us to around 3am, on a work day.

We half assed cleaning up and called it a night. The next day after holding our breath during work, we got home and those two shiny babies were gargling away in the two growlers. So what would two other proud parents do? Obvious, start over. So that night, after some liquid courage, we took another shot at it;  4 weeks later our favourite Hefe was born.



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Logo Design

I just need this post as a workaround for a Google glitch. I’m also drinking this fantastic sour rye ale from The Bruery in Orange County, California. Man, they’ve released some great stuff. I guess I should post something worthwhile, so… let’s talk about our logo.


Oh, hey, look at that! That’s a beauty! You know, I have to give mad props to the designer of our logo, Pretty snazzy, right? Much better than my original concept:

IMAG0129There were several other submissions we liked, too. Many thanks to PecDesign and Cmp95b2 of, as well as Bolo_Graphics, r_Dhude and loginstudio of



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Marketing Budget

Our business plan is coming right along. LivePlan is a wonderful resource and we’ve had plenty of help from BDC, NSLC, and Brewer’s Association, among others.

My most recent resource has been, with which I have constructed the marketing budget. According to them, a conservative estimate for the marketing budget is to multiply your projected sales by 10 and 12%, multiply those numbers by your gross markup percentage, and deduct your property rent from those numbers to achieve your minimum and maximum budgets for marketing. So, by our calculations, our maximum marketing budget comes to… negative $54,500!

With that in mind, we’ve contracted our first print advertisement out to Ms. Skinner’s junior kindergarten class from Our Lady of Mediocrity in Cochrane, Alberta. Thanks to the winning submission from James L!



WIBC First AdvertisementGrape job, James!

— Josh


Aloha from Calgary! My name is Joshua Counsil, Wrought Iron Brewing Company’s Marketing Director. I love beer and hate segues.

When Angus offered me the opportunity to join this operation, I was baffled. I mean, a craft brewery? I’m a white, college-educated male between the ages of 25 and 35 – what do I know about craft beer? I’ve got the disparaging condescension towards commercial beers on lock, but I don’t own a plaid shirt or a beard. Angus, however, wasn’t taking “no” for an answer, mostly because he didn’t ask a yes-or-no question.

Angus is confident in me. He has a remarkable ability to find your hidden talents buried beneath layers of plaid and beard. During our initial brewery talks, Angus said something that sticks with me to this very day, three weeks later: You’re good at making people drink. My therapist agrees.

And then there’s Doug, whose hair alone could run the brewery. He finds inspiration in the most unusual places, like inspirational quotes. I love Doug like a brother, and if his brewing skills are half as impressive as his cooking skills, we’re all in for a treat. One time, Doug put red onion in my salad. In my salad! That’s exactly the kinda out-of-the-box thinking we need.

Craft brewing is not solely my destiny; it’s my only option, which I’ll illustrate with an obligatory anecdote.

Months ago, I had an online interview with a start-up company in Calgary. It went poorly. Not as poorly as, say, my Disney World interview, where I said my favourite Disney character is the Coachman who turns kids into donkeys. Nor was it as bad as my Rolls-Royce interview, where I accidentally tied up my hands and wrists with Scotch tape. And it certainly doesn’t top my Royal Military College interview, where I said that gravity is a form of aerodynamic drag, then yelled, “FUCK!” …But it was poor.

This interview consisted of none of the usual pleasantries, like what I do and why I’m decent at it. No, they jumped right into undergraduate-level technical questions – 17, to be exact – including solving problems and using equations I haven’t touched since Kofi Annan led the UN. And the only reason I’m aware of that historical trivium is because of Wikipedia, which I had open on my computer monitor during the interview to aid with their technical questions.

When I’m nervous, I crack bad jokes. Judging by the deafening silence I was met with, I surmised that these guys weren’t the type to laugh at humorless jokes, nor were they the type to let me slink away with what little dignity I had left. The interviewers asked me to draw a close-looped, steam-generating system with Microsoft Paint via screenshare so they could silently mock me in real-time. Below is my masterpiece, worthy of the Louvre.




Against all odds, the interview got much, much worse. After I closed Microsoft Paint, the interviewers went silent for a solid 15 seconds. I had forgotten that the screensharing program was still running and, subsequently, they could still see my computer screen. Below is a screenshot of what they were staring at. In case it’s not enough that I was cheating during the interview by searching for answers to the technical questions on Google, check out the tab at the top left.


Two days later, they offered me the job. I can only assume the other candidate had pornography open on his monitor.

Yeesh. I’m two minutes into my Marketing job and already embarrassed by my facetiousness. On the other hand, maybe that’s the secret to all this. Maybe the key to marketing is being open and honest, embracing and celebrating all the eccentricities embodied by the human condition. Art is subjective. Dignity is overrated. Perfection is a fallacy. But in my book, beer is about as close to perfection as we can get. And that’s worth pursuing.

I love you.

— Josh