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By in Brewing, Brewing, Women in Brewing Comments Off on Women in Brewing | Musings from a Woman in Brewing

Women in Brewing | Musings from a Woman in Brewing

If I’m honest, whenever I am asked to do an interview, or give my perspective or opinion on the “issue” of women in brewing, my response invariably begins with a sigh. In fact, I probably sighed when Josh asked me to write this blog post. I sigh because I hate that it’s an “issue”. I sigh because I don’t have all the answers. I sigh because really, there is nothing about brewing or serving craft beer that should make it a male dominated industry. And most of all I sigh because it makes me a little bit sad that in 2018 we are still talking about gender equality. For a long time after I became a brewer and brewery owner in 2013, my standard response to these requests was along the lines of “why does anyone care what sex I am, as long as my beer is good?”. I didn’t want to talk about it, because I felt like talking about it validated the perspective that it was an “issue”. And I didn’t want it to be.

FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Emily Tipton & Henry Pedro of Boxing Rock Brewing

Emily Tipton & Henry Pedro, owners of Boxing Rock Brewing Company.

When I was about 6, my father went away on a business trip and came back with a pink t-shirt for me. On the front was a rainbow, and the words “Anything boys can do…girls can do better”. I’m sure he has no idea how that t-shirt shaped my view of the world, but those words served me well as I pursued a career in engineering, and later as a brewer and entrepreneur. Because of my experiences as an engineer who did a lot of field work in the oil and gas industry, I am used to being the only woman in the room or around the table in a meeting. I am used to having to prove myself as equal rather than it being assumed. I am not fazed by being a woman in a man’s world, in fact I probably prefer it by now. But I know that’s not necessarily the way all women feel, and I know from experience that gender and power dynamics can be frustrating, frightening and extremely tricky.

Meg Brennan (Garrison Brewing), Rebecca Atkinson (Sober Island Brewing), Laura MacDonald (Stillwell) & Kelly Costello (Good Robot Brewing) at a 902 Brewcast podcast on Women in the Beer Industry.

Meg Brennan (Garrison Brewing), Rebecca Atkinson (Sober Island Brewing), Laura MacDonald (Stillwell) & Kelly Costello (Good Robot Brewing) at a 902 Brewcast podcast on Women in the Beer Industry.

As the years have passed I have come to realize that my position as co-owner and brewer at Boxing Rock has likely made things a little bit different for me than many women in brewing industry. I have the luxury of dismissing those that don’t respect me, and of standing up to those who objectify or insult my feminine side. As a brewery owner, I no longer fear repercussions to my career or livelihood. I also know the man who I started this business with sees me as his equal, respects me and will support any defense I mount of my gender and position. The more time I spend in this industry though, the more experiences I have or hear about that disturb me. I’ve had suppliers and customers express surprise and disbelief that a woman owns a brewery…and brews beer. I’ve had suppliers make inappropriate comments or suggestions. I’ve heard stories about female staff at breweries being physically and verbally assaulted by customers and even by colleagues from our industry. I’ve seen beer names and labels that objectify women. I’ve had all manner of inappropriate things said to me when I’m anonymously pouring beer at beer festivals. So yes, I will grudgingly admit, there is an “issue.” But what do we do about it?

Kelly Costello & Dina Lobo, a non-drinker, brew a dark saison.

I’ve been grappling with the answer to that question for a few years now, both as a woman in the industry and as the President of the Craft Brewers Association of Nova Scotia (CBANS). I am proud that CBANS made a motion at our AGM in June 2017 that encourages members to “uphold the fundamental principles of inclusiveness and equality to all in our day to day activities”, and to “pledge zero tolerance of discrimination in marketing practices”. I think as an industry association this is a great place to start. By making this motion we as an industry said we are willing to talk about this issue, explore it and debate it. It is important to start the conversation, because if we don’t talk about it within the industry, the assumption is that the status quo is OK. And it isn’t. If you have the appetite for a full exploration of sexism in beer marketing, and how it feels to be a woman in this industry, this piece is a pretty thorough look from this time last year. And CBANS got a mention in a follow-up piece from the same blog last summer.

Shelby Peters at Boxing Rock Brewing in Nova Scotia.

Shelby Peters, Boxing Rock’s first employee.

The next part of my answer is that I want all the men who love craft beer, and who think women are their equals to stand up and say so. If you see a man treating a woman in a way you think is wrong, don’t look the other way, don’t be a silent bystander, say something. And then tweet about it: #HowIWillChange. Because one thing I know from experience is that nothing changes for a man who doesn’t respect women and our contribution to the world of craft beer if he is called out by the woman he doesn’t respect. But I believe a whole lot can change if another man tells him that what he is doing or saying isn’t right.

Alewife’s Revenge Brew Day with Ladies Beer League at Boxing Rock Brewing in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

Alewife’s Revenge Brew Day with Ladies Beer League at Boxing Rock.

The truth is, there are no easy answers. Everyone has a different perspective of what is right and wrong when it comes to power and gender and equality. But we can only move forward as a society if we are diligent about questioning our assumptions and being open to other points of view. It might seem like I am calling on men to come to our rescue, but I can assure you I am no damsel in distress. I am calling on men who love and respect women and the craft beer we brew, pour and serve to stand beside us as equals, to have hard conversations with women and other men, and to join us in challenging the craft beer industry in Nova Scotia to be a safe and inviting place for everyone.

Emily Tipton brewing a craft beer at Boxing Rock Brewing Company in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

Emily brewing and being a bad-ass.

Cheers.
Emily
Co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewing

By in Construction Comments Off on Taproom Construction Update 3: Seasons Change

Taproom Construction Update 3: Seasons Change

The major problem with our brewery is that you guys come here, buy the beer, and leave. Some of you send us pictures of yourselves enjoying the beer. Then, while we’re taking a leak at The Stubborn Goat, we check our phones and see that fabulous picture of our beer on your backyard porch. Or your office desk. Or a mountain top. Campsite. Living room. Schoolyard.

See the problem?

We don’t get to drink our beer with you.

Let’s remedy that.

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Our driveway has come a long way, from Denzel Washington movie set to 10,000 pounds of transplanted soccer field. And although John MacNeil Elementary may not get the practice they need to make the finals this year, I’m sure even they’d appreciate the complementary colour coordination we pulled off. Go Dolphins!

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Demolition, structural, plumbing and some electrical are finished. The second-most interesting phase involved turning a living room into a mezzanine overlooking the bar. The most interesting phase will be explaining to our landlord what happened to the residence upstairs.

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You may notice that, as compared to our brewery construction blog posts, our taproom construction blog posts contain few nightmares. Andrew Flood and his amazing team at Five by Five Renovations are to thank for that. While they’ve been hammering through taproom construction, which should be complete in about 6 weeks, we’re catching up on brewery operations, which are difficult. Brewing is demanding. Cash is tight. It’s horrifying to watch your sales increase as your bank account dwindles, but it’s the reality of owning a business. We feel similar to how we did just before the brewery opened. By the time the graffiti mural below hits our wall, we’ll be days away from opening our taproom, which we want as much as you do. Just forgive us if we pass out after one pint.

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

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.

 

 

 

Brewery Construction Update! Plus, Motivation and Smiling

Construction has begun! But first, I have some thoughts on entrepreneurship. Let’s stroke my ego and see if I can tie the themes together. Last week, I found out that something I had been working towards was delayed by several months. I felt defeated. I ended up eating 17 days worth of my Kinder Chocolate Advent Calendar in one sitting, almost as if I cared only about the goal and not the journey, or as if I cared only about the imaginative Kinder toy and not the silky, smooth chocolate egg made with simple ingredients like high-quality cocoa, real sugar, and a heart of visibly milky filling that melts in your mouth and embraces your taste buds.

 

 

The other night, my friend asked me, “How do you stay motivated?” I didn’t have an answer. I’m not feeling particularly motivated right now and the bleak weather has me longing for New Orleans, so I just took a step outside to smoke and listen to Tom Waits. I saw another smoker across the way. She looked miserable. I began wondering why I never smile when I smoke, nor do I smile when I listen to music, which is odd since they’re both sources of pleasure. I forced myself to smile. I stood there grinning like an idiot on our patio for three minutes as the noon traffic rolled by and I started to feel better. (Smiling, even forced, releases serotonin. Give it a try right now.)

Angus grinding the bay doors

Angus be on his grind.

As I stood there grinning like I had gone batshit, two businessdudes in peacoats crossed the street to visit The Coastal for lunch. It was closed. They were devastated (understandably so – have you tried their Buffalo Chicken?). The dudes spent a good two minutes double-checking the door lock, hours of operation, windows for any movement… Those poor souls had dreamt of a good lunch all morning, maybe all week. If they could just have this one thing, they thought they would be happy. My ridiculous grimace turned to uncontrollable cackling as I realized how I stay motivated: living for the moment.

 

Wrought Iron Brewing Company - Construction - Angus chipping warehouse floor with chipping hammer

Angus be on his chip.

When I work, I’m not focused on finishing the work, but rather doing the work. The end goal is just icing on the cake. Right now, we’re not focused on getting our brewing equipment or modelling our taproom. We’re focused on construction, which is fun, especially when you don’t have the proper tools for it.

We received our construction permit last week. A great reward, sure, but the joy was in doing the work ourselves: designing and drafting the systems and contracting out the work to people more capable than us. We tore up our floor to scope out our trench drain. We fixed our bay door arches. We had some beers and did a little crude demolition. We’ve contracted trades to upgrade our trusses, fire-proof our ceiling and upgrade our security system. Soon, we’ll be upgrading HVAC, upgrading to three-phase electrical, upsizing water utility, installing propane lines, digging out a manhole for effluent samples, and otherwise bringing the building up to code. Sure, we’re not ready to brew, but we’re having a pretty damn good time.

Take that guy, in the video. Is he concerned about paychecks, timelines or even basic safety? No. He’s living in the moment. So the next time you see me smoking and cackling like an idiot, or river-dancing on a rotating piece of 2×4, just know I’m enjoying myself. And maybe a little blitzed.