Good Robot Brewing Co.


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.

Co-owner of Boxing Rock Brewing

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.


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.


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.

By in Uncategorized Comments Off on Marketing Budget

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

By in Pretentious Anecdotes Somewhat Pertaining to Beer Comments Off on Why?


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