Good Robot Brewing Co.

North End

By in Brewing, Women in Brewing Comments Off on Women in Brewing | Top 5 Reasons It’s Harder to Be a Woman Brewer

Women in Brewing | Top 5 Reasons It’s Harder to Be a Woman Brewer

1. That shit is heavy!

A full bag of grain is 55lbs. A 50L keg weighs up to 140 lbs, or as much as me! Okay, almost as much as me. These things often need to be lifted above hip level, which isn’t easy, but it is doable – for ANYONE. I’m also super tough! My ovaries don’t prevent me from developing muscle mass, so I have brand new biceps and triceps where little noodle arms used to be. Check out these sweet pipes!

kelticdevil and Kelly Costello together at the Halifax Curated local food and craft beer celebration in Halifax.

Besides, if something is too heavy, you lift it with a pal. Work smarter, ya dummy! (Pictured: Phil Church/kelticdevil) and Kelly.

2. Sanitizer removes nail polish.

Also, my hands are really dry, like really dry. Hundred-year-old, desert-leather dry. Boo! I suppose I’ll get over it. Honestly, these are style things more than gender things. I mean, everyone has skin, and most skin is affected by hot water, caustics, and sanitizers. I worked with a male brewer a few weeks ago. Throughout the brew day, he lost most of his beautiful purple polish. Oh no! Fashion faux pas! Just kidding; you’re beautiful, Donald. So yeah, nail polish gets removed, hair gets hella frizzy in all that humidity, your skin gets rough from getting wet all the time… But I’m here to impress you with my sick brewing skills, not win a beauty contest. (If that’s what you’re into, awesome! Go get ‘em, tiger!)

Kelly Costello and Donald MacLennan brewing up something with nail polish.

Donald’s coloured nails are matched only by Penn Jillette’s.

3. Sometimes it’s lonely.

At Good Robot, only 25-30% of our Untappd beer reviews come from women. (Editor’s note: This is in spite of our taproom following being well over 50% women.) We house only 5 actively working female brewers, brewsters, beer engineers, or alesmiths, whatever you want to call us (PLEASE correct me if you know of more). Feminism in beer is pretty niche feminism, and sometimes it feels like you’re all alone and you wonder who you’re really doing any of it for. Sometimes your vision doesn’t line up with that of your fellow femmes or you find yourself always surrounded by (generally lovely) dudes. Then you remember the powerful humans (and deities) who started before you and the wonderfolks who have joined the brewing world thanks, maybe in part, to the space you’ve created for them. Then you get over the bad days and keep on hauling grain.

Nova Scotia women in brewing.

A few Maritime brewers in action.

4. Sometimes people don’t take me seriously.

Well, fork them. They can either get on board or continue living in their tiny little world. No skin off my back. Yes, I am more than a pretty face; so are the other women in this industry. Women are more than an image or object used to sell a product. We are at times the producers, the transporters, the salespeople, the experts, and the consumers of that product. Up to an estimated 52% of patrons at Good Robot are female! We love the stuff, so please stop trying to tell us we don’t! And stop assuming we know nothing about the industry we’re a part of; that’s just insulting.

Kelly Costello gives finger to the patriarchy.

Kelly cares not for the patriarchy.

5. I bleed.

Alright, surely this is the hardest thing about being a woman brewer. It’s something I can’t help, and something I still pay taxes on, so don’t make it harder than it is. But wait, that’s not just hard for brewers. That’s a monthly inconvenience for pilots, doctors, lawyers, servers, or anyone with a menstrual cycle. Well, I guess we can accomplish everything else we have to that week, so why not carry on doing our jobs. Like we have done. Every month. For our entire adult lives. It’s just science! Nothing scary! Here, learn something!

The menstrual cycle of craft beer.

The menstrual cycle courtesy of MedComic.

Okay, so I guess there really aren’t that many things that make it harder to be a woman in a brewery. The only thing that sets us apart is the relative novelty, and that’s changing (woot woot!). I hope this industry can be a metaphor for the way things are going in the real world. The craft beer world seems to embrace change and progress in ways that I haven’t experienced in many other places, but it won’t happen on its own and there are still many changes we can make – not just for women. Let’s make it easier for everyone. Or at least make it more equally difficult, ha ha.

_____

Kelly Costello is the BetaBrew Manager and on the Brew Team at Good Robot.

By in Queers & Beers Comments Off on Pissing in Bars | The importance of single-stall bathrooms

Pissing in Bars | The importance of single-stall bathrooms

Why do we want single-stall bathrooms?

I believe that if you serve people beverages that make them have to piss, make them more emotional, randy or contemplative (i.e. beer) and you intend for your guests to be around your bar for a few hours, you have a responsibility to ensure they can use your bathrooms in a comfortable, safe way. And in whatever way they need to. And as many times as they need to without waiting in an ungodly line up.

There’s a lot in there, I know. But bathroom needs are serious, immediate needs. And bathrooms aren’t just used to evacuate fluids. They’re used for phone calls, surfing Facebook when you need a breather from your pals or date, making out with someone(s) for a hot minute that’s just a toe over the line of “too much time in the bathroom shit there’s people waiting” and of course ripping farts and standing there while it airs out. There are more things. Mostly all private things you don’t want to do in front of other people.

Georgie Dudka, Good Robot Brewing Company's Events Director in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Cool person, Georgie and Sam (Offsite Events) being fresh.

Most of these things are impossible to do in a multi-stall, typical bathroom. There’s an extra wrench that gets thrown into it for me when I’m greeted with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms. Which is mostly. This doesn’t impact everyone the same way but I’m going to focus on me for a minute here.

Hi Halifax, I’m Georgie, I’m 31, I’m transgender. I use gender-neutral or male pronouns where applicable, and when I go into a bar and I’m faced with gendered, multi-stall bathrooms, I immediately become uncomfortable and uneasy and want to leave the establishment. I mean, physically/presentation-wise I look very masculine but using this type of bathroom is not ideal for me.

Reasons multi-stall bathrooms suck for transgender folks

Reasons it sucks in the Men’s bathroom for me:

  • I piss sitting down and people can tell because my boots aren’t facing the toilet.
  • If they don’t think about the latter too hard they then hear the toilet paper being pulled and there’s definitely a lightbulb moment for some people.
  • I know people notice in the men’s bathroom – because sometimes they eye me up and down when I leave the stall. And it makes me feel gross inside, even though I’m turbo attractive and even if that’s not the intention of the person eyeing me.
  • Also men’s bathrooms inevitably smell like dank piss.

Reasons it sucks in the Women’s bathroom for me:

  • I present very masculine and most women freak out (obv) if I go into the bathroom (so I don’t anymore ever!)
  • In moments while I was beginning to transition, I would still use the women’s bathroom as it was more comfortable for me, and I would feel horrible when people would tell me “you don’t belong here”. Not because I cared I didn’t belong – I did belong and didn’t at the same time and who cares. But I was causing obvious discomfort for the women in the space. And it weighed on me. And it seemed hard and/or unnecessary to explain. And I started holding my pee too frequently and dreading public bathroom use.
BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Georgie Dudka

Kelly, Georgie and cool person brewing a BetaBrew.

From my personal POV based on my identities, there’s this paranoia that goes along with someone “finding out” that I don’t own a penis in men’s multi-stall bathroom situations that creates an unnecessarily jolting experience regardless of how it’s perceived by the other folks in the bathroom. I just get nervous of potential aggression, which has happened in my past and will continue to I’m sure. So when I walk into local bars and taprooms that don’t offer me a comfortable and safe place to piss, I generally leave. Solidarity to trans and non-binary people in these situations, because there are common feelings and consequences for us in bathrooms that other people don’t have to go through.

There are caveats to my bathroom feelings, obviously. For me they are businesses/bars I know very well and have a great relationship with. Like Charlie’s on Maynard! I know the staff so well that I feel very protected there regardless of the gendered bathroom situation. I also acknowledge that staff are not responsible for engineering and building bathrooms. So, you know, support the places and people that support you.

Need-wise, I’m also one of the people that make out in bathrooms, or need a spot to hide on my phone away from my pals. I’m not the person that broke your bar’s bathroom sink though. Because not all people that make out in bathrooms break them, that’s a shitty myth.

What can businesses do?

From a business perspective, if you own a business, I challenge you to consider how many people may feel uncomfortable in the establishment because they can’t piss or cry or poop or make out comfortably. I’ve walked from many a bar I was having a decent time at because I had no access to privacy or my own particular needs around bathroom safety. I do believe that private, single-stall bathrooms are becoming one of the most important fundamental services you can offer someone in a bar for a variety of reasons.

I also understand that for many places – we can’t go back in time and just create single-stall bathrooms. Occupancy for a bar (or any building) is built on both square footage and availability of “male” and “female” bathrooms. And for bars that have been around awhile, there can’t be a sudden expectation to just allocate a budget to bathroom renovations that don’t technically need to happen. That could be too much for a small business to undertake. Though, if you do renovate, you can always pull a Local and go turbo by making your bathrooms multi-single-gender-neutral stalls by walling them in and installing doors that run to the floor. We don’t need to be fancy about it, folks just need to use the space privately.

Katie Whitlock and Georgie Dudka at Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax.

Katie (Onsite Events) and Georgie.

What I would really like to see are NEW bars that open supporting trans and non-binary folks by designing gender-neutral, single-stall bathrooms. Then, simultaneously, you support people who need a place to have some immediate privacy (pooping, crying, farting, etc.) in order to continue having a good time later. And really, you can never underrate pooping in private, single-stall bathrooms versus pooping in a multi-stall room.

From safety issues for some folks, to comfort and privacy for others – gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms are a great way to show care for people (and let people care for themselves) in a bar or taproom. And while we’re at it! If you see folks in a bathroom who you think “don’t belong there”, remember: It’s truly not your concern, ever, where other people use the bathroom, unless it’s on your floor.

FAQ on gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms

Question: But, Georgie, What about people that don’t understand gender neutral/single-stall bathrooms? How do we explain?

Answer: Gender neutral bathrooms do confuse some people though usually just initially. For most who are new to it, it’s easy to explain.

Try:

  • “They all have locking doors and are separate rooms, so take your pick!”
  • “You can use the bathroom for anything – they’re clean and private if you need a spot for a phone call or what have you”
  • “Your bathroom at home is single-stall and gender neutral, it’s the same here!”
Georgie Dudka, Events Director at Good Robot, Halifax's most questionable craft brewery.

Georgie just killin’ it.

Other folks have a harder time with the principle, so if they become persistent (which some do, “but WHICH bathroom is for MEN”), I like to answer with oddness, confidence and mystery.

Try:

  • “Oh right, sorry for not telling you earlier, men can only pee on the right side of the bathroom or the bar poltergeist starts flushing all the toilets at once and slamming the doors which immediately makes all the customers uneasy obv. Not your fault of course, we’re fine, we’re used to it here, it’s just our manager has to go through this really arduous ritual afterwards” and then slowly shrug.
  • “I just stand in the entrance and smell all the stalls one by one, that’s how I pick”

Question: What if there are already single-stall bathrooms in the bar BUT they are separated and gendered? How do I fix this?

Answer: Change the signs on the door, bam!

Question: How would people know they are actually bathrooms without pictures of cartoon stick people on the door?

Answer: Put a picture of the international sign for toilets on the door: A toilet

Question: Since you just said all this shit, does Good Robot have gender neutral, single-stall bathrooms that I can make out and/or cry and/or go on IG and/or poop in?

Answer: 100%

Got more? All your gender-neutral, single-stall bathroom questions answered by e-mailing [email protected]

_____

Georgie Dudka is Good Robot Brewing’s Events Director.

By in Survey 6

Survey Feedback Results

Welcome to our semiannual anonymous feedback survey, where the chip on our shoulder translates to a need for validation from our fans. This post highlights some of the more interesting feedback we thought was worth addressing (the survey questions can be found here). Let’s get started with feedback about our beer.

BEER QUALITY

Experimental, eccentric, untrue to style. That’s been a mantra of ours from the beginning. And most folks seem to enjoy it. But there is a dedicated base who are tired of our gimmicky shit. What’s a matter, pal, you don’t want a mixed-fermentation sour ale with Oaxacan chocolate and Yoo-hoo? I’m just joshin’ ya. We understand that people want us to nail a few traditional styles rather than constantly trying new things. We have a few traditional styles on deck: a milk stout, a cream ale, the return of our Oktoberfest, and perhaps our first IPA. We’ve also got a lot more crazy shit, too. Mixed fermentation ales, white stouts, coconut beers, and myriad others to appease you weirdos who like us. We’re robots. We like to experiment.

About 27% of the survey responses indicate the quality of beer is okay. We get it. We’ve had some incidents in the past, like our American wild beer (we wish we could take that back). Moving forward, we’re continuously investing into tighter quality control and better systems:

  • We now have a dedicated QA/QC and yeast microbiologist (and another in training) who we sent to Siebel training in Montreal for QA/QC.
  • We’re building an onsite laboratory for yeast quality testing.
  • We’ve got a pile of brewery refurbishments scheduled for the fall and winter, such as a new chiller installation.

Many of the survey complaints regarding quality specifically pertained to consistency. For example, some folks did not like our various iterations of the Burban Legend (American pale ale), or they don’t like that our beers sometimes change batch to batch. Changing recipes slightly batch to batch is just the way we like to do things. For example, the Burban Legend uses a lot less caramel malt now than it did two years ago when we opened because, well, our tastes have changed with time.

BEER AVAILABILITY

Isn’t that funny? A craft beer crowd is demanding lower alcohol beers. There was a period in the late spring when the lightest beer we had on tap was 5.7% ABV. Our staff nicknamed that era the “face-melter”. We had to cut off more regular patrons than ever before. We got the message. We’re trying to brew lower alcohol beers.

Wow. You guys want canned and bottled beer. Well, watch out for some special fall releases…

TAPROOM/GASTROTURF

23% of the total survey respondents requested more tables at our location. This is in the works. That’s all I have to say about that.

We just added sparkling water to our menu, but it seems folks want more nonalcoholic options. Plus, more ciders, more guest beers, more wine and more types of alcohol. Well, folks, I can tell you with confidence most of those will not be happening. We are a brewery, first and foremost. We are not going to bring in more wine because we only sell about 2 glasses per day. We tried selling cold-brewed coffee on tap, but it sold much, much slower than any beer or cider. And as for more alcoholic options – not a chance. We don’t want to be a whiskey bar. Our bathrooms are stinky enough.

Regarding events, there was lots of good feedback for Goodwill Bot (charity Mondays), Silent Reading, Just Vorlaufs! (outdoor stand-up comedy), Robie Scope (outdoor movie Sundays) and GRB Tiny Pub Concerts (live music). Don’t worry, folks; these events aren’t going anywhere.

MARKETING

We get it. You don’t like our stupid videos, stupid inside jokes, stupid Smash Mouth gags or stupid April Fool’s Day pranks. Also, very few respondents knew that our beers are gluten-reduced, that every Tuesday we release a test “BetaBrew” batch, or any other important advertising points that actually bring in money. So I suppose the Yelp salespeople who call here weekly are right: social media doesn’t sell. Time to invest in table tents and wing night.

So, how about it? Anything else we should know?

Oh, and congrats to Lianne L. for winning the $50 gift card. Though based on your survey feedback, you won’t be using it.

By in Uncategorized Comments Off on Harassment & Hospitality – An Owner’s Perspective

Harassment & Hospitality – An Owner’s Perspective

I’ve had a couple of run-ins with what you might call harassment – two weeks ago, a patron told me he wanted to have my, uh, manhood in his mouth, and then went into other details I’d rather not elaborate on without a few beers. But by and large, I’m rarely subjected to it even though I spend a lot of time in my own bar. Why? Well, for one, I identify as a straight, white male. For another, I’m one of the owners, and harassment often seems to occur when patrons expect servitude from their servers. Most of my familiarity with harassment comes from incidents the staff report to me, and typically those incidents only get reported when I extract them.

Dan Hendricken Good Robot Brewing Halifax Nova Scotia

It hurts to think that a business I helped to open could foster an environment conducive to harassment. It hurts to think that our staff – our family – deal with harassment on a regular basis. I am dating one of our staff, and it makes me furious to hear what they occasionally have to deal with as a server. And yet, in the hospitality industry, this seems to be the norm. Workplace BC indicates hospitality is the industry with the highest proportion of bullying and harassment complaints, with most of the complaints being against management. Restaurant Opportunities Centers United confirms these findings with at least 90% of women working in tipped restaurant positions dealing with harassment in some form, and at least two-thirds of female workers and over half of male workers experiencing some form of sexual harassment from management. The latter part of both studies is troubling: the root of the problem stems from the top down.

20170220_151834

Dani, who is a bartender here on the weekends and a psychologist during the week, elaborated on the “bartender effect” from the popular show How I Met Your Mother: people (mainly women) in service industry professions such as bartending are perceived as more attractive because they are in that profession. The reality is not far off – it is symptomatic of how highly sexualized the service industry is. This is clearly evidenced in many restaurants and bars which encourage or insist their staff look or present themselves a certain way for the benefit and pleasure of the patrons. Likewise, the ‘customer is always right’ motto being prevalent in the industry produces a feeling of having to tolerate sexual harassment and unwanted advances because it is “just part of the job.” It also reinforces a clear power imbalance between patron and server that already exists since the server cannot remove themselves from the reality of job security, tips, management, etc. This has a cyclical impact on the sexualization of the service industry.

20170407_002402

Dani also noted that the sexualization of the service industry fosters social distancing, or an ‘othering’ of service industry professionals, meaning bartenders, servers, etc., are perceived as somehow different from everyone else. This produces a feeling of distance between the harasser and their harassee, almost as though the harassee is not a regular person you met through friends, or at work, etc. This results in frequently heard comments like “she can take it”, or “she’s used to it”, or ‘I didn’t mean anything by it’, thereby excusing culpability or responsibility with the justification that a service interaction is not the same as any other, and therefore doesn’t have to follow conventional social rules. This is how an otherwise nice person can act like a shithead towards their server.

Kelly Costello Good Robot Brewing Halifax

About a year ago, I remember hearing about harassment at our workplace for the first time. Our bartender Jill, who enjoys wearing crop-tops, received frequent unwanted feedback from patrons of all genders who either accosted her for promoting patriarchy, belittled her for dressing scantily, took her choice of clothing as an opportunity to hit on her aggressively, or attempted to defend her against Good Robot’s sexist dress codes. I had a hard time believing that someone as kind and giving as Jill could be treated so poorly, especially by patrons of my business. Since then, I’ve realized two things:

  1. Staff will rarely voluntarily tell me about incidents of harassment; rather, I have to inquire about them; and
  2. Harassment is prevalent in my establishment, regardless of how hard we’ve tried to make our place open, welcoming and comfortable.

20170610_112000

Here are a few incidents – some recurring – over the past couple of months that staff have dealt with:

  • patrons expressing their undying love for staff members (recurring);
  • patrons waiting around for a certain staff member’s shift to start in order to ask them on a date, and/or inquiring with other staff and patrons as to the relationship availability of said staff member (recurring);
  • a patron telling a staff member to “sit on their face”;
  • patrons grabbing our staff’s exposed skin to get their attention (recurring);
  • patrons groping staff (recurring);
  • a patron called a staff member a “bitch” after being cut off;
  • a patron telling a queer patron he would “fuck her straight”;
  • patrons adding their servers on social media platforms and sending them inappropriate messages after hours (recurring);
  • etc. And these are just over the last couple months.

IMG_20170216_114550512

We recently held a staff meeting to discuss how we could change this culture. Our staff chimed in with specific incidents and how they were dealt with effectively. Ultimately, each incident and its consequence were unique, so it’s difficult to address a complex problem with a simple solution. We thought it might help to share some incidents and how they were dealt with effectively for all those in the industry who deal with this bullshit on the regular:

  • Inform the manager immediately. It’s good to have two sets of eyes on anyone disrupting the workplace.
  • Take note of the incident in the communications book or equivalent, including a descriptor of the harasser.
  • Sass back. Sometimes, an effective way to put a patron in their place is to be sassier or more clever than them.
    • Example: After a server was touched on the leg by a patron trying to get their attention, the server replied, “Order with your mouth, not with your hands.”
  • Be direct. Be firm. Tell the harasser you don’t appreciate the way they interacted with you and explain why.
    • Example: “I enjoyed serving you up until you said those things to me. I am a server, not a servant, and the way you treated me was grossly inappropriate.”
  • Talk to them in private. This has been effectively used with the above tactic in many instances at our establishment.
  • Talk to the most reasonable person in their party, if there is one. Mention you don’t want to embarrass their friend in front of everyone but that their friend is being inappropriate. Sometimes, hearing from a friend that you are acting inappropriately is more significant than hearing it from a stranger.
  • If the above items have not worked, it’s time to cut people off and/or kick people out. Be direct. Be firm. Point to the door. Repeat.

Harassment Meeting at Good Robot Brewing Halifax

Going back to a stat from earlier in this article, most harassment occurs from top-down. Most hospitality business owners – hell, most hospitality business management – I know are great people. I like to think that they would be disappointed to know what happens to their staff in a day. So, here are three things owners and managers can do to help eliminate systematic harassment in hospitality:

  1. Encourage the discussion. Staff often feel uncomfortable coming forward out of fear of retribution from the accused or those who take the side of the accused, demotion, or even losing their job. And calling out a patron (or employee) for sexual harassment when that patron (or employee) believes they were “just fooling around” is difficult. In my experience, the accused get very defensive and try to justify their behaviour or otherwise seek instant forgiveness. It’s important to let them know exactly what they did and why it was wrong.
  2. Implement a harassment policy. Up until last month, our Good Robot “Manifesto” did not include a section on discrimination and harassment. It’s important to put it in writing and impress it upon every staff member upon hiring. Within this policy, be sure to include the path of action a harassee should take upon incident, especially who they should go to.
  3. Confront it. Change is uncomfortable. I can tell you that it sucks to tell your own patrons they’ve behaved inappropriately. It sucks to give your own patrons, many of whom may be long-time customers or really love your spot, a formal warning about inappropriate behaviour. I want my customers to feel good and welcome. However, if you believe in your staff and want the best for them and your patrons, it is important to confront the perpetrator. I, myself, tend to learn lessons best when I suffer with guilt. And chances are the perpetrator will never act in such a manner again. Remember Dani’s point: sexualization of the industry and social “othering” can lead an otherwise good person to act shitty. It happens.

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Harassment is a topic that cannot be resolved in one article. Likewise, I largely focused herein on sexual harassment as applied to non-male staff. Harassment and discrimination take many forms against many people. The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has an excellent write-up on the matter. This is just a starting point to hopefully encourage some discussion. Or it might go completely unnoticed. Either way, I want my family to know they don’t have to tolerate harassment.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExMYM9VuaVQ[/embedyt]

 

By in Beer News, Brewing Comments Off on Insane in the Spent Grain: Barley Shortage

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.

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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 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!

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

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 Event 2: Stand-up Comedy Night – Just Vorlaufs

We told you about Silent Reading Nights. And now for something completely different.

Stand-up comedy is a huge part of our lives. In Seattle, I took weekly trips to the comedy clubs just to hear someone say something meaningful. In fact, Doug Stanhope’s Steal Shit and Quit routine helped push me to quit my job and pursue the brewery. On a road trip we took, Doug had to pull the Chevy Suburban over while listening to Patton Oswalt’s Tom Carvel bit since he was laughing too hard to drive. Angus, Doug and I still attend comedy nights at Gus’ Pub on Mondays and Dal Grad House on Wednesdays. Comedy and beer go hand in hand as catalysts of free speech and, of course, good times.

Doug Stanhope Kissing Josh - Good Robot Brewing Company Craft Brewery in North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia

Josh and his idol, Doug Stanhope, sharing a moment.

Introducing Just Vorlaufs, a weekly stand-up event showcasing the best comedians Halifax has to offer. No TVs. No pool tables. No smartphones. Just you and whatever unfiltered thoughts come to the comics’ minds. We also envision a series of beers to pair with the comics, like Doug Stanhop, Lewis Black IPA or Patton Osmalt.

Josh and Jon Dore - Good Robot Brewing Company Craft Brewery Microbrewery in North End of Halifax, Nova Scotia

Josh and his favourite Canadian comic, Jon Dore.

So join us once a week at Halifax’s second-best comedy venue and eighth-best brewery. We need comedy. Here’s why:

“Comedy and tragedy are two halves of the same coin. Comedy unites us—the moment the laugh spreads through the room we come together, it unites. Tragedy is its opposite—it always divides. We like to believe otherwise, in “a country united by tragedy” and shit like that, but it’s not true. Every person’s tragedy is theirs alone, and it divides us off, even as we are sitting together in a room. These two great forces, pushing and pulling, are the axioms that underlie all storytelling. Anyone who counts comedy as a lesser force isn’t seeing clearly how integral they are to each other—subtract either one and the world just doesn’t exist any more.

— Mike Daisey

By in Construction Comments Off on Taproom Construction Update 2: Movin’ Right Along

Taproom Construction Update 2: Movin’ Right Along

Remember that kid who freaked out because he only got 89% on a calculus quiz? That’s us. Sure, our brewery is finally open for business, we’re on tap at some of our favourite spots, and we’ve got some sexy events coming up, but why enjoy the fruits of your labour when you can ferment them? Let the taproom construction begin!

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Exterior view from Robie St.

Breakhouse has taken our ideas and expanded, refined and improved them. Like an engineer, our exterior is cold, grey and closed off to the world.

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Beer garden-driveway. They spelled “Good Robot” incorrectly in the concept art.

But when you get to know us, we’re warm and approachable, like a sunny beer garden.

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Cut-out view of taproom.

We want the taproom to have the cozy warmth and conversation of a classic pub or dive but with a modern, surrealist vibe. Like our beers and personality, it’s not true to style. A neighbourhood haunt for misfits in search of good times and good brews.

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

The Tacoma Narrows collapse is, like us, an engineering disaster.

The taproom is currently an old restaurant with a residence on top. We’re tearing out a portion of the residence floor to make a mezzanine overlooking the main floor.

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

This is where Josh plans to listen to your problems.

The bar features 12 taps, 2 of which will be casks, some of which will be guest spots, and 1 of which will be connected to Doug’s veins. On the left is a small prep area reserved for finger foods courtesy of Food Noise, who makes healthy versions of the awful food we enjoyed in college. The chairs will be drop-top cherry Cadillac love seats capable of sitting 2 or 3 people, or 1 Angus lying down.

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

Good robot brewing company wrought iron craft microbrewery north end halifax nova scotia taproom

The view from the comedian.

The back end is adjacent to huge windows which allow you to watch your day disappear in real time. The booths will be loaded with posters of various festivals and shows we’d love to attend if we had the foresight to know we will never travel again.

We’re shooting for a September opening, but given the rate of our current accomplishments, I’d wager we open in early 2018. So strap on your hover-boots and gravitate your way here. Schedules are overrated. So is growing up.

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.