fbpx

Good Robot Brewing Co.

Nova Scotia Craft Beer

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 Brewing, Brewing, Women in Brewing 0

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 Brewing, Events, Taproom 0

Women in Brewing | Bettering Our Industry

What I’ve Learned

Hi everybody! It’s Kelly, your friendly neighbourhood BetaBrew Manager. I’ve been in this business for a little over a year now. The robotic nest I inhabit has been pretty close to perfect. Warm enough. Safe enough. Just enough worms vomited in my direction for me to really thrive. I’ve learned things from everyone around me – including some of my fellow women in brewing – and been encouraged to seek out facts from other beautiful brains (EMILY TIPTON, I LOVE YOU). I’ve been given access to resources, supplies, equipment, and seemingly bottomless Meatball Heros (Thank you, Sam and Tony). I’ve been pushed to improve my brewing practice and my character… and my punctuality. Space has been made for me in ways that I never expected.

But that’s within my nest.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Irene

Kelly & Irene brew Virgo Saison, a grissette.

Beyond that, sometimes I feel safe and warm and sometimes people even puke worms at me, which is nice. It’s familiar. Often, especially in other breweries/nests, people share their information and experiences. They seem to really recognize that the more everyone knows about beer and how it’s made, the better it gets, which is what we want. Usually, I can ask questions, be it about water profiles or hop utilization methods or a simple “what’s that” or “where can I get more worms/meatballs” and the answer is there, given to me freely.

Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello & Evelyn White brew Reclaiming My Time, which received media attention from The Coast and Metro News in Halifax

BetaBrew – Kelly, Evelyn White & friends brew “Reclaiming My Time”, a milk stout with some media attention.

The Problem I Experience

All that said, I still sometimes get laughed at, talked down to, talked over, and even sexually harassed. I’m white, cys-, hetero-, and physically able. I’m soaring in privilege and I still get the bird-shit end of the stick sometimes. This isn’t a “wah wah, everything sucks” message. This is a plea that if we’re going to put so much energy into bettering our beer, then we should also put energy into bettering our beer environments. Socially, and not just for women in brewing, but everyone. We need to crack through the happy shell we’re incubating in and puke encouragement onto the next wave of worm-lovers. Wait, the metaphor is becoming a metamorphosis… You know what I mean! My brewing does not impede your brewing. So yay! Let’s all make beer and eat worms!

FemmeBot Homebrew Competition

Oh, and in the spirit of bettering our beer environments, I’m organizing FemmeBot Homebrew Takeover, a homebrew competition targeted at women in brewing and fabulous femmes. The rules are simple:

  • Who? FemmeBots (female and female-presenting brewers).
  • What? Beer must be pre-Prohibition style (from when brewing was truly a woman’s job).
  • When? March 1st is deadline for submission: 4 x 351mL bottles (or equivalent) with recipe, ABV, name and brewer’s info. Here is the submission form. March 7th (International Women’s Day weekend), winners announced at FemmeBrew Tap Takeover.
  • Where? Drop off at Good Robot. Winners announced at Good Robot.
Women in Brewing | BetaBrew FemmeBot Homebrew Competition | Kelly Costello, Maria Josey & Erica Fraser brew a mole beer

BetaBrew – Kelly, Maria & Erica brew Holy Mole, a brown ale with mole.

Sign up here and help get the word out. Happy brewing.

By in Beer News, Brewing 0

Beer Cans vs Bottles | 3 Facts about Canned Beer

If you’re anything like me, you’re an idiot. And idiots believe anything their Uncle Charlie tells ’em. Like the time Charlie and I drank at my cousin’s wedding all night until the break of dawn. Between bouts of unconsciousness on that trampoline, I was privy to Charlie’s rants about canned beer. He only drinks bottles. Green bottles, specifically. Charlie’s rants about beer cans vs bottles impregnated my impressionable college mind so deeply and perversely that I was terrified when we decided to pursue our first canned beer, Extra BIG-ASS Beer – Oktoberfest style lager (and look out for cans of our Tom Waits for No One – stout in winter 2018). As it turns out, Charlie’s canned beer belief system is as fragile as the green bottles he drinks from. Here are 3 facts about canned beer you and Charlie should know… Not that Charlie will read them. He believes the internet is a Mayan conspiracy.

1. Beer cans are more recyclable.

Beer cans vs bottles | Extra BIG-ASS Beer Oktoberfest lager tipping over pallet

Note: beer cans are only good for the environment when stacked properly.

Everything is bad for the environment, including this blog post. But aluminum is the most recyclable material on the planet. In fact, the energy consumed to make one fresh can equals the energy used to make 20 recycled ones. Also, aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, and its lower density makes it cheaper to ship. Take that, glass. (Note that aluminum’s footprint to produce rather than recycle is quite big, so be sure to recycle those cans.)

2. Beer cans do not make the beer taste metallic.

Beer cans vs bottles | canned beer metallic taste

Extra BIG-ASS Beer – Oktoberfest style lager. Now in cans for your uncle’s aggravation.

There is a neat lining on the inside of every beer can that prevents corrosive beer from ever coming into contact with aluminum. “But Josh, I’ve definitely tasted metallic or tinny canned beer before.” Listen, Charlie, I’ve had enough of your shit. That flavour is probably the metal can sitting right beneath your nose, your primary flavour picker upper, as you drink. Pour your beer in a glass and taste again. If it’s still metallic, it’s likely an off-flavour from the brewing process: incorrect water profiles, yeast health issues, or brewery tank wear.

3. Beer cans keep the beer fresher and tastier.

Beer cans vs bottles | Johnny Heighton at Good Robot Brewing Company

Beer cans are as fresh as Johnny’s many Lil’ Wayne tees.

Unlike bottled beer, canned beer is airtight. Nothing kills the flavour of a beer easier than oxidation. Ever cracked a beer, nodded off, and then tasted it the next day? Yes, Charlie, I know this is a daily occurrence for you. Oxidized beer, or “flat beer”, has little to no carbon dioxide and therefore no body. It also typically tastes bad, perhaps like cardboard. Also, unlike bottles, beer cans do not allow UV rays to enter the vessel. Ever had a skunky tasting beer? UV rays from light sources can interact with a chemical component of hops to produce 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, which is not unlike the sulfur (thiols) present in a skunk’s secretion. Green and clear bottles are especially ineffective for preventing UV penetration.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNge3VojOHk[/embedyt]

There you have it. Scientific evidence that canned beer is vastly superior in every way to bottled beer. Oh, and we’re happy to announce our first bottled beer, bourbon-barrel-aged Mississippi Goddam American barleywine.

By in Beer Recipes 0

Beer Recipes | Whipped Cream & Ribs for your Gluttonous Lifestyle

We here at Good Robot know you don’t get enough beer in your weekly diet. That’s why we’re happy to introduce our new line of beer recipes. Now, every orifice of your being can be saturated with rich, finely crafted Good Robot ale.

Beer recipes | Halifax craft beer whipped cream and chocolate porter syrup

Pancakes with Tom Waits for No One – Stout syrup & Yas Queen – Chocolate Porter whipped cream.

Chocolate Porter Whipped Cream

Total time: 10 m
Serves: 8 generous globs

Our all-new Yas Queen – Chocolate Porter comes out Thursday, December 21. Featuring 4 types of chocolate, this beer is a sweet treat for indulgent, gluttonous sinners everywhere. This beer recipe was tried and tested by Rebekah Ann at the Glee Club Pancake Breakfast and ran out in minutes.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • Splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp Yas Queen – Chocolate Porter
    • Can substitute Damn Fine Coffee & Cherry Pie – Pale Ale or Tom Waits for No One – American Stout (or other Nova Scotia craft beer)
Directions

Prep 10 m
Total time 10 m

  1. Beat whipping cream and icing sugar in mixing bowl until soft peaks form.
  2. Add vanilla and Yas Queen – Chocolate Porter and beat until peaks form again.
  3. Drizzle over self in bathtub.
Beer Recipes | Tom Waits for No One with Yas Queen Chocolate Porter whipped cream and stout syrup

Tom Waits for No One – Stout with whipped cream & beer syrup.

Coffee Beer Beef Short Ribs

Total time: 45 m (active) + 8 h (passive)
Serves: 16 lucky ducks

The ever-popular Damn Fine Coffee & Cherry Pie – Pale Ale returns Thursday, December 28. And what better way to take days off your life calendar than fatty meat marinated in caffeine and ethanol? Thanks to Glen Chiasson for this beer recipe, also tried and tested at the Glee Club Pancake Breakfast. Unfortunately, the ribs ran out so quickly I didn’t snag a picture, so enjoy this trademark-infringed stock photo.

Ingredients
  • 1.3 kg of beef short ribs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup dried mushrooms soaking in water
  • 1 cup Damn Fine Coffee & Cherry Pie – Pale Ale
    • Can substitute Tom Waits for No One – American Stout (or other Halifax craft beers)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Italian herb blend
  • Beef stock (if required)
Directions

Prep 10 m
Cook 35 m (active) + 8 h (passive)
Total time 45 m (active) + 8 h (passive)

  1. Salt and pepper both sides of short ribs and brown them in a hot pan with olive oil.
  2. Remove short rib from pan and add cut up onion and garlic until browned.
  3. Deglaze pan with Damn Fine Coffee & Cherry Pie – Pale Ale.
  4. Pour half of the pan contents into slow cooker along with half of the soaked mushrooms.
  5. Place short ribs into slow cooker add remaining pan contents and mushrooms including mushroom water over the beef.
  6. Top up with beef stock to cover beef, if necessary.
  7. Set Crock-Pot to lowest setting and cook ribs for 6-8 hours until beef is tender.
  8. Let ribs cool overnight.
  9. Remove beef and set aside.
  10. Transfer juices into a pot adding Italian herb blend.
  11. Blend juice concoction with hand blender until smooth.
  12. Reheat concoction on stovetop until simmering.
  13. Add short rib into gravy and heat through.
  14. Re-season to taste.
  15. Enjoy as smoothie during alcohol- and caffeine-fueled 22 km marathon.

 

Beer Recipes | Craft Beer whipped cream and chocolate syrup

Rebekah enjoying beer whipped cream and syrup. Natasha being gross.

And there you have it! Two wonderful beer recipes for your holiday blues. Remember: if it’s not Good Robot, it’s probably good for you.

Check out what’s currently on tap to develop your own recipes. All Recipes and CraftBeer.com have a wealth of craft beer recipes. Or check out who’s currently cooking in our kitchen to try some professionally made beer recipes. Or if you’re feeling particularly vicious, check out the results of our online survey to see what people really think of us.

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 0

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.

19095437_10154657291660920_8407825872413029526_o

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 Uncategorized 0

On the success of craft beer in Halifax and Newcastle

I’ve been lucky enough to call home two amazing small cities with long working-class histories. In Newcastle, Australia, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, I have been lucky enough to witness a rebirth in craft beer and cocktail culture. These two places are hardly metropolitan epicentres like Sydney and Toronto (respectively) and yet the craft renaissance has gripped them like nothing I’ve seen before. After pondering on this for some time, and comparing and contrasting these two very similar towns, it seems to me that the success of the resurgent hospitality cities comes down to the people in the cities.

Newcastle, New South Wales
For the years from the ’60s through the late ’90s, Newcastle’s heart and soul was the steel mill. When BHP closed much of the heart of the city was torn out, and the formerly bustling main street fell into disrepair. Hunter Street became a ghost town. But while our industry may have died, Novocastrians (inhabitants of Newcastle [henceforth referred to as God’s Country]) maintained the humble, working-class modesty that made our city great. Always keen for a yarn over a beer and to discuss the footy. When the craft beer revolution took off, people embraced it in such a non-judgemental manner that small craft breweries could not help but feed off it.

XXXX Gold Australian Pale Ale
The people of God’s Country were seasoned on VB or Tooheys New (and never the twain shall meet) because they had been drinking it for thirty years, and their fathers before them. Those whose doctors told them they could no longer drink, drank XXXX Gold (a mid-strength beer). But presented with a multitude of delicious beers that only cost a buck or two more, the punters took them on with gusto.

Newcastle, New South Wales craft beer
There was no snobbery, no “ooh I want a beer with x flavour profile”, just “fuck that’s a good tasting beer, I’ll have ten.” And then the tap would rotate onto a new craft beer and the process would repeat. The people of God’s Country took to these craft beers in the way I had hoped they would. A sense of adventure based on a wholehearted love of beer.

Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia
I see a lot of the same here in Halifax. For many people who come into our brewery, their visit may be their first experience of craft beer, and they approach it hoping to be given something they like. Not to find a beer that adheres to a certain judging criteria, but just that tastes great and will get them on the way to a good time.

Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia
So as I see the craft beer revival thriving in these two places I love I have to give immense credit to the Novocastrians and Haligonians who are making it succeed. When it all comes down to it, without people to drink the beer, there’s no point brewing it.

Good Robot Brewing Company in Halifax, Nova Scotia
So give yourselves a pat on the back guys, you make the process worth it, and are an integral part of the renaissance of craft beers and cocktails.

By in Uncategorized 5

On hospitality and mental health

It’s a funny old game this business of slinging drinks. As I speedily approach my ten year “hospoversary” (hospitality anniversary), I spend more time reflecting on my time in the industry, what it has given to me, and what it has taken from me.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

At its core, I love it with all my heart. Through my interactions with the many amazing customers and co-workers I’ve met throughout the years, I’ve become close to people from all walks of life. From discussing Camus in the dishpit, to talking footy over the bar, between front and back of house we’ve solved all of the world’s problems. The people with whom I have engaged in discourse with have opened my eyes, shared some amazing things with me, and I do my absolute best to reiterate this, giving the best of myself to every interaction. Some of the best times I have had in my life have been enjoyed on both sides of the bar, with the people I have worked with, and the people who I have worked for: my eternal boss, the customers. I love it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

However there is a darker side to this industry, particularly for those suffering from mental health disorders. This dark side is one that I rarely share with people in my professional capacity, as no-one wants to hear about their bartender’s shitty day when they’re enjoying a beer. But at the same time, this industry can run you into the ground and spit you out. The long hours, late nights, hectic work environments, constant excuses to drink, and anti-social schedules can force a person into seclusion.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

When you’re working, your friends are drinking and socialising. When your friends are drinking and socialising, you’re working. So you drink when you’re not working. Whether it’s pounding beers till 7am after your shift, or sitting on 3 bottles of red wine on your day off because it’s a Tuesday and everyone else is at their “real jobs”.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

As someone living with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder, this “routine” has led to some very self-destructive periods in my life. It isolated me, it got in the way of friendships and relationships, and threw me into a hole that I was lucky enough to make it out of. Some are not so lucky. The immense lows that a bipolar sufferer endures were compounded by the drinking, the lack of sleep, and the separation from my loved ones.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

But as I’ve been told so many times, the key to everything is balance. The highs that this industry offers me more than make up for the crushing lows, and it’s a game that I’ll play for a long while yet. While the industry intrinsically has its problems, the people that I’ve met and shared my time behind the bar with and the moments we’ve shared have made it all worth it. It’s a simple as a customer enjoying a beer I’ve poured them, a thank you as they leave the bar, a wind-down beer with a co-worker after a shift. As I grow older, the balance is shifting more in my favour, and the good times are outweighing the bad.

Good Robot Brewing Company Halifax Nova Scotia microbrewery craft beer mental health

Keep your chin up, and let’s grab a beer sometime.

By in Beer News, Brewing 0

Insane in the Spent Grain: Barley Shortage

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

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

How did this happen?

CLIMATE


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

AMERICAN BREWERIES

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

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

BEEF

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

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

GMOs

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

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

CRAFT BEER

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

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

THE FUTURE OF BEER

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

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

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