Tuesday 24 October 2017

When I Lost My Mind and Decided to Open a Brewery

Looking back, I'm not really sure when it happened. I don't think I had a severe head injury... not that I can recall, anyway. But isn't that how some head injuries work, you don't actually remember having them? Let's say I had a head injury. Easier, that way!

Ok, I'll try to be serious. I've been homebrewing since November 29th, 2009. Like a lot of people, the first time I brewed, I was immediately hooked. I had done a lot of reading on homebrewing before I brewed that first batch; it was something I was interested in after a trip to Belgium in February of the same year finally got me into beer. There was no history of homebrewing in university for me, in order to save money on beer; I didn't start drinking good beer until I was 32 years old (yes, I'm aware I just gave away how old I am). That first batch was my one and only beer brewed from a kit. It was an "American IPA" that had medium LME (not light!), a full pound of Crystal 60 L as a steeping grain, and two hop additions: an ounce of something at 60 minutes, and another ounce of Brewer's Gold at 5 minutes. Fermented with a pack of dry yeast, it came out... not great, as I'm sure you can imagine. Obviously with those ingredients, it was really more of an American Amber.

It didn't matter. I loved brewing, and the reading and talking about beer escalated in a big way for me after that day. I brewed another 6-7 batches before moving into all-grain. I started this blog in November, 2011. I started writing for the Atlantic Canada Beer Blog in March, 2013. I kept brewing throughout it all, maxing out at about 24 batches a year. I haven't been the most regular brewer, but every 2 weeks is enough for me to keep my 4-tap keezer pretty full, with beers for me, my wife, and for friends. It's also been enough to allow me to experiment, especially over the last couple of years, where I've moved more into sour, hoppy, and other areas of brewing.

Most importantly, I've got to know a lot of great people through brewing, including some that I haven't actually met in person. We've all heard the homebrewing community described as, in general, a very open, friendly, and forgiving one, and like a lot of other people, I can personally attest to that. I've learned a lot about brewing through other homebrewers, and I owe a lot of people at least or beer or two!

Where was I going with this? Oh, right. After a lot of thought and planning, I'm opening a 2 bbl brewery with fellow homebrewer, Rob Coombs. Like a lot of homebrewers, I've always thought about taking the hobby to the next level, but I held back due to lots of (I assume) normal concerns. Would I start hating brewing if I did it professionally? Would I lose too much family time? Would I be able to cut it making beer for the public? Every homebrewer has heard the words, "You should open a brewery!", but how seriously can you take those words? Especially when they're coming from someone who is drinking beer for free!

I'm opening a brewery because I'm passionate about brewing, and that's it. I'm not a risk-taker by nature; the Meeks have a long history of not taking risks. But I know now that if I don't give this a try, I'll probably regret it, more so than if I try and it doesn't work out. Rob and I are extremely like-minded when it comes to beer and brewing, and I'm very glad to not be doing this on my own. It's very helpful to have someone to split all the work associated with opening a brewery (and yes, what you've heard is true... there's a lot of it!). Most importantly, we like to brew and drink the same types of beer; just check out the recipes on this blog, and on Rob's, and you'll have an idea of what we'll be brewing.

So yeah, the brewery! Niche Brewing is, as mentioned, going to be a 2 bbl brewery. We have a space that we're leasing, that won't be open to the public, as all of our product will be kegged and sold through local bars and restaurants... at least for awhile. Some of our equipment has arrived, but with renos and getting everything together, it'll still be awhile before we have beer to sell. By Christmas would be great, but we're not setting a particular date; we've seen other breweries experience unexpected delays, and know what can happen! In fact, there's already been several hiccups, so don't get me started...

If you check into this blog even semi-frequently, now maybe you'll know why I haven't been posting as often. I'm not quite sure what's going to happen to the blog; I definitely still have some sour beers (and a couple others) I want to post the recipes/tasting notes for, and I've considered writing about the experiences of opening a brewery, but I'm not sure that I can realistically pull that off. I'll definitely still try to post updates (and, of course, feel free to follow Niche Brewing on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more-regular updates), and if I can keep up with beer recipes, I absolutely will. As Bart Simpson has said, "I can't promise I'll try, but I'll TRY to try".

Thank you for reading this long-winded post, and all of my other long-winded posts (which is basically all of them)! I've really enjoyed writing this blog over the last almost-six years, and I truly do hope I can continue it to some degree. And if anyone has any questions at all about Niche Brewing, by all means let 'em rip! I'll do my best to answer them as well as I can.

Almost forgot... we're also on Twitter and Instagram, and are trying to get used to providing updates accordingly!