Before we became Brahs, we were students. Students in the traditional sense, but also students of life and of beer. We were lucky enough to meet the brew guru – Bruru - Culum Cannally through fate and circumstance. Culum, a beer wizard, sent us down the homebrewing path that would ultimately lead us to starting a lackluster blog. Culum is one of the founding members of an exciting new startup in the Kitchener-Waterloo region – Together We’re Bitter Brewing Cooperative. He was kind enough to answer some questions. Do yourself a favour and read about this awesome upcoming brewpub, and contribute to their amazing kickstarter.
Q. What was the impetus for the name “Together We’re Bitter”? Shouldn’t you all be hoppier together? *rimshot*
A. Hoppier Together was actually our first choice of names but we did a name search and found out that there was a co-op frog farm outside of Moonbeam that already had the name. As a side note, there’s big money in frog farming
Q. Your business format as a cooperative is very unique; can you explain how the concept works?
A. A co-op is structured similar to other corporations with the exception that its members elect the board of directors and not a group of Monopoly Guy-looking, fat cat shareholders. So co-ops work on a different values system. Instead of basing all their decisions on what will make shareholders richer co-ops focus fundamentally on the triple bottom line. It’s just a better way to structure a business. But you don’t have to take my word for it, visit any credit union or your local MEC and bask in the glow of a more democratic business model. Or better yet get some Gay Lea whip cream and Camino chocolate and taste the awesomeness of the co-op.
Q. TWB was a driving force behind Craftoberfest. For those who aren’t familiar with Octobers in Waterloo Region, give our readers the low-down on what you guys were working to accomplish?
A. Let’s just say that for me Craftoberfest is the glorious backlash that has resulted from the shame we locals feel every time we sit across from an Oktoberfest newcomer at a festhallen and see the look of disappointment on their faces as they force themselves to swallow another gulp of SABMiller’s piss warm chango.
While we would like to take credit for Craftoberfest, it was really the inception of Bill McTavish the proprietor of the craft beer hub Imbibe and soon to open Boathouse. Our Communications Director, Alex Szaflarska and KW Craft Beer Club’s Ryan Ward also helped plan the 3 week long celebration of local craft beer and food. My favorite event was the opening night. There were over 20 Ontario craft breweries in attendance sampling a lot of their mainstay and seasonal beers.
Q. 5 years ago, Grand River Brewing was the only craft brewery in the Waterloo Region: Now there’s Innocente, Descendants, Block 3, Abe Erb and TWB joining the party. What has the support been like from the other breweries?
A. Innocente and Block 3 have been very helpful and given us some great advice. In fact, we have been overwhelmed and heartened by the support of the craft beer community. I gotta mention the help that Jason Fisher at Indie Ale House has given us from the get-go. Not only has he been a trove of brewing business knowledge, he’s been very generous with sharing his knowledge. And Jeff Broeders’ beers are great to boot. Finally, Cam and Russ, our friends at Royal City in Guelph are making excellent beer and are exceptionally nice people. In addition to reaching out to us to help us avoid the pitfalls of starting a brewery, they have allowed us to brew with them so we can get our feet wet (literally and figuratively) in pro brewing.
Q. What brew will TWB offer that will satisfy those pretentious beer nerds (guilty party included)? How can people get involved?
A. Perhaps this is a good time to mention the Kickstarter campaign since that’s what it’s all about. We are crowdfunding the People’s Fermenter. If we make our goal we are going to have a 10 hectolitre fermenter just for our experimental beers. We were advised that the bank doesn’t look too fondly on purchasing equipment that will be used for play and not business so we thought we’d bring it to our craft beer sisters and brothers and see if they think it’s worth it.
We’re particularly stoked about the Capybara Club. It’s a growler only available through our Kickstarter that will allow the holder access to our one barrel pilot experimental beers. The feedback from the Capybara Club members will influence what gets brewed for the People’s Fermenter.
I am also asking people who are not in the financial position to contribute to spread the word and lie to their friends and family and say they contributed. We are also encouraging children to go into their parents’ wallets and use their credit card to get an awesome t-shirt that will make them the coolest kid in school.
Q. Tell us a little bit about the diverse team you’ve assembled?
A. There is not enough space to sing the praises of the awesome team that I’m so proud to be part of. Starting a brewery ain’t easy and starting a co-op ain’t easy but as frustrating as it can be at times we all share immeasurable comfort knowing that together we’re bitter. As for what each member brings to the team aside from being all around awesome people and their desire to make the world a better place though co-operation and bitchin craft beer. Well we’ve got two crackerjack industrial tradespeople (Ben and Greg) who will be planning, building, and maintaining the brewery. A social butterfly and social media guru (Alex) bringing us closer to our community. A designer, musician, and web developer (Rob) who was the artist behind our website and that awesome video of ours on Kickstarter. And finally, the level head that keeps us organized, on task, and constantly moving forward, our president (and my partner) Lindsay. In addition to their many varied skills every member of TWB also brews beer.
Q. Culum, explain to us your journey from home brewing on the side to making the decision to brew professionally
A. My brother-in-law gave me a book that contained only one piece of sage advice. It said if you are planning to start a brewery and haven’t brewed a beer, brew a beer first. I took that to heart and my partner got me a one gallon all grain kit. I brewed it, waited a month and the beer was gone in less than a night. The beer was decent and fun to brew so I immediately went out and bought a 10 gallon cooler and an 8.5 gallon pot and endeavored to teach myself to be a professional brewer. I started by brewing a least twice a week for a year. I also read every book and article and listened to every podcast about brewing that I could that I could get my wort burnt hands on. More importantly, I made every brewing mistake one could possibly make. For instance, I brewed in my small galley kitchen (above the most awesome neighbors anyone has ever had) and one day after brewing my first stout it looked like a shit wind had blown through the house.
Q. Rapid Fire! Throw down the first answer that comes to mind:
Q. Best beer you’ve ever had - A. The next one.
Q. Beer that inspired you to homebrew? – A. Bell’s Two Hearted
Q. Favourite hop - A. A tie between Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin.
Q. Favourite Oktoberfest-style beer? – A. Hands down Rickard’s Lederhosen.
Q. Favourite bitter - A. I’ve gotta go with Theakston’s Best Bitter.
Q. Any timeline for the good people of Kitchener until they can start sampling your fine wares and visiting your brewpub?
A. I don’t want to jinx us, but we’re really hoping to be open for Summer 2015. A lot of things have to fall into place for that to happen but we keep pushing forward as fast as we can.