Friday, December 15, 2006

My First Beau's... (Paycheck, that is)

On November 30th I took my very first paycheck from Beau's, and Nicola and I and the kids have moved into a modest apartment in Vankleek Hill. I'm torn a million ways about it - Did you ever play Yay/Boo as a kid?

I'm living on main street in VKH = yay
I'm back to being a tenant = boo
Landlord seems ok = yay
Place is pretty small and basic = boo

But its more space than we've had since moving back to start the business = yay

Before starting the brewery, I was working as a business-planning manager for the Ontario Government. Good pay, interesting work, great team behind and in front of me. I liked living in the Big City, owned a house with my wife, Nicola, along with our toddler, Ruby, and we had another child on the way.

On Feb. 17th, I spent my last day at my job. On Feb. 24th my wife gave birth to our second child, Vivien. On Feb. 27th we were both officially unemployed-- and without any income, we couldn't afford a place of our own.

Ah, the excitement of starting a business.

We spent the first seven months living back at my parents' house. In many ways this was great, lots of extra help with the kids, easier on the wallet, etc...thanks mom and dad. Then when we got an opportunity to house-sit out in the country, we thought that would be a fun thing to do and would give us all a little breathing room, which is always healthy.

The country life was fun too, hearing the cows going out to pasture in the morning, watching out for wild turkeys on the road, and showing Ruby the skunk that came by for a visit. Having some good friends for next door neighbours was also really cool.

But with both these situations, it still really felt like life was on hold. 90% of our stuff was sitting in boxes in the basement and, while I'm not terribly materialistic, I had a growing urge to put my art back up on the walls, use my pots and pans again and have a nice group* over for supper at "my place." (*Jen says, good luck finding a nice group. Call us when you're out of ideas.)

So, when the house-sat couple came back from their vacation down south, 9 months after coming to Vankleek Hill, we finally rented an apartment with my first paycheck, and were able to unpack our things from Toronto and move in.

The biggest thing that I'm torn up about, though, is the paycheck itself. I ask myself: Can I afford to be a salaried employee? Could I live off less pay? But on the other hand, what about my wife Nicola? She's given up so much for me to pursue my dream and what have I given her in return? A drafty two-bedroom apartment and a family income about 1/3 of what it would be had we stayed in Toronto. I've developed a response, which is becoming somewhat of a mantra for me: It's just temporary, it's just temporary, it's just temporary...

The brewery is still growing more or less how we hoped - always hiccups and headaches, but overall things are continuing to move very positively. I just find that taking a salary somehow feels dirty--like charging my babies rent.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Story of the Century

Tim drops in with this serendipitous story about setting up the brewing equipment…

Since we needed to outfit Beau’s with brewing equipment to be able to get our own thing going, we had been actively hunting for a system for a number of months. Finally we caught wind of a full brew system complete with a brew house, fermenters and brite tanks, available from a location in New Hampshire.

The brand name of this system was CENTURY, a manufacturer that we (later) discovered was no longer in business. The whole system was in pristine condition, albeit slightly smaller than we wanted (15 bbl), but with 6 fermenting and brite tanks we felt this would do the job for now.

We hired a truck from Canada to go down and pick up the tanks, with instructions that the tanks would be loaded upright — this required what is known as step-down trailer. I made sure our trucker talked to the loaders in New Hampshire so there would be no misunderstanding.

We needed two trucks for the load, and our customs broker told us that the trucks would have to travel back together since there was only 1 set of documents for clearance at the border. It was all set, but you know that saying about the best laid plans.

Our trucking company sent two trucks, but only one of them was capable of taking the equipment and the other had to be sent back to Canada without any cargo. A mad scramble from our customs broker saved the day, and was able to at least clear the one truck that had half of our brewing equipment. So we were halfway there.

We scoured for a step down trailer truck in Ontario but couldn’t find one, so we settled on a transport company from New Hampshire called Mayflower. We were told that the truck would be tarped and when it arrived we needed a boom crane to unload the standing tanks (approx. 10 ft. high).

Lo and behold, when the truck arrived it was a hard top and there was no way our crane operator could get to the tanks to unload. So we devised a plan B. We loaded our own hand pallet mover into the truck and moved the tanks one by one to the back of the truck. From the back of the truck we were able to unload with our forklift out into the parking lot, and then the crane was able to get them into our brewery.

After a week of recovering from that near-disaster, we started to try to piece it all together. Even heard that song “One Piece at a Time?” Try to imagine a behemoth jig saw puzzle and you start to get the idea. One million (well maybe not a million) pipes, valves, connectors, etc. had to be pieced together.

Our brewer, Matthew, and our consultant Charles MacLean were able to get a good start, but without any drawings it was not going to happen any time soon. No schematics were sent with the equipment, so we tried to contact Century manufacturers. Well, guess who closed their doors back in 1999? We also sent an email to the American Brewers Assn. asking if anyone was familiar with this system.

Here’s where the story gets a little weird. Matthew had discovered a handwritten note from a brewer inside some of the equipment with a name: Daryl Goss. Matt was able to track him down through some detective work (Matt’s fallback career), and found he was the brewer who had worked on that system a few years back.

Daryl then put us in touch with the actual installer of the equipment, a Mr. Bud Robbins who helped us tremendously by arranging for a set of sketches to be sent to us. Another set of drawings arrived from John of Thirsty Dog Brewery ( ….Cheers, guys, and thanks for your help!

We’re just about done the installation now, and we’ll be brewing out of it in 2 or 3 weeks….a great Christmas gift.