At the brewery, we talk about the tidal wave. Its a term we coined in our second year by about mid-May and it referred to the dizzying amount of special projects, special events, dramatic increase in sales and extra things on the go we very suddenly started to experience. Every year since, we talk about where we are in relation to the tidal wave, i.e. “It feels like the tidal waves coming”; “Oh, I think the tidal wave’s hit”; or “I think we’ve made it through the worst of the tidal wave”; to eventually “We made it through the tidal wave!”.
This last remark is always one of both joy and melancholy. It is such an endurance test to get through for everyone at the brewery, but when its over it also means the end of our rapid growth and let me tell you growing rapidly has all the adrenaline rush of jumping out of an airplane. (Actually, I don’t know what jumping out of an airplane feels like, and have no real urge to experience it, but it seems like a good equivalent).
The funniest comment made every year about the tidal wave goes something like this: “This year we’re so much more prepared for the tidal wave”. Every year I say it in March, just before St. Patrick’s Day, which is to us the start of our busy season, and every year by mid-May I look back with a sense of wonder at the naiveté I must have had only 2 months earlier. To give you a sense of the extra stuff we’ve got on the go, here are a few general items:
• We’ve gone from running our bottling line 4 days/week, to 7 days/week (24 hours per day) and have had to start cancelling orders due to lack of bottling capability (Note to our sad customers – new bottling line should be installed by July)
• We’re brewing 24 hours a day 5 days a week and will begin 7 days very shortly.
• Lyndell, our special events and donations coordinator has gone from running about 15 events per month to about 50 events per month. Included in the list are some pretty cool festivals like the Dandelion festival in Kemptville, the Orleans festival, The Great Canadian Cheese festival in Prince Edward County, Mondial de la Biere in Montreal, Toronto Wine and Spirits, Beaches BBQ and Brew Fest, Ottawa Jazz Fest, Oyster fest in Ottawa, Perth Kilt Run, Vermont Brewer’s festival...and more, more, more!
• Sales at our wonderful, wonderful restaurants have jumped by 27% in 3 months and we expect another 30% growth by end of July.
This rapid growth impacts everybody. We’re all working faster, harder and longer to try to get it all done. I’m sure most everybody at the brewery could give you a list of the extra projects they have on the go right now, but here’s a small list of things I’ve personally got on the go over the next few weeks.
• Planning OCB week – I’m the co-chair again this year along with my good friend at Cameron’s, Jason Ellesmere.
• Hiring a new production manager, sales staff, delivery person, assistant brewer.
• Working through a major financing round to bring in a new brewhouse and more fermenters to try to keep up with this crazy growth.
• Talking to a few interested people about the possibility of expanding into Quebec (I’m sure wiser people than I would suggest I don’t divulge this detail, but I’ve never really seen the point in being too secretive on this sort of stuff).
• Being available for the media. The OCB’s PR person always asks me how we get so much media attention, and I always reply “by being newsworthy”, but Spring time seems to be a very good time to write about beer. CTV is here tomorrow, we’ve recently had great articles in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen and more, and all of this takes time to spend with the journalist. (not complaining!)
• Speaking engagements: Apparently some people think I’m worth listening to! I recently gave a seminar on sustainable brewing at Niagara College’s brewing school (actually Karen did a good chunk of the work and Jordan made it look good, I just pretended I knew what I was talking about), I’m speaking to Ryerson University’s Alumni this Thursday and will be talking at the Atlantic Beer Festival in Moncton on the 28th.
• Working on new projects is takes up a lot of time (and is incredibly fun). We’re working on lots of new Wild Oats releases, special collaborations for OCB Week, Toronto Beer Week and our Oktoberfest. We’re working on a brand new project that will be launched on our 5th birthday and will be ultra cool from both a sustainability and crazy beer perspective. We’re working with some really cool artists for a Halloween project that is going to be absolutely killer.
I’m looking at the list of other projects on the go and starting to feel overwhelmed, so instead of making this bullet point list go on for forever, I think I’ll just leave it at “Wow, was I ever foolish to think this year I’d be better prepared for this”. It seems that the more people we have working hard, the more things we can get into, so we just keep getting busier.