Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - A Brewery is Born

In 2013, I founded a brewing company. Wow.

As is customary in the waning days of the year, we have been taking some time to reflect on the progress which has been made in the development of The William Street Beer Co.

The decision was made to move forward with the brewery project in the early part of the year. As I continued to slog away in my day job, selling commercial fitness equipment, I went into the project full steam ahead scouting potential locations and crafting a business plan.

In the summer, we stumbled upon our little service station at 412 William Street. It's certainly not spacious nor is it overly gracious. However, it is a central, high traffic location in a fabulous community. Through a series of hurdles and struggles, we managed to come to an agreement with the property owner and, as of December 1st, we gained possession of the site.

The process of becoming a licensed brewery is a bit of a long one. However, we have been blessed thus far to have great support from all levels of government in it looks like we are on track.

In October, I retired from selling treadmills in order to apply myself to William Street Beer full time. During this period I have also been continuing to refine the recipes for our core brands. Cliff Top Pale Ale seems to be the fan favourite at this point, with North Shore Blonde and Red Sky Ale also getting good reviews. This holiday season I have also been focusing on our Robust Vanilla Porter and Cranberry Saison.

As we celebrate the New Year this week, we are tremendously thankful for the progress which we have made thus far and we are completely stoked about the next stages. January will be a huge month for William Street. Our brewing equipment is being delivered mid month and it will be a crazy two weeks getting the brewery ready for that. Mark my words, by the end of January 2014 we will have a brewery taking shape at William Street in Cobourg.

Thank you all again for your interest and your support. The William Street Beer Company is excited to serve you delicious craft beer in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Sean, Karen and the entire William Street Beer Co. family

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stainless Steel Fantasies Realized

Alright, it's probably not quite as weird as you might think...or maybe it is. I can't really tell anymore.

Regardless, I could not be more excited for the opportunity to make beer on a larger scale in Cobourg's new craft brewery. In order to facilitate that process I have enlisted the help of Stout Tanks and Kettles of Portland, Oregon. Stout is doing more to make professional brewing equipment available to small scale brewers than anyone else in North America. Thank you to John and his team out on the west coast.

So...that brings me to the brewing operation at 412 William Street. We have selected a 3 bbl brewhouse which will net us approximately 90 gallons of beer from each production cycle. In addition to the three brewing vessels, we are also receiving two conical fermentors and two beer brite tanks. The latter of these will be roomed in our onsite cold room for secondary fermentation, conditioning and carbonation.

Deposits have been submitted and we are awaiting confirmation of delivery. The projected timeline has the truck landing mid January, which suits our purposes beautifully. That gives us 5 weeks to get the building prepped and ready without having to work around the vessels.

I will keep you all posted as we progress.

Monday, December 2, 2013

To build it...

Well, December 1st has come and gone and we now are officially into our brewery location at 412 William Street (at University) in beautiful Cobourg. In fact, we had our first semi-casual investors meeting on site this past Sunday afternoon and there was one completely overwhelming shared sense...Wow. There is a shit load of work to do.

The good news, however, is that we are full of positive enthusiasm and we are completely stoked to make this dream a reality. Unfortunately, before we can start producing Cobourg's own delicious small batch brewed craft beer, there are some minor tasks which need to be completed around the brewery. These include (but are not limited to):

  • evaluating the state of current drains and upgrading
  • installing electrical for brewhouse controls
  • framing and finishing retail area
  • building the retail bar/counter and draft system
  • pickup and install walk in/ reach in cooler
  • improve bathroom
  • line parking lot
  • design/order signage
  • receive and install brewhouse and fermentation equipment
  • assemble and install brewhouse controls
  • Order and organize ingredients and packaging materials
  • Engineer an electric barley mill

This is what's on the top of my head right now. All of this whilst doing everything that I can to facilitate the licensing processes. Wow, it's a lot.

Thank you again for all of your support and I look forward to you visiting The William Street Beer Company. If you haven't already, like our Facebook page HERE for more frequent updates.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Home Sweet Home - Update!

As you know, we have come to an agreement for the location of our brewery. We are proud to be brewing and bottling (and kegging) high quality, small batch craft beer at 412 William Street, right at the NE corner of University. This detail being finalized has put us into motion in a crazy way. This week I have been finalizing insurance policies, updating government licensing applications and trying to figure out how to pay for all of this. But seriously, check out the building. We're gong to make beer in an old service station. How cool is that? So, where are we at?

Well, now that we have an address, (and BTW - a big thank you to the team at the Cobourg Postal Station for securing our bond!) we are able to move some things forward from a Federal, Provincial and Municipal Licensing perspective. No matter how you slice it, that will be the final detail. Cross your fingers and pray that the CRA is on our side!

The order is in for our stainless steel brewing equipment and we are hoping that it will land before the year is out. Big thanks to John at Stout Kettles for his help and patience!

We will be in and working on the space in the days to come. There are drains to be cut, wiring to be moved and a bathroom that needs some big help, but I'm confident that the build will go very quickly. Once the kettles arrive, we will be ready for inspections in a matter of weeks.

If you're in the area, you will see my truck in the lot in the days to come as I start throwing myself into the renovation. Beer will be a couple of months away, but I would be happy to say hello if you're so inclined.

Oh, We also felt it crucial that we get a little festive element onto the building, even if we don't have the keys yet.

Have a great Sunday, Go Ti-Cats!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Welcome to The William Street Beer Company!

It is with great pleasure that I announce that The William Street Beer Company will be brewing high quality Craft Beer in the Town of Cobourg at our new brewing facility at 412 William Street.

As many of you may know, this announcement represents a full circle resolution to a lengthy process. This was in fact our first choice, so we are well prepared to hit the ground running on the renovation and equipping of this great building.

I have a load of other news, and I will sit down to share it all with you shortly.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Survey Says!

This week we sent out the first in a series of market research surveys through the magic of social media. I want to certainly thank all of you who have taken the time to answer the 10 quick beer related questions. For those of you who haven't had a chance, please take a moment and take the survey HERE. I don't care where you live, your answers are relevant and valuable!

I wanted to take a few moments to address some of the initial results and feedback. These responses will be completely key as we work our way forwards with opening Cobourg's brewery!

The responders to this point have been largely male (68%) and nearly half (49%) are between the ages of 35 and 45. No big surprises here, but I would love to hear from more ladies and from some of the 55+ crowd!

As far as preferred beer styles is concerned, I think that we are on the right track. Blonde Ales and Pale Ales seem to be very popular amongst the beer lovers in the Cobourg/Port Hope area, with the standard Lite Lager being less so. The big surprise, however, has been the overwhelming call for an IPA. This will necessitate some further questioning. How bold of an India Pale Ale are we talking here? I am really looking forward to getting our Hardscrabble India Pale Ale in front of you for your for feedback. It's a little sweeter than many of the really hop forward IPA's on the market, but still packs a punch at 7% ABV and nearly 100 IBUs.

The other area that I'm really looking for feedback on is packaging. In this area, I need to be considering several factors. Obviously, cost of packaging materials, bottles, labels printing etc. is a huge consideration, but I am also very conscious of the bottling process as it will be done largely by hand. At this point, I am happy to see that the Cobourg area is not inclined to prefer cans. I am a bottle guy as well and really did not want to consider canning beer onsite. The big question will be the size of the bottle and number. People do tend to like buying a single 650ml bottle, as it is a great size for sharing (or not). However, the survey results are indicating that you really like standard sized bottles. If that's your preference, how would you like them packaged...six packs? four packs? I'm hoping that a future survey will shed some light.

In the final question, I asked you to give me any further thoughts or opinions on our Cobourg Brewery project. Some of the popular items included:

  • Extended retail business hours (to be decided)
  • Available brewhouse tours and sampling (definitely...that's my favourite part too)
  • Incorporate local history and culture into branding (absolutely, yes)
  • LCBO Distribution (we walk before we run)
  • Onsite restaurant (not in the initial plans but we are looking forward to working with some of the great restaurants in the area)
  • Gluten Free offerings (ummmm....can we talk cider?)
  • Keep the product natural and local (yes, yes, a thousand times yes)

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed the benefit of their wisdom thus far. I am, as always, humbled by the support and enthusiasm. Please don't hesitate to contact us at any time with thoughts, suggestions, complaints, braggings or whatever else is on your mind...you can reach us by email HERE.



Thursday, October 24, 2013


It's been a few weeks since I've really given you all a full update on our business development process and where we are at on getting this dream into a full reality. So, here's the update as of today.

Re: Location
As most of you probably know, we had been going through the development process with a particular location in mind. Unfortunately, that site fell through despite our best efforts. Since then, we had identified another solid location, but due to the property owner's concerns regarding utility demands, we decided not to proceed.

At this stage, we are fortunate enough to be working very closely with the Business Development office, the Planning Department (and the rest of City Hall), a prominent local property management firm and a couple of great commercial agents. These folks seem to be as committed and enthusiastic in the cause as we are. In fact, I will be visiting multiple potential sites tomorrow with the intent of making some strong and decisive moves.

Re: Licensing
As I mentioned in a previous post, our bond has been approved for CRA and the full submission package is sitting on the corner of my desk ready for delivery...just waiting on an address. Although we could submit it early with revisions pending, I have been advised to wait, as we are SO close to having a fixed address.

Re: Marketing
One of the things that is really blowing my mind right now is the great local response to our concept. I launched a very casual social media presence a couple of weeks ago, more to announce the business to family and friends than anything else. However, the response from the Ontario Craft scene and the beer fans in Cobourg has been overwhelming. We are months away from brewing and I already have preorders for draft accounts. This is a great thing.

Re: What's Next?
Well...assuming that we can shake hands on an available location in the days to come, there will be an unprecedented flurry of activity. Firstly, the quick editing and delivery of CRA and AGCO packages. Next, green light the delivery of the brewhouse equipment. All hands will be on deck for construction and set up to ensure that we are ready to open for business as early in 2014 as humanly possible.

Re: The Name???
The big question that I'm getting is in regards to the name. If, by chance, your location is not on William Street, what will you be called? Hmmm... I've gotten pretty attached to this logo, and the name has come off my tongue so many times that it would seem a shame to change it. What do you all think. Does the William Street Beer Company HAVE to be on William Street?

Thanks for you ongoing interest and support,



Monday, October 21, 2013

Cask Days 2013

It continues to completely inspire me how vibrant and exciting the craft beer scene is here in Ontario. I had the opportunity to attend the Cask Days event at the Evergreen Brick works this past weekend and it was great. The event really does rely on the imagination and creativity of the brewers, and I can't think of another comparable event where you can enjoy such a broad spectrum of beer. All of the attending breweries seem to really rise to the occasion and provided a really fun and exciting experience.

I was also once again humbled by the level of support and enthusiasm that The William Street Beer Co. is getting from this awesome community. Thanks for that.

Congratulations to the Cask Days organizers. It was a great afternoon. We look forward to being a part of the event in the future!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This little entry is going to seem a little bit more personal than the rest, but there is something just wonderfully reflective about Thanksgiving. This little Thanksgiving post is being written in my backyard during a particularly warm and sunny period of holiday Monday afternoon. I am enjoying a Mill Street Oktoberfest Beer and giving thanks for what will likely be the most busy and exciting fall/winter seasons of my life.

Opening a Craft Brewery is the culmination of a long and often difficult professional evolution. The time is right for great change and there is no question that onward will certainly be upward.

Today I want to give very public thanks to my friends and family who are enthusiastically indulging my endeavours, I want to thank my new friends in Cobourg who have made me feel more welcome than the 416 ever could, and I want to thank my beautiful wife, Karen, without whom I could not have conceived of any of this.

No one ever had an easy time starting a new business, but with all of this support I feel like we can't help but be successful. Thanks to you all.

Happy Thanksgiving,


Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Gypsy Brewer, Looking for a Home

Friday was a a busy one. We really don't want to lose any ground in our timeline, so we're approaching the search for our new location with a level of intensity.

The first thank you of the day goes to the absolutely lovely Julie of the Cobourg Business Development Office who provided me with an updated property availability list on very short notice. We also had the pleasure of meeting with her at her office to go through the listings. Thanks, Julie!

The second big thank you that I have is for Craft Beer Lover and City Planner, Rob. We walked into his office on a Friday after lunch with no appointment and he enthusiastically sat down with us to clarify the answers to some zoning questions and with his help, our options are fairly clear. Thanks, Rob!

So...here we sit...with a town that is excited to have their own brewery, people who are excited to buy beer, a gorgeous brewhouse on order and nowhere to set up shop. Bummer. However, we have found some great potential options and I'm hoping that a decision can be made quickly and we can get possession ASAP. I am JONESING to start the brick and mortar reality of this dream.

BTW - I am also in the process of learning a new design platform. See attached image. A) I think I need more practice and, B) Who's the creep in the background?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our First Little Setback...

Well. Due to an estate agent who was a little less than forthcoming, we seem to no longer have a location for the brewery. Bummer. However, I'm very glad that this has happened now and that we can move forward with the full support of our friends in Cobourg in finding our new home.

It does beg the question, what about the name of the brewery? Isn't it pretty location specific? Umm. Maybe. Let's see what the next week or so holds and we'll get it figured out.

At the end of the day, we are still several weeks away from taking delivery of our brewing equipment, so there really isn't a huge panic and it shouldn't do too much to derail the time lines.

Wish me luck as I head east to scour the town for a new and better home for Cobourg's Nano.


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Logo Design

We started going full speed forward on some of the design elements for The William Street Beer Co. branding. First up; logo.

Logos are always a bit of a tough situation, as they are crucial to ALL of your brand imaging and communications, you don't want to change them drastically once they're launched, and it's really hard to decide what I like!

Logo's are like furniture. If you invest in something too outrageous, half the people will hate it and you'll end up wanting to change it after a year. My philosophy is, put your money into something traditional and simple for your core imaging and be more adventurous at other times, like with labels and event marketing. I always reference Muskoka Brewery for this. Their muskoka chair logo could not be more simple. It looks great on a t-shirt and no one will ever get sick of it. However, when they design labels for seasonals, they can be as outrageous as they wish.

So, with no further ado. Here is a brief sampling of what we're looking at for our logo. We wanted to reference the town of Cobourg and the marine association in a very traditional and simple context. Comments would always be appreciated, either here or email me at seanw53@gmail.com


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Farmer's Market Analysis

I am a sucker for the rural experience. In fact, twenty years of being locked in an urban reality has put me into a spot where I CRAVE weekend reprieve. That's why K and I decided to jump in the truck this morning and head into Cobourg for the Saturday morning farmers market. I hadn't been there yet and I really wanted to head in, get some farm fresh produce and connect with the agricultural community in my new 'hood.

The mission was a success. I got my dose of lakeside air and rural community, along with a week's worth of spectacular veg. Of course, I'm not afraid to take any opportunity to spread the word regarding the brewery opening in town. If early indicators are to be believed, we are truly on to something.

Stay tuned this week, as it's going to be a busy one. I'm hoping to submit both CRA and AGCO application packages this week which should keep me busy.

Enjoy your weekend!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Finalizing the Location...

I great a great chat this morning with the agent representing the property owner of our proposed location. It looks like we are going to be able to come to an agreement which will have the buildout starting soon.

There are a few really key things that I've had to sort out over the past several weeks. Firstly, it was all about the planning department and establishing whether there were any zoning restrictions. A big shout out to Rob at the City of Cobourg Planning Department. Your enthusiasm and support are appreciated.

Next, it was all about establishing what brewing setup would be appropriate to the location. Meetings with local electricians and plumbers, Check. Details in a future post.

Finally, we're down to the brass tacks of the deal. It looks as though we're all on the same page...

I will keep you posted.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Polishing the Business Plan

I have written a few business plans in my time. Unfortunately, they have all been for fitness clubs, they have all been for other companies and they have all been successful in generating revenue for those other people. The whole process is a little harder when the Business Plan is for your own project.

I started working on the document when I first found the space on William Street. Although it's just one document, it is amazing how complex the process is. From sourcing all equipment and ingredients, to meeting with designers, contractors and trades, to meeting with bankers and investors...marketing plan...floor plans....operational and management structures. Putting all of this together is tough.

And you need to be honest with yourself. Is this thing really financially viable?

In this case, I am glad to say that it appears to be a resounding "YES". The market in Cobourg is fertile. The economy, especially in the beer business, is stable and support has never been greater.

What next? Well, I am going to spend the weekend proofing, formatting and praying. Then, I will be delivering copies of my opus to the bank, potential investors, the CRA and AGCO.

No doubt, this thing is getting real!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Announcement is Coming...

The decision to open my own nano brewery was one that was made in the spring of this year. 2013 started as another tumultuous one from a professional standpoint, and I was pretty sure that the year would not come to an end without me making some bold decisions about my future directions. As I have always said, I am one of the worst employee's I have ever come across. The Entrepreneurial Spasm has been convulsing inside of me for the past couple of years and it looks like the time has come to jump in with both feet.

But a microbrewery? I know, it seems a little bit of an odd decision, but you have to follow where your passions lead and I have never been more comfortable doing anything in my life. So...a brewery it is.

The first question of course, was where. I explored a couple of locations close to home, but the idea of investing in my future within the city of Toronto seems a bit like asking a wolf to mind my henhouse. So where? Back to Norfolk County? Unlikely. Prince Edward County? Perhaps, but it's a bit far from family and friends and certainly not commutable.

And then, one day, while I was on my ongoing mission to sell fitness equipment to the masses, I found myself in Cobourg. I spent a lot of time in this town as a kid, as my Grandmother lived there. I drove by her old house and thankfully, there was a crew working at renovating it and I was able to re-aquaint myself with it both inside and out. It really was like coming home again, which is a feeling that I seem to really relish these days.

Anyhow, there was another building that really caught my I on that trip and lead me to believe that there was no question that Cobourg was not only to be the home of my brewery, but also the home for my family moving forward. It truly is nice to be home.

Now, we have quite a ways to go here. I really just finished up my business plan this week (it looks very favourable), and I need to finalize some financing details, but I really want to keep a recored of this process because I really think that this is going to change my world in a way that I can't even yet fathom.