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5 Unconventional Founders

Meet the Team Driven | Passionate | Friendly Driven | Passionate | Friendly

Many people assume when they look at our website or walk into our large brewpub that Prairie Dog Brewing is some sort of chain restaurant owned by a larger restaurant group. That couldn’t be further from the truth — we are a fiercely independent family-owned and operated business that was started by two families of regular, down-to-earth people that we call our “Founders”. These are Gerad and Laura Coles, Tyler Potter and his wife Sarah Goertzen, and Jay Potter.

Before we opened in 2018, none of our founders had ownership or high-level management experience in restaurants and breweries, but all of them were unified in their passion for this undertaking, and by a strong set of common ideals and core values. Take a minute to get to know each founder better, below.

Gerad Coles

Founder, President, Brewmaster and Restaurant General Manager

Gerad is a man of many hats. He was born and raised in Calgary and before founding Prairie Dog Brewing with his family and friends. Gerad earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics Engineering Technology and had a 14-year career managing operations for tech companies, as well as having countless interests and hobbies, including gardening, photography, guitar, cycling, hiking, woodworking, and graphic design. Gerad lived in Silicon Valley, California with his wife Laura for four years, and that’s where he got into brewing beer at home, teaching himself and eventually his friend Tyler, how to brew beer on the weekends. It was this bond over beer that eventually led to the founding of Prairie Dog Brewing. Gerad and his wife Laura have a spunky little girl named Madeline, who you’ll see around the pub with the couple often.

Today, Gerad’s role as President is focused on ensuring that our company is sustainable and always moving in a direction that provides more opportunity for our staff and value for our customers, acting as a creative leader with a talent for forward-looking vision and strategy. Gerad also heads up our admin teams (Finance and HR) and is ultimately in charge of making sure we have enough money in the bank to pay our bills. Gerad assists Laura with photography and graphic design, while maintaining technical infrastructure, such as this website. Gerad’s talents include creative writing, and he is responsible for much of the content on this website, our staff training manuals, etc.

Gerad can be a humble, quiet introvert, so you may not even realize he’s in leadership until you’ve been around for a while, especially because you’ll often see him bussing tables or running drinks and food. During busy times, Gerad spends as much as 120 hours a week at the pub, where he works with our other founders and managers to ensure that they have whatever they need to be successful in their endeavours.

As Brewmaster, Gerad is in charge of creating most of our beer recipes and governing the process of how we make beer, although he rarely is involved in day-to-day brewing activities. Gerad makes the tough calls about which beers will go on tap after brewing and which beers will get dumped down the drain due to quality issues. Gerad is deeply committed to brewing world-class beer and has a very good flavour palate. Gerad is a beer geek and always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who wants to know something, so please feel free to ask him questions!

Jay Potter

Founder and Executive Chef

Jay is our Executive Chef. He was also born in London, Ontario and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. Jay and Tyler, our VP of Brewery Operations, are brothers (Jay’s the eldest). Jay has almost 25 years of restaurant experience and earned his Red Seal accreditation in 2011. Since then, Jay also gained several years of experience working as a sales rep at Sysco, the food logistics company that we use for many of our kitchen ingredients.

Founder Jay pours our very first pint of Prairie Dog beer!

Jay’s food-service resume reads like an eclectic music library and he’s done a little of everything, from fast food to high-end cuisine. As our Exec. Chef, Jay is the creative engine behind our menu and his attention to detail shows in every aspect of the food we put on our customers’ plates. Jay is also responsible for maintaining food costing for our menu items, sourcing ingredients, and building the product specs that ensure that our kitchen continues to maintain our current, high standards.

Jay is a self-taught barbecue pit master, and takes the job very seriously, which you can see and taste every time you try one of our delicious barbecued meats. Here’s a video of Jay explaining when and why he wraps our pork butts during the cooking process:

Jay is a people-focused manager and he sees the best in everyone that works for him. He works closely with our Sous Chef, Simon, who is in charge of the production aspects of the kitchen such as staffing, line/prep coordination and food ordering. You’ll often see Jay working in the kitchen on the line or doing prep to take some of the load off of his team and train them up.

Founder Jay relaxes in our dining room over beers with some of our excellent staff.
Founder Jay having a beer with some of our excellent front of house staff.

Jay’s an easy-going guy who loves to watch and play baseball, and he tries to make it out of the pub at least once a week to play pool. If he’s not in the kitchen or helping out on Expo, you’ll often see him sitting at the bar having a beer with a member of our staff. Feel free to join him on the bar after your shift, Jay loves to get to know everyone on our team.

Tyler Potter

Founder, Head Brewer and VP Brewing Operations

Tyler, or Ty for short, is our VP Operations and Head Brewer. Ty was born in London, Ontario and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and began a promising career in tech and computer programming before being snapped up by Google and moving to Silicon Valley, followed shortly afterwards by Sarah Goertzen, now his wife. Ty is a sharp thinker and outdoorsman with loads of creativity and problem-solving skills, and he excels at making processes run more efficiently and smoothly. We often call Ty the “fixer”, because he is great at seeing a problem or need and quickly putting something in place to solve it. Ty and Sarah have a beautiful little girl named Alison, who you’ll see around the pub frequently.

In his role as VP Operations, Ty handles our facilities (such as coordinating fire inspections, waste removal and maintenance of our many mechanical systems), insurance, permits and legal stuff like our trademark. Ty also works closely with Gerad and the other founders and managers to fill gaps in our operations and make improvements to processes.

As Head Brewer, Ty is in charge of the production of our beer, including anticipating demand based on restaurant sales, wholesale keg sales, seasonal trends and upcoming marketing campaigns and pushes from the leadership team. Ty coordinates brewery staffing, ingredient purchases, brew days, brewery/equipment cleaning, kegging operations, our wholesale sales program and much more. Ty also does a lot of brewing, but we are working to scale that back to give him more time to focus on his young family and our high-level operations.

Ty is at the pub much of the time and you’ll often see him working in the brewery or out on the floor helping out the Front of House.

Many people confuse Tyler with his brother, Jay (our Executive Chef), which is a bit of a pet peeve for Tyler. Although there are many similarities in their appearance, we can confirm that these are indeed two different people. See below:

Sarah Goertzen

Founder and Director of Quality

Sarah is our Director of Quality. Born in Alberta and raised in Ontario, Sarah was a very bright kid who grew up reading lots of books and developing an interest in the sciences at an early age. As an adult, Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and later her Master’s degree in the same before she moved to California. In California, Sarah launched an exciting career that began in battery research and moved on to pharmaceutical research and testing. Even after she returned to Canada to found Prairie Dog with her husband, Tyler, Sarah has continued to maintain her career in the sciences, working for a medical cannabis startup to assist them in developing reliable testing methods that meet stringent regulatory requirements.

In her free time, Sarah volunteers as a Girl Guide leader and loves to spend time in the outdoors. Recently, Sarah became a mother and spends most of her free time with her young daughter, Alison.

At Prairie Dog, Sarah’s focus is on developing a reliable, robust and sustainable quality management program that spans our entire business. Sarah has applied her expertise to everything from hiring and on-boarding processes through health and safety, and developed checklists and procedural documentation for all areas of our business. Sarah also spends much of her time in the brewery quality lab running analysis on our beers and ingredients.

Sarah has worked tirelessly to document and implement repeatable processes for yeast counting and viability testing, and she works closely with Tyler and Gerad to document and improve brewery processes.

The overarching goal of Sarah’s work is to ensure that we maintain a very high standard for our products and services over time, so that every time a guest tries our beer or sits down to eat, they get the same, top-notch experience.

Although her credentials can be intimidating, Sarah is friendly and fun and she loves to meet customers and talk about our business. You are sure to see Sarah because she often works shifts in the Front of House to help our managers out or get to know our customers and staff better.

Laura Coles

Founder and Director of Marketing and Public Relations

Laura is our Director of Marketing and Public Relations (PR). She was born in Edmonton, AB, but was raised on Vancouver Island where she eventually found her way into customer service for a Victoria-based book publisher before making the leap to the mainland to work in customer support at iStockphoto, a Calgary tech startup at the time (where she met Gerad). Laura and Gerad also ran a successful photography and canvas printing business until they shut it down because it wasn’t enjoyable anymore. After moving to California with Gerad, Laura became involved in organizing a large San Francisco Bay area women’s meetup group (where she met Sarah Goertzen) and expanded her skills into digital marketing and social media.

Laura is a creative who loves free-form art like sculpting and making clay pottery. Laura also enjoys travel and the outdoors, especially swimming, hiking, sailing and camping.

At Prairie Dog, Laura is in charge of all aspects of marketing such as online, print, and radio advertising, and organizing our involvement in festivals and events. Laura also designs and orders all of the lovely merchandise available at Prairie Dog, like our apparel, coasters and glassware, and she has hand-made all of our tap handles up to this point. Laura works very hard to ensure that we continue to operate in a manner than is consistent with our culture and brand.

On the Public Relations side of her role, Laura is the first point of contact for most of our online inquiries and comments. Laura reads and responds to nearly all of our Google reviews, social media messages and website-based emails. Laura is the creative mind behind our posts on social media and she and Gerad share the role of being our resident photographers and graphic artists. Laura handles inbound requests from charities, sporting leagues and teams, and coordinates most of the events and activities going on at the pub, both internally and customer generated.

Because events have taken on a life of their own at Prairie Dog and grown to take the majority of her time, Laura is working to transition event coordination off of herself and onto a resident staff expert so that she can spend more of her time on the marketing aspects of her role. You can find Laura working in the dining room or back office at Prairie Dog 3 to 4 days a week.

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