We have not posted a status update since August, which may make it look like not a lot has been going on, but the reality is that we’ve been quite busy and haven’t found time to put everything into a blog post. I’ll do my best to try to cover all of the milestones that have happened since the prior status update.
Late August: Tyler and Sarah Arrive
In late August our co-founders Tyler Potter and Sarah Goertzen arrived in Calgary, permanently. The two were living down in California up until July and had then taken a long cross-Canada road trip over the summer before arriving in Calgary. Their arrival allowed us to move forward with many more things in parallel, start into serious lease negotiations and legal work, and to do much more homebrewing and recipe development.
Late August: Found a Promising Leasehold
In late August we found a leasehold that we think really matches our vision, located in South Calgary near the Calgary Farmer’s Market. We are currently in negotiations for this space and really hope everything works out there for a possession date in January 2017. We are currently working on designs for the interior and exterior of the space.
Late August: Visited Revelstoke
At the end of August, all four of us went to Revelstoke for a few days to decompress and to take a tour of Mt. Begbie Brewing, where Tyler’s cousin works. We really enjoyed the brewery tour (and their beer), and partook in some of the other local attractions such as hiking on Mt. Revelstoke and the Pipe Mountain Coaster, and camped while we were there.
Early September: Attended First Yeast Wranglers Meeting
As long as we’ve been planning to move back to Calgary, we’ve been stoked about becoming involved in the Cowtown Yeast Wranglers, Calgary’s largest homebrew club. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an opportunity to attend any of the club’s meetings in the first part of the year before their summer hiatus, so September was the first meeting we could be a part of. The September meeting included judging of a plethora of homebrewed beers made with Red Shed malts. Red Shed had sponsored the competition by donating the malts and helped judge the beers. I was really happy with the level of creativity that the homebrewers showed and the quality of most of the beers. We are delighted to report that homebrewing is definitely strong in Calgary.
Early September: Visited Half Hitch Brewing
Half Hitch Brewing is a taproom/packaging brewery located out in Cochrane and is one of the latest additions to the Calgary-area brewing scene. We were invited out to the brewery by David Neilly, a retired brewer from Wild Rose and founder of the Yeast Wranglers, who is helping the family at Half Hitch with their brewing. We had a really awesome brewery tour with David and talked at length with Chris Heier, Half Hitch’s President, about their experiences so far in the business. It was a really great time and we would strongly recommend you take a trip out there to take a visit.
Mid September: Visited Hobo Malt/Bear and the Flower Farm
Hobo Malt was founded recently by Christopher Fasoli, just East of Irricana, Alberta. Chris has a classic homebrewer attitude, building a lot of his own malting equipment from scratch, and is willing to experiment with small-batch (<1 ton) malting processes to produce unique malts that can only be found here in Alberta. We really liked what we saw and are excited to work with Chris in the future.
At the same time as starting a malting business, Chris and his wife, Jessica, also started a pig farm, which they call The Bear and the Flower. This is not your typical pig farm – pigs are pastured, pampered, and fed a healthy diet of non-GMO, antibiotic-free feed. You can already find Bear and the Flower pigs at several Calgary establishments, and we hope to add Prairie Dog to that list after we open our doors in 2017.
Mid September: First Off-Flavour Tasting Event
If you’ve been following the blog, you probably already know about our first Off-Flavour Tasting Event, where we brought together a collection of homebrewers and beer enthusiasts and made them drink some really awful beer, for science. The event was a great success and we plan on holding another one sometime in the near future. Please read the blog post linked above and send us a private-message on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram if you are interested in attending one of these in the future.
Late September: Alberta Beer Week and Calgary Oktoberfest
Every September, Alberta Beer Festivals celebrates Alberta Beer Week. The week coincides with Oktoberfest celebrations all over the Northern hemisphere, which celebrate the harvest and availability of beer. As part of the celebrations, Alberta Beer Festivals held a fairly large Oktoberfest at the Stampede grounds. Tyler and I went to the festival on both Friday and Saturday while the girls were out of town. We were pleased to find most of the Alberta breweries present and serving a variety of traditional and non-traditional beer and one-off casks, and the festival had a variety of food offerings as well as food trucks outside. While at the festival we ran into Graham Sherman, a co-founder of Toolshed Brewing. Graham was really friendly and encouraging, and so we set up a meeting with him for the following week to check out the brewery.
Late September: Toured Toolshed Brewing
We met with Graham on a frosty morning for a tour of Toolshed Brewing while they were closed and things were a little quieter. Graham took quite a bit of time out of his day to take us through his entire operation, showing off the new canning line and answering our questions about equipment, ingredients, and methods. What was most impressive was Graham’s willingness to share information about the business side of starting and running Toolshed; he gave us ideas about ways to allow people to invest in our brewery that we hadn’t thought of before, we really appreciate his openness. Since our tour, Tyler has helped Toolshed can beer on a voluntary basis, as well.
Late September: Completed First Draft of Business Plan
So, it may sound silly, but up until the end of September, we didn’t have a completed business plan to show to anybody. We took a bottom-up approach to the financials, which required about eight months to put together and revise to a point that we were confident in them. Further, much of the business plan is dependent on the location we are looking at, so we couldn’t finish it off until we had settled on something. After loads of late nights, we are happy to say that we completed the first draft of our business plan, at over 125 pages long. We are now revising some aspects of the financials based on feedback from lenders.
Late September: Annex Ales Root Beer Launch
Annex Ales is an up-and-coming Calgary brewing company founded by Andrew Bullied, formerly of Village Brewing. Andrew is still building his brewery space but has been working with the guys over at Banded Peak to brew pilot batches, and has already launched his own craft soda brand, Annex Soda Mfg. Annex held the launch party for its first soda, a craft root beer, at the Banded Peak taproom on September 29, 2016, and we were there to take part in it. The root beer was really great, and it should be — Andrew said it took him something like 35 test batches to arrive at the current revision. We hope that Annex keeps making the root beer after they have their brewery and liquor production permit because we’d love to carry it on tap at Prairie Dog as a non-alcoholic option. Of course, while at Banded Peak, we also needed to partake in some of their excellent beer, too.
Early October: OnBeer.Org Article about Prairie Dog Brewing
On October 3rd, @abbeerguy Jason Foster published an article about us on his website based on an interview he conducted with me sometime in late August. The article did a good job of explaining our ideology and plans, and we really appreciate Jason putting the time into promoting and educating the public about Alberta beer. If you are interested in Alberta beer, please follow Jason’s website or subscribe to him on twitter.
Early October: Went to Denver and Attended GABF
The Great American Beer Festival may be the largest beer festival in the world. With thousands of beers and hundreds of breweries exhibiting their creations, and tens of thousands of attendees, the pulse of craft beer can definitely be felt at GABF. Prairie Dog’s founders all traveled to Denver to attend the GABF this year, as well as to partake in many of the local Denver-area breweries. We also paid a special visit to New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins and Avery Brewing in Boulder. The trip was a huge success; we tasted hundreds of beers, visited sixteen breweries and several tap houses, and of course attended the GABF. Stay tuned to the blog for a larger description of the Denver trip in the future.
Mid October: Set up Calgary BABES
As part of our plan to work with the community and ensure that women are included in the craft beer movement, Laura has founded a Calgary chapter of the Barley’s Angels, a women’s group devoted to craft beer education and appreciation. The chapter name is the Barley’s Angels Beer Education Society of Calgary, or Calgary BABES, for short. The chapter will host events at various local breweries where women can learn about the various styles of craft beer and the offerings of local craft brewers, as well as how beer is made, beer off-flavours, and a lot more. Laura is currently building a facebook page for the group, and expect to see more here on the Prairie Dog website in the future. Please contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in joining the group.
Okay, that’s about all of the status updates I can think of right now, although I’m sure I missed one or two things along the way. All of us at Prairie Dog hope you enjoyed this post and look forward to any feedback you have. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for more real-time updates about what is going on with Prairie Dog and its founders, or craft beer in general.