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January 2018 Progress Update

Jay took this high shot of the dining room, bar and outer kitchen walls. The bar and kitchen walls had been framed, and the short pony walls for our east dining room had started being installed. Floor grinding was ongoing in the visible floor area.

The past several months as a startup brewpub have been incredibly busy, exciting and scary all at once. We began major construction in early November, and have been working at a rapid pace ever since, with new developments and milestones occurring daily. So far our construction is running pretty much on schedule, but we Prairie Dog’ers are taking on pretty much all of the finishing/detail work, so we are anticipating an opening around April or May, assuming inspections, licensing and permitting go smoothly. Each founder has written a few thoughts below about the progress of the past few months and where we are headed.

Brewmaster Gerad

Gerad cut a specialized groove into 4×4 pressure-treated posts to form a waterproof base for our walk-in cooler walls. Here he is cleaning up the groove with a chisel to ensure a good fit. And don’t worry, these wall bases will be completely embedded in cement floor coving and covered by a cementitious urethane, keeping the food away from any chemicals in the pressure treated wood.

Whew! It is difficult to decide where to begin because there has been so much going on, so I’m just going to start by summarizing where we are at in construction right now.

As of earlier this week, all of our walls are framed and partially drywalled, and a substantial portion of our plumbing and electrical have been roughed in. HVAC and ducting is practically finished, and we framed in our bar over the past week, too. We’ve finished a lot of painting of the interior walls and beams with the help of several volunteers (wonderful people, they are), and contractors painted out our ceilings some time ago. Concrete floors are currently being ground and polished throughout the pub and look spectacular in the completed areas. We look forward to our brewery floor coatings being installed later this week, which will allow us to finally place our brewhouse and tanks, unblocking a large amount of work and giving us a chance to get familiarized with new equipment.

To make all that happen, we have more than a dozen trades working in the space at all times, and at the somewhat frenetic pace we’ve been working, it is easy to forget all our construction contributions as founders, which are a big part of what makes the brewpub uniquely us, not to mention saving a huge amount of cash (the only way we could afford to open at all). For example, right now I’m working on building cabinetry and a tap tower of our own design on a centre bar island that I also built, which stands over a pair of 10″ pipes that Tyler and I ran 3-feet down and over 100 feet to our beer cooler — a room that is 38 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 14′ tall, which we also designed and built from scratch together with the rest of our team and several volunteers. It feels really great to know that we are such a huge part of the project and get to leave our mark on a bit of everything. Last night I worked at the pub until 11pm wiring up pot lights in our vestibule, bathrooms and hallway, and earlier in the day I helped our structural welder add beams to the roof to help support our makeup air and glycol chilling units. Who knows what I’ll be up to tomorrow, that’s the fun of this wild ride.

Because we’ve been so deep in construction these past weeks, I haven’t had a ton of time to work on beer, but we were able to play with a lot of fun new recipes in the late fall and early winter, such as a pumpkin-spice beer, several different goses, an oat-based pale English mild, and a Mexico-inspired beer reminiscent of tacos. I look forward to playing with several more recipe variations over the coming weeks in preparation for our opening and the upcoming Calgary International Beerfest, where we plan to have a booth with real Prairie Dog beer and barbecue!

Here are some of my favourite pics from the last while:

Chef Jay

Jay has become our “lighting guy”, and this was part of the humble beginnings of that. Here he is test fitting components from the second-hand lamp posts we picked up and refurbished.

Now, more than ever, I try to get into the construction site early and stay late so that I can marvel at what we have been able to accomplish unencumbered by multiple trades workers. Day by day we inch closer to our opening date. Walls have been built, waiting for drywall. The bar has been framed, waiting to be finished and my kitchen is almost recognizable as a comfortable work space.

This is Clifford, our big red smoker/barbecue pit. This unit came straight out of Mesquite, Texas and is capable of barbecuing 1,800lbs of meat, veggies, etc at once.

Back in mid-December, we at Prairie Dog received an early Christmas present from Texas. It had finally arrived! Our kitchen showpiece, a large red BBQ pit whom we have affectionately named Clifford. I suggest you do a cursory Google search for “Clifford the Big Red Dog” if you are unfamiliar with the classic children’s book series. Clifford stands 9 feet high, almost 10 feet long and 6 feet wide. he weighs 6,700lbs empty and has a capacity of 1,800lbs. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to get him all plugged in and in working order. Because Clifford weighs so much, we needed a way to move him around the construction site until we were ready to sit him in his final resting place. We built what we like to call Clifford’s Bachelor Pad. It is essentially a 2×6 frame with several layers of fire-rated concrete board on top for heat protection.

I was fortunate enough to be able to go home to Ontario for 10 days around Christmas to spend time with my wonderful girlfriend, her family and even see my parents off before they traveled to Texas for the winter months. While bumming around Toronto, I was able to set up a meeting with Pitmaster Terrance Hill at the about-to-open Texas-style BBQ restaurant, Beach Hill Smokehouse. Terrance also has a similar model of the Oyler BBQ pit that we have here at Prairie Dog. He was kind enough to show me around his new restaurant and answer any questions I had about day to day operations of the smoker. He also provided valuable insight into the processes he had to endure having the smoker inspected and eventually approved for use.

Last Tuesday, Gerad, Tyler and I spent about 4 hours at the Sysco Calgary office and warehouse. We had a tour of the facility with the Food Safety Co-Ordinator and Business Development Manager. While there, we were shown the policies and procedures in place to ensure the highest food quality. Chef Chris had 5 or 6 menu ideas for us and made several great dishes for us in his test kitchen. We also spoke with the Protein Category Merchandiser to nail down our local options for beef, pork and chicken supplies. Having worked for Sysco for 3 years in Toronto, I am very familiar with the company, so this was a great opportunity for me to really add value to our company, and it is of utmost importance to me to structure this business relationship in a way that is honest and transparent.​

Here are some fun pics of Jay from the past several months:

Quality Director Sarah

The walls and ceiling throughout our space were all painted a dark teal green, which was really getting on our nerves and didn’t match our tastes at all. Here Sarah applies an espresso-coloured brown paint on our North wall, near the ceiling.

To do any job well, you need the right tools. Now, I won’t need to use a hammer to ensure consistent, high-quality beer (let’s hope, anyway…the head brewer is my husband…). What I do need, though, are instruments, processes, industry know-how and, you guessed it, math.

And where does one keep one’s tools? In a toolbox, of course. I am very excited that the brewery lab has been built! It has walls and a doorway. It doesn’t have a door yet, but there it stands, in the middle of it all. I have a wish list of equipment to populate it, with the most important pieces at the top so they’re first in line to be purchased as we can afford them. Just as the brewery has room to grow over time, I have a growth plan for the lab. I hope that a new round of government funding programs geared towards improving quality in food and beverage production in the province will include brewpubs like our own and help equip the lab sooner. Using tools is one thing, but making them is another. Once we are open, we will need an overall quality program in place, so I have been prioritizing working on the Quality Manual, and researching Good Manufacturing Practices (an overall approach to manufacturing which is standard in several industries, including the US brewing industry) and Good Production Practices to inform how quality should be managed.

Our quality lab has been framed and the exterior drywalled.

Now what’s all this about needing math in the toolbox? I recently researched statistics related to sensory studies. All breweries, from micro to macro, rely on sensory data from panelists to inform decisions about releasing beer. In small breweries, we rely on it heavily since we won’t have all the fancy testing equipment that larger breweries do. Sensory is something that on the surface can seem subjective but, with the right statistical methods applied, is in fact a science. Sensory is the most different aspect of quality control that I have learned about compared to my past life, and giving me some math to work with helps with the learning curve! This knowledge about sensory is another tool that I am eager to add to the quality program.

Head Brewer Tyler

Tyler at the helm of our trusty forklift, Wesley. Tyler is moving our glycol chiller outside to make room for other activities.

Since we last updated you, we have been incredibly busy! First, Beer!

Over the last couple of months, we have continued to brew pilot batches in my garage, in spite of the snowy weather and frigid temperatures. The smell of boiling wort has a way of softening even the most bitter of Calgary’s cold. In anticipation of a springtime opening, we have been brewing with an increased focus on beers that are refreshing, light, crisp, and a little off the beaten path. One beer that I’m very excited for is our Gose. It is a mildly sour and salty beer with a hint of citrus. It goes great on its own, but we’ve been playing with it, adding different flavour combinations to the base beer. We recently brewed a Tequila Lime Gose that tastes like a margarita and practically flew out of the keg. Through the holidays, we were very busy with construction and had to postpone a few brew days, but we’ve hit the reset button and are back on schedule to continue developing recipes.

We also now have all of our big pieces of brewing equipment in the building: our brew house, fermentors, brite tanks and other equipment. Although we haven’t been able to move any of these to their final homes yet, it sure is nice to see all that shiny stainless coming in to work. The brewhouse is like a giant lego set, that weighs hundreds of kilos, and carries liquid, and isn’t colourful, and isn’t made of plastic, and well… There are lots of parts and an instruction manual. Maybe it’s more like Meccano… but I digress.

We are now working on making sure we have all the necessary hoses, pumps, clamps, fittings, and other ancillary equipment to efficiently make beer. Hopefully by our next update, we’ll have some of that equipment placed and put together.

Until then,

Cheers from the brewery!

Marketing and PR Director, Laura

Laura and Gerad worked late into the night to get an early start on our bar cabinetry, where mug club members’ individualized beer mugs will be stored.

Since the last update I have been busy with social media efforts as well as other fun marketing things. We continue to average two new followers a day; we now have 926 followers on Instagram and 1,287 followers on twitter. We are also seeking out events for our founders to attend when possible to further the reach of Prairie Dog’s name, which has helped us network as well as get people excited for our opening.

In December, I ordered our first growlers and t-shirts! I am currently working with the print house on design iterations and other styles/colours of shirts and apparel for our opening. I fully expect to see people wearing Prairie Dog Brewing swag soon.

I also confirmed our first radio campaign, which is set to run from mid February until late March on X929. We have a meeting booked to work with their creative team with the overall objective of the campaign to create broader brand awareness outside the craft beer circle as well as integrate a separate marketing campaign that will kick off in February (more details to come).

A sampling of polymer clay tap handles sculpted by Laura.

I have been working on sculpting tap handles from polymer clay and experimenting with painting them; so far I am proud of how they are turning out and look forward to seeing them behind the bar. Another project I have started is designing posters and a campaign to promote our mug club. I had originally hoped to make all the steins for the Mug Club myself on the pottery wheel, but unfortunately that just isn’t going to work out. Don’t fear though, I have been researching and will procure unique mugs to be used by our mug club members. In the next couple of weeks I will complete the design and order gift cards to be used as promo items on X929 and to have available for purchase. I am also in talks with another graphic artist to help create imagery for posters, promotions, campaigns and potentially art around the brewpub.

Bye for now!

Announcing Our Brewpub Location

Rendering of the Prairie Dog Brewpub concept design

Rendering of the Prairie Dog Brewpub location concept design, looking southeast from the intersection at 58th Ave and Centre St.

Those of you that have followed our progress over the past year through this website may have noticed that we’ve been silent for a long time. We have been working on leasing a location since December 2016, but didn’t want to publicly announce anything about it until the City of Calgary approved our intended use as a brewery and restaurant — the final condition of our lease.We are pleased to announce that the City of Calgary has approved our development permit and change of use for our proposed brewpub location, 105 – 58th Ave SE Calgary.

The exciting/terrifying moment of signing the lease for our location.

So many signatures and initials needed!

With this final condition being removed we were able to officially sign the lease. The map below gives a general sense of where the location is relative to major roads and the South LRT line/Chinook Station.

Map of Prairie Dog Brewing's South-Calgary Brewpub.

The Prairie Dog Brewing South-Calgary Brewpub will be located at 105 – 58th Ave SE, on the corner of 58th Avenue and Centre Street, near the Chinook LRT station and Macleod Trail.

People familiar with the area might remember that St. John’s Music used to occupy this location (they’ve moved here). It is their former space that we’re leasing, and we are thrilled about this spot for a lot of reasons, but here are some highlights:

  • A South Calgary location – this area is extremely underserved by breweries, and especially by brewpubs
  • We are only a few blocks from the Chinook LRT station (about as close as Chinook Centre Mall is to the station)
  • We are very close to several major commuter roads – Macleod Trail, Glenmore Trail, and Blackfoot Trail, not to mention 58th and Centre St./Fairmount Drive, which are notable on their own
  • Our proximity to the communities along both Fairmount Drive and Elbow Drive, like Fairview, Acadia, Kingsland and Haysboro, whose residents can easily take those roads direct to our location (via 58th for the Elbow Dr. communities) without being significantly affected by rush hour traffic
  • We are a stone’s throw from The Vineyard homebrew shop, owned and operated by Papa Bam Bam, Neil Bamford, a staple of the Calgary homebrew scene and aficionado of both beer and smoked meats (a.k.a. external quality control)
  • We like our landlord

About the Location

This is what our future brewpub location looks like today, as viewed from the intersection of 58th and Centre St.

This is what our future brewpub location looks like today, as viewed from the intersection of 58th and Centre St.

This 12,000 square-foot building sits directly on the busy corner of 58th Ave and Centre Street, and features an impressive facade with high, curved parapets and cornices adorning its peaks. Directly beside our building are about 40 parking stalls accessible from either 58th or Centre St., with the majority being on the back (south) side. The building is attached on its east wall to a mall of commercial bays, which feature great local businesses like Canadian Woodworker and Bow Valley Kitchens. The remainder of the mall has an additional 50 parking stalls, which will make parking easier during busy evening/weekend periods (though we strongly encourage people to use the C-Train and services like taxis/Uber to travel to/from our establishment).

A panoramic view showing the interior of the leasehold before demolition

This panoramic view shows the interior of the leasehold before demolition. All interior walls and fixtures are to be removed during demolition.

The building has 18-foot clear ceilings throughout, and has the infrastructure in place for large, 14′ overhead doors in the rear, substantial water and gas lines, and the capability for 600 A of 3-phase electrical, which are major requirements for a brewery and kitchen of our planned scale. The building also has two large HVAC units that we will use to keep the dining room comfortable in spite of the heat from window exposure, brewing and kitchen activities. Currently there are no windows or doors on the north wall of the space, and very few on the west wall, which turns out to be the result of storefronts being closed in at some point in the past. We plan to open up these existing storefronts and reuse as many of them as possible, making the space bright and airy. As shown in the artist’s rendering at the top of this article, we hope to replace some of these storefronts with windowed rollup doors, allowing for a patio vibe during the warm months, budget permitting.

Location Concept Plan

Preliminary Brewpub Floorplan

The preliminary floor plan for the Prairie Dog Brewpub, north at left. Tables and games in this view are placeholders and are unlikely to reflect our final seating layout.

Restaurant Area

Dining Room and Games Area

The brewpub will feature a games area and a mix of communal and standard tables.

Space will be split between the restaurant and brewing operations such that the restaurant is somewhat larger than the brewery. The restaurant is a focal point of our business and we wanted to make sure that guests are comfortable and don’t have long waits for tables. There are no bad seats in the house — seats have clear sight-lines into the kitchen, brewing operations, and bar. We will have a mixture of communal and traditional high- and low-top tables in the restaurant, with quite a number of seats surrounding the bar. The entire space will allow minors, and we will have high chairs and baby changing stations on site. Our floor plan allows for as many as 280 seats within our footprint, but to limit occupancy and ensure that parking isn’t overused, we plan on deploying pods of comfy couches, games, and a large merchandise area (we will have awesome merch), which will consume a lot of square footage and cut seating down to around 200. We will sprinkle USB charging outlets throughout the space to allow patrons to charge devices.

Prairie Dog Brewpub Bar Detail View.

This 3D artist’s rendering of the Prairie Dog Brewpub bar shows the scale of the bar relative to the dining room. The kitchen is visible in the background.

The bar will be a focal point at the centre of the restaurant area, and will include about thirty comfortable seats spread over three sides, with a growler fill station on the corner nearest the entrance (YES, we will fill growlers!). The bar will feature about 16 beer faucets with a mix of rotating/seasonal beers and full-time staples, as well as up to four guest taps for things like ciders, meads, or other awesome beer that we want to share with the community. We will also offer a limited selection of locally produced spirits and wines to ensure that non beer-lovers still have options. We plan to include some televisions, which will be visible from the bar area, but strategically located to minimize distraction to patrons at the periphery of the dining room (we are aiming for a conversation-friendly atmosphere, and feel that too many TVs can detract from that).

Nine bathrooms will be located behind the kitchen at the east end of the dining room. All bathrooms will be unisex with insulated, fully-enclosed rooms, with two being handicapped-accessible.

Brewery Area

I’m excited about the possibilities that our restaurant and brewery scale afford me; I can design a beer without fear or compromise because I have confidence that we can sell 10 barrels of any high-quality beer offered in our restaurant. Gerad Coles, Founder/Brewmaster

Brewery View from Restaurant Over Half Wall

View into the brewery wet area from the dining room, over the pony wall. Fermentation tanks on the left and brewhouse on the right.

We located the core brewing operations directly beside the restaurant seating area and plan to separate them with only a short pony wall, so that patrons will be able to see and interact with us while we are brewing, which we think will help remind customers that they are actually hanging out in an active brewery (like at Cold Garden). We have purchased a 10-barrel (2,400 half-litre pints) brewhouse made by Specific Mechanical out of Victoria, BC. Most of the brewpubs that inspired us to start this business got their start on a similar system, which offers a good compromise between frequency of brewing and ability to brew a lot of small/unique batches, with the brewpub bar being our major customer. As Brewmaster, I’m excited about the possibilities that our restaurant and brewery scale afford me; I can design a beer without fear or compromise because I have confidence that we can sell 10 barrels of any high-quality beer offered in our restaurant.

I’m excited to have the opportunity to set up our lab, which will be key to bringing high-quality, consistent beer to our customers. Sarah Goertzen, Founder/Director of Quality

We plan to start with a quality lab, which will be managed by our founder and Director of Quality, Sarah Goertzen, an analytical chemist and member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC). Quality labs are not common in small breweries in our fledgling market, but we believe that starting with a culture of quality will ensure consistency or continual improvement in our beer lineup and help build brand loyalty and longevity, particularly as the market becomes more crowded.

I’m excited about all the space we have at the old St John’s Music; it let us lay out the brewery just how I wanted – highly efficient, with room for growth, and with most brewery operations close to our guests, allowing them to see beer made up close, and giving me someone to talk to while brewing. Cheers! Tyler Potter, Founder/Head Brewer

Our brewery is designed with growth in mind — we plan to be able to add cellar capacity for quite a long time at this location. Our cellar will initially consist of four 20-barrel unitank fermenters, which will allow us to brew up to about 200 batches a year (about 2,400 hectolitres). We have planned to support one additional fermenter in our brewery wet area (with sloped, epoxy-coated floors and drainage), but are setting up the infrastructure to allow us to expand the wet area to the east, effectively doubling our fermentation capacity and/or allowing us to build a large visible cooperage of barrels. Instead of using glycol-cooled, jacketed brite tanks to chill and clarify our beer, we will have a large walk-in beer cooler that includes six 20-barrel serving tanks and keg storage. Beer faucets will be fed by a flexible arrangement directly from serving tanks and/or kegs like you would find at many great brewpubs worldwide. We plan on selling some of our beer to the wholesale market, so will have a large keg inventory to support that as well as our own uses in the pub.

Kitchen Area

Our kitchen will always be in co-operation mode with the brewery, communication and collaboration will be an essential part of how we operate. Our brewery and kitchen pass are directly across the hall and open to each other to encourage communication and help maintain close ties between our Chef and our Brewmaster.

So often when designing restaurants the kitchen is treated as an afterthought. It is designed as a workshop in which to efficiently pump out as many meals as possible while allowing more space in the dining room for more tables to turn over and increase profits. It’s often a place where you’re working elbow to elbow in tight spaces with your fellow cooks. We are starting with a clean slate at this location, which has enabled us to design a kitchen that allows us to focus our menu on some key areas of popularity. We will have space devoted specifically to our smoker for brisket, ribs and pulled pork as well as separate spaces for our pizza production and storage for pickles and other fermentables.

Jay Potter, our Executive Chef and founder, is particularly excited about the potential of our kitchen to serve the large lunch crowd surrounding the location of our brewpub:

There is an enormous volume of local businesses and offices in the area that are currently being under-serviced during lunch hour. I know we can fill that need to have guests in and out in 45 minutes. Jay Potter, Founder/Executive Chef

Timeline for Open

As you can see, this is a massive space which will require significant demolition and construction. We have hired Leading Edge Developments as our prime contractor for the project, and are currently working with them to finalize our construction plan and file building permits. The folks at Leading Edge have plenty of restaurant build experience, with projects like Hayden Block, Fergus and Bix, and the recent Brewsters renovations under their belt. How long the project takes depends partially on how much investment we continue to raise, because additional capital avoids the need for us founders to do some of the construction ourselves (are you interested in investing in a cool local brewpub unlike anything Calgary’s ever seen? Check out our invest page!). Either way, it is safe to assume that you won’t be able to visit our brewpub until at least December 2017.

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