A simple question that you would think has a simple answer. It is by far our most asked question, and we have been answering it for about 3 years now.
We started planning for our family farm brewery back in 2014. We knew it was going be the biggest project the 3 of us would ever undertake, but we were in it together. Every piece of the puzzle had been thoroughly investigated, every piece of equipment was intensely quoted, and for each and every task we have completed, we have put our everything into it.
“Wouldn’t it be easier to pay someone to come in and finish all the jobs for you so that you could open up sooner?” – another question we were often asked.
Sure, I guess if we had unlimited budgets, which is not the case for us. We have bootstrapped, borrowed money from family and put our hard-earned savings into the project. The expression we have heard many times goes that “we are diving in head first.” Although there are many parts of our project we have hired out because of being too specialized for our own handy skills, the bulk of the interior we have completed on our own with help from family and a few friends along the way. There are many contractors that could have done the tasks we have been working on, but being we tackled a majority of them, we were able to stay (somewhat) within our budgets. The best part was that we have pride in what we have done and completed it as a team. For example, each piece of wood you will see in our tasting room ceiling has been milled from raw logs into board lengths, kiln dried, cut on angles so that they fit into one another, brushed down of dust, stained, sealed, and then finally brought into the barn. Right, and then nailed into the ceiling board by board.
Then there is the rest of the wood you will see which has either been cleaned, cut, repurposed or custom fit into the tasting room area. We have erected barn steel in the production room, we have put in insulation, blown in insulation, framed walls, dry-walled, banged our head against walls, cut beams, hung beams, built tables, assembled the cooler, caulked more silicone than you care to hear about, painted, assembled, the list goes on. Along the way we have also met with hundreds, yes hundreds of people for all different reasons. Whether it was to do with the site plan, the building design, the chiller requirements, the occasional breakdowns, the marketing, the legal requirements, the licenses needed… We have seen it all!
Every Tuesday the 3 of us (and soon to be more staff members) come together for our weekly meeting. These meetings are like a ritual that we never miss, and if there was ever a time where we couldn’t meet in person, then it was video conference or phone call. The meetings keep us on track as we all have our own tasks to complete to keep moving forward. Every week we start with a “Cheers2Hear” in which we take turns for giving an inspirational quote, positive lift or motivational story to start the meeting on the right foot. Lately our inspirational and motivational Cheers2Hear talks haven’t been found online or from other media but are from our own weekly advances and progress towards pushing to our ‘Grand Opening’. This past week the Cheers2Hear was from Dan as he had recently taken down our temporary sign in front of our building. He reflected as to how far we really have come since this day (Click Here). We all get these reflective moments from time to time. We agree amongst the team that we need to sometimes look from the outside in, as most of the time we are on the inside looking out. When we hear of the support we are receiving from this community via family and friends who have spoken to someone either in the grocery store or on the street and it gets back to us, we truly feel blessed. We are motivated by your interest in what we are doing and truly excited for you to see our hard work come together.
So how did Covid-19 affect us?
Well, we had our team in place, our goal targets locked in and we thought we had a well thought out, solid plan for this huge year for Red Barn Brewing. But, so did a lot of businesses across Chatham-Kent and around the world. Covid struck and derailed our own and many other small businesses plans for the year. Lucky is one word we used often when speaking of our status as a business going into these tough times. Lucky, we were almost ready to brew. Lucky, we were almost ready to turn on the equipment, chiller, cold room, and on and on. Lucky, we took a step back and found a new path to take.
So back to the drawing board. What could we do now that no restaurants were open and able to sell draught beer? This was supposed to our first revenue stream while we finished the tasting room.
Cans. Ok, let’s get brewing and package up some cans. Easier said than done in the middle of a pandemic with limited employees across the whole beer canning supply chain. Maybe we didn’t mention before, but we don’t have our own canning line. A lot of new breweries don’t, being they are a huge capital cost and there are usually other more imperative parts of the business to focus on. So, like many other startup breweries, we utilize a mobile canning company, one of few in Ontario. Basically, they bring a canning unit (a very expensive one to boot) on casters, along with many other specialized pieces or equipment that they hook up to our tanks. They are highly trained in running the machine and we provide the help to take the cans off the line, weigh them for quality control (correct volumes), dry them off, sticker if needed, stack into cardboard flats and pack away into the cooler. We were tight on our timelines (as we are on many things in order to keep moving forward) and canned on June 30th, which was our very first canning date. It was exciting, but also nerve-wracking because we knew it had to go well being we were launching our retail store the next day on July 1st. Well, if you haven’t heard by now, we ended up selling what we figured was a month’s supply of beer in 2 days. It was incredible, but it was back to the drawing board once again. We have been told by many “Congratulations, but its kind of a good/bad thing to happen”.
So, you have made it this far through the blog eh? Aren’t we going to tell you when we will open? Unfortunately, you may be disappointed to learn that in this blog we don’t have an answer for you.
BUT- even though we aren’t opening today, or tomorrow, or next week, we are opening soon!
Stay tuned as we promise we have some exciting news to share for our next launch. It might be the week before, the day before, or even the night before, but it’s soon. *Hint-we still have lots of summer left to enjoy.
Nonetheless, we are pushing hard day and night on little sleep. We know it will happen and when it does, everything (or mostly everything) will be ready and all of the pieces of the puzzle will finally be in place.
We have learned to adapt, to change on the whim, and to embrace the challenges we face. Although this is not how we had planned it, we are still super excited and we hope you enjoy our passion and our drive for day 1, of many day 1’s.
Denny (for Dan and Sandy)