We at The Growler spend so much time hyping up soon-to-be opened breweries that we often forget about these breweries once they finally open.
But that’s where the real work begins, and in some cases, the real stress. What’s the reality like for a brewery owner the week after they open shop? How do they keep enough beer in stock? How does it feel to finally be in business after months of paperwork, red tape and tension headaches?
To find out, I spoke to Mauricio Lozano, founder and brewer at Faculty Brewing, who’s currently neck-deep in the post-launch hustle. Since opening two weeks ago, Faculty’s been averaging 200 customers on weekdays and between 300-400 on weekends. In other words, Lozano’s been really friggin’ busy.
How’s everything going?
I gotta tell you about my day yesterday. I had a wedding on Galliano on Saturday and yesterday I was coming back on the ferry. In that same hour, we ran out of the Peppermint Hefeweizen, we ran out of our Blonde. We had a guest tap from Four Winds – we ran out of that one. On top of that, we ran out of kombucha. Everything gone in one hour. Everything is flying at such a speed it’s crazy.
Right now we’re just tapping our Chinook [Pale Ale], we have some more of the Blonde and I’m just brewing again to keep up. It’s exciting.
How do you feel, now finally being open?
I think the biggest fear was on the Tuesday at 2pm, right before you opened the doors, you’re like, “Who’s coming? Who’s going to come?”
You have all the branding, you put in all this effort, you’ve drained half a year of your life and you owe all the money in the world – and you’re going to open the doors.
Then, the first two, three guys walk in. When you see people come and try it [the beer] and reorder and get a growler to take home, it’s just a nice sense of peace. People like the beer. It’s going good. It’s like finishing your finals. It’s a big relief.
Did you sleep the night before you opened?
No, I didn’t sleep, no. I was nervous.
Before you had opened, did you get any sense that people were already interested in Faculty?
Yes, definitely. One of the mistakes I made was, for a while, the brewery phone number was my cell phone. My cell phone started appearing in Google Maps as the brewery’s number. I was getting calls on Saturday night, Friday night. “Oh are you guys open? Can you accommodate a group of 10?” And that gave me a bit of excitement. Like, oh my God, people want my product.
Leading up to you opening, how did you imagine those first two weeks would go?
Even though we had Instagram followers and everything, I felt that we would have to do a lot more marketing, and just getting out there. On the Tuesday we opened, I even biked a growler over to [beer writer and CBC Radio contributor] Rebecca Whyman because I wanted people to know that we were open.
And how did it actually go?
It went the other way. The inspector was still inspecting us and there were already people outside. We opened the doors and we had to hold lines. We were at capacity, having to ask people to wait. We’re hiring two more staff just to help us manage this a little bit. It’s such a relief.
We’re just trying to keep up and have enough beer. We don’t want to put them [the beers] out too early – we want to have a good product, but at the same time we’re only down to the saison and the stout.
I wish we had bought four more tanks. People were telling us, “You’re going to sell out, go for more tanks,” but you also want to be cautious. You’re optimistic but you’re cautious.
Are you going to buy more equipment?
Yes. We already called the manufacturer and got a quote. It’s not like you buy equipment off the shelf and it appears tomorrow. It takes 12 weeks to get here.
And when were you originally planning to buy this equipment?
After one quarter. We thought we’d be open for four months then do a look at our finances. But when we saw how fast we ran out [of beer], we called Specific Mechanical immediately.
I mean, we closed the first day and thought we’d just opened, that’s why it went so fast. Then the second day happened. Then after the first week, we thought it should slow down, but it never slowed down. Our four beers that should have lasted two or three weeks are gone in a week. What should I do? I can’t make beer any faster. I have to wait for the yeast.
And sometimes yeasts are shy motherfuckers. It’s crazy. Our Blonde fermented super slow. I have a Blonde that should have been ready three days ago but you can’t rush them. The yeasts are being picky today and I haven’t hit my gravity yet. I just have to wait.
Photo by Allison Page