I’m sure many craft beer drinkers have distant dreams of one day opening up their own craft brewery, but, that idea might seem too far fetched to make a reality, especially for those currently working in seemingly unrelated fields.
So, how about you? Could you make the jump? Would it be easier if you were already working in IT and software development? That doesn’t sound like it would make the jump any easier at all does it?
Well, that is exactly what Adam Crandall and Dan Helmer are doing!
This isn’t the first time that Dan Helmer has shaken up his career path. His first major pivot came near the end of completing his degree at the University of British Columbia in microbiology. The timing just wasn’t lining up as far as job prospects in microbiology related fields. Undeterred, Dan decided to pursue a second degree this time in computer science.
Dan’s career in IT took off when he was still a handful of credits short of completing that second degree, but, that proved not to be to his detriment as he had gained the skills necessary to move forward in the industry.
Dan gained experience working with numerous clients through his own IT consulting company including his alma mater UBC. It’s no doubt that he was gaining invaluable experience running his own consulting company, but, he wanted to gain the experience of working on larger IT consulting projects that he wasn’t able to get on his own.
His decision to apply for a job with a larger consulting firm would prove to be a rather defining decision in his career to come.
Dan and Adam (the other half of Moody Ales) first met sometime in early 2011 when Adam sat as one of the interviewers for a job that Dan had applied for at Habanero Consulting.
I’m sure you can guess where the story goes from here. Dan got the job and was now a software developer at Habanero.
Adam had already been working at Habanero for 3 years before he started working with Dan. Like Dan, prior to Habanero Adam worked for himself in IT consulting and software development, but, he points to the work he did during university that first made him realize that he wanted to be self employed.
In university he was a Student Works Painting franchisee for two years and then went on to work as a district manager for them for the next three years.
When talking about his experiences at Student Works Adam says, “It was hard work, I learned a lot and it was really rewarding in many ways” he continues, “This is where I realized I wanted to work for myself”
So, after university Adam started doing his own IT consulting and software development. He did try working for a bit as an employee at other companies during that time, but his previous feelings were confirmed as he found himself not enjoying that type of work situation.
Adam was looking at starting up a new software company when he and his wife found out that they were expecting their first son. He had to make the decision that the timing wasn’t right to be starting up a new company and in the interest of family went looking for a job. Through previous connections he ended up at Habanero where he would meet Dan 3 years later.
What About the Beer?
Now, so far there hasn’t been much talk about beer in this article, but, we’re about to jump ahead in the timeline to 2012 and the Oregon Brewer’s Festival in Portland.
Dan, Adam and a few other Habanero workmates headed down to Portland for the festival and this is where Dan and Adam really got to know each other.
Unlike Dan, Adam had a couple years of home brewing under his belt, but both of them were pretty into craft beer at this stage. As Adam says, “Dan has an amazing thirst for information and knowledge he spent the weekend asking as many questions as he could to anyone who would answer about all the styles and beers we were trying.”
After returning from Portland Dan started brewing with Adam and proved to have a knack for the craft. Referring to his new brewing partner Adam says, “he was quickly surpassing me in terms of producing quality, repeatable beer”. Adam credits Dan’s progression to his biology background and his meticulous attention to detail.
They started brewing together at a feverish pace with Dan sometimes brewing two to three times per week. When Dan wasn’t brewing himself he was teaching others how to brew, something that Adam thinks Dan may actually enjoy as much if not more than brewing for himself.
In 2013 the guys were back in Portland for the same Oregon Brewer’s Festival. This time the talk was a bit different. A lot of their conversation focused on how they could get into the craft beer industry themselves. They joked about starting a brewery, but that was put to the side as a pipe dream, they were mostly talking on a smaller scale. Just something to pay their expenses to craft beer festivals while they kept their day jobs.
Although many ideas were thrown around, when Adam arrived back home he was back to thinking bigger. He couldn’t get the idea of starting a brewery out of his head. He had been wanting to start a business for years, but other obligations always made the timing seem off.
Adam kept tossing scenarios around in his head and crunching numbers. He started thinking and said to himself “there really is no good time to quit my job and go out on my own, no better or worse time, so why not now?”
He thought about what might happen if it didn’t work out, but says that he came to peace with the idea that “if it didn’t work out, and I lost everything I’d worked for so far, I’d still have my wife and kids, it was only stuff”. He says that realization was powerful for him and really helped him make the decision to move ahead with his plans.
His next step was to run things by his wife who was immediately on-board!
Dan was the next person that he wanted to reach out to. On August 5th 2013 Dan stopped by Adam’s place for a beer. There was a bit of small talk as Adam worked up to telling Dan his plans. When he finally told Dan that he wanted to open a brewery, Dan laughed, ‘HaHa, me too!’. Adam explained that he was serious. He was opening a brewery.
Over the next six months Adam and Dan would work together researching, taking notes, planning. They went through four different financial plans based on different brewhouse sizes and locations among other things.
They decided early on that they wanted to open up a brewery near the community that they lived in. Coquitlam was considered, but, eventually ruled out as their zoning by-laws currently don’t allow for tasting rooms, but, Port Moody seemed to be a great fit.
With their brewery plans rolling ahead Adam and Dan had to let give notice to Habanero that they were moving on to a new stage in life. Notice was given to Habanero on January 7th 2014 . It wasn’t any easy decision for the two men to make. They had built some great relationships over the past few years at Habanero plus they still didn’t have any financial support from investors or a bank! They were however following their dream and I imagine that would have been an exciting time.
They took possession of their space on Murray Street in Port Moody early into June 2014. Construction began June 30th and has continued at a steady pace ever since.
Opening is planned for early Fall 2014, We look forward to following their progress on CraftBeer.ca
If you’d like to follow along with the breweries progress check out their blog at MoodyAles.com/blog.
James Smith is Moody Ales first full time employee. A graduate of Simon Fraser University where he studied English. He went on to attend UC Berkeley where he earned his Master’s in the History of Art. He quit his job in student services at SFU a few weeks ago to join the craft beer industry with Moody Ales. A bit about James’ interest in craft beer in his own words; “My culinary/beverage interests started in Ontario where I started getting into craft beer and whiskey. I fell in love with the great bar/cocktail scene in San Francisco and started experimenting with my own cocktails and making my own infusions and liqueurs, and of course drank a lot of the awesome craft beer from California. The first experience that really opened my eyes to the diversity and potential for complexity in craft beer came from a visit to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa when I tried their line up of sours. I guess I’m in the beer industry now, but I still have diverse interests in cocktails, liqueurs, baking bread, tequila and mezcal, and so on. I’ve been homebrewing for about a year now. Fortunately Dan will be in charge of that at the brewery.”
James Smith is Moody Ales first full time employee. A graduate of Simon Fraser University where he studied English. He went on to attend UC Berkeley where he earned his Master’s in the History of Art. He quit his job in student services at SFU a few weeks ago to join the craft beer industry with Moody Ales.
A bit about James’ interest in craft beer in his own words;
“My culinary/beverage interests started in Ontario where I started getting into craft beer and whiskey. I fell in love with the great bar/cocktail scene in San Francisco and started experimenting with my own cocktails and making my own infusions and liqueurs, and of course drank a lot of the awesome craft beer from California. The first experience that really opened my eyes to the diversity and potential for complexity in craft beer came from a visit to Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa when I tried their line up of sours. I guess I’m in the beer industry now, but I still have diverse interests in cocktails, liqueurs, baking bread, tequila and mezcal, and so on. I’ve been homebrewing for about a year now. Fortunately Dan will be in charge of that at the brewery.”
Updates from Moody Ales:
– Moody Ales Brings the Crowler® to Canada (Dec. 2014)