Whether you operate a craft brewery or you’re a homebrewer dreaming about opening your own space, you can consider Doug Appeldoorn an advocate who’s on your side.
Doug may be a new brewery owner, but he’s definitely not new to craft beer. In 2015 Doug and Peter Caira started the People’s Pint Collective – a meetup group for small batch homebrewers – because they felt some of the best beer in Ontario was being produced in basements and garages by homebrewers.
Since then, Doug and Peter have built on their passion for beer by opening their own space, People’s Pint, in March 2018. Now they welcome small batch brewers to join them to brew and sell their beer to the public, alongside other like-minded brewers. While Peter was able to quit his job, Doug continues to hold down his full-time job as an online editor for Corus Entertainment to ensure a more sound financial footing for the brewery.
Ahead of Doug’s first Food and Beverage Bootcamp event on how to start a craft brewery, we caught up with Doug to discuss how he took the leap of faith to open his own brewery and the challenges he had to overcome along the way. The answers? Not what you would expect.
So first things first: what made you open a brewery while holding down a full-time job at Corus?
Before we started the People’s Pint Brewing Collective, we were attending a lot of beer festivals and just feeling sort of uninspired. We kept seeing the same flagship IPAs, and nothing struck us as really new. So we wanted to do better.
We started making small batch beer that was a bit more experimental, like a blood orange infused Belgian Tripel or a porter with ancho chili and cinnamon. Peter and I really wanted to share these beers with more than just our friends and family.
Eventually we found a way to bring homebrewers together to share their beer with the public legally, and that’s how the People’s Pint Brewing Collective was born. The collective was our testing ground that really proved we could have a space to call our own.
What were some of the early signs that signaled you could pull off your own space?
Successful festivals! The way people responded to our beer at festivals was really the signal that let us know we could open our own bricks and mortar brewery.
Quite serendipitously, one of the breweries in our neighborhood was moving to a new larger space so we approached them about taking over the one they were about to vacate. It was a dream situation, because you rarely get to lease a space that’s already set up to accommodate a brewery.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when you were setting up People’s Pint?
Oh, we had so many problems with the equipment onsite. We assumed because it was working for the previous brewery, that it would continue to work for us. Trouble is we wanted to relocate some of the stuff so we’d have more space for a taproom. So as a result the boiler stopped working, the glycol chiller need work, the walk-in cooler wasn’t cold enough … we faced a lot of extra expenses we didn’t budget for because of these issues. (If you’re about to open a brewery, just take your current budget and double it right now.)
Also, the licensing delays drove us crazy. You’re really at the mercy of licensing bodies when you’re a brewery, and as frustrated as you might be you NEED to continue to be courteous and respectful to the licensing people.
How did you overcome these challenges when you were opening your brewery?
One piece of advice we would give to anyone is to incorporate your business as early as possible. We were incorporated for over a year and a half before we launched the space, so we had a lot more financing options available to us. This helped a lot when we were facing unexpected costs, which are inevitable when you’re opening your own business.
We were also so grateful to work with great contractors that we trusted. We always choose a contractor based on how well we could communicate with them – the best ones want you to be successful, so listen to them because they are experts at what they do. Their advice is super valuable when things break down – which they will.
Also I think we just overcame the hardest times with patience, perseverance, and hard work. There are no shortcuts. Nothing will happen on schedule. Accept that and move on.
What was were some of the biggest lessons you never expected to learn?
We learned weird stuff like the balance between buying in bulk because it’s cheaper, but also knowing that you need to store items and use them all in good time. Like can wraps – we bought 45,000, but we only sell about 1,800 cans per month. Oops!
Also, people – hiring the right people can make or break your business. When you first start putting together your own space, it’s your baby and you want to take care of it all. Do yourself a favour and hire an amazing manager to make your life easier. We actually don’t know what we would do without our general manager, especially since I’m still working full time at Corus.
Last question – what is the one thing that made your life easier as a brewery owner?
Knowing which beers were selling and which ones weren’t. When you own a brewery, you’re on a brew schedule that’s dictated by how well certain beers are selling, and you’ll run out pretty quickly if you’re not paying attention to sales reports. The daily sales reports on our TouchBistro POS helped us make so many decisions in those early days when everything was trial and error.
What’s your motto?
Beer by the people for the people.
What’s your favorite thing about your business?
The people! You meet so many great people who are passionate about beer. We never tire of that enthusiasm. Beer truly makes people happy.
What’s next for your business?
Profitability? Haha, seriously, I’d love to quit my job and do it full time as soon as possible.
Doug will be running the first Food and Beverage Bootcamp event in Toronto on June 6 at Art Square Cafe & Gallery. If you’re in the area and you’re interested in how to open a craft brewery, get tickets here.
About the Author
Justin Maguire has more than eight years of experience working for a diverse selection of Canadian and Australian hospitality companies. He’s passionate about music, camping, and sharing a laugh with people over great food.More Content by Justin Maguire