It’s 6am on December 31st, 2017. Our 2 year old son was up at 5:30am but my wife graciously decided to give me a sleep in today however I couldn’t get back to sleep as I find every year around this time I get stir crazy about what’s coming up next. Always looking forward. That’s how we work. Planning brews, hop contracts, marketing, beer launches, festivals to attend, staffing needs, etc.
It’s hard to look forward to 2018 without looking back on 2017. So here we go.
2017 was a crazy year for us. Every spring/summer we fall behind because we’ve never had enough capacity to keep up. So this year we were finally able to get some new tanks in before May hit and for the first time ever we were able to keep up with demand and at the same time create some cool new limiteds and stretch our legs a bit from a stylistic point of view.
We went big with the new tanks (all three make 10,000L each) because back to that “looking forward” stuff our long term goal was to switch our Flaghsip beers into can format. This was a difficult decision for us because although we believe that people would rather have a Red Pilsner in a 473ml can than a 650ml bottle the truth about cans are that they naturally move more volume so you have to go a bit bigger or risk disappointing people without being able to keep up. So we set ourselves up to do this and so far I’m happy we have.
We made 36 different beers in 2017. This sounds insane to me but we had a laundry list of new brews we wanted to try out and also recognize that craft beer lovers are always on the hunt for something new. Two of these beers were new flagships for us. Roselle Wheat Ale was the first. We had been working on this beer for about a year trying to get the perfect level of hibiscus and refreshing finish. We wanted to create a wheat beer that could be paired well with food and enjoyed all year. We feel that Roselle is just that! Then late this year we launched Simple Things Pilsner. Simple Things is another beer that we’d been working on for a while. The concept was to make a true craft beer drinkers Pils. Something with the highest quality malt we could find, a full 6 weeks in the tank, and a slap you across the face bitterness. I personally believe that Simple Things will become the most popular beer we make in the coming years… but I’ve been wrong before.
We were lucky enough this year to win 6 BC Beer Awards! This was the most we’ve ever won and along with our homies at Twin Sails it was the most any brewery won that night! On a personal level I was also fortunate to win New Westminster Business Person of the Year! There is nothing more rewarding than starting a business in your own hometown, especially a business that people seem to dig and I hope that S&O proves to other soon to be entrepreneurs that our city supports new ideas and small businesses. Come here! Especially if you are a bakery or a coffee roaster….
2017 did bring challenges. There has been some confusion and a lot of red tape when it comes to our Tasting Room occupancy. We were under the impression that we were going to have 50 people allowed in our room before the summer of 2017 but this hasn’t been the case. It’s been frustrating for me personally and I know super frustrating for our customers who’ve had to wait to get in for a beer. If you’ve been by the brewery in the past week you’ll notice a couple new signs up in regards to zoning and my fingers are crossed that we will have 50 occupancy by the time summer 2018 arrives.
We’ve also been limited to what we can brew based on space. Light Industrial space (which we require) isn’t readily available in New West. It’s part of the reason why you don’t see a Brewers Row type situation in the Royal City. So we basically have the space we have now and need to make due with that. With the addition of the larger fermentation tanks we’ve had to shrink our barrel program and our bottle conditioned program is also a bit smaller than we’d like but it’s taught us to operate efficiently with space and time.
So what is 2018 going to bring?
Well my number one priority is to get that Tasting Room occupancy up to 50, with this increase I’m hoping that it will be more attractive for Food Trucks to set up shop again and will also allow us to do some cool stuff in the Tasting Room without running the risk of having a lineup of people waiting to get in. I want to make it a more engaging and fun space that people can feel confident coming to knowing that they can get in.
More community partnerships. Whether it be collaborating for events or setting pop up shops (for vinyl or beer) we are going to get even more active within New West.
Continue to innovate and perfect. Behind the scenes we are always continuing to perfect our recipes. We’ve just built a bigger lab and will be focusing on improving the longevity of our brews as well as creating new flavours for you to try.
IPA? So a big change for us this year is that yes, we are going to try to make sure there is an IPA on tap at S&O. This doesn’t mean we’ll be coming out with a year round IPA but it is part of the plan to rotate and create new IPAs often so that you do have something hoppy to try on tap when you come by. Selfishly this will also allow us to try a bunch of new IPAs and start to make decisions on where we would want our year round IPA to taste like. If we were to make one of course 😉
Things happen fast in our industry so I’m sure you will see many things I haven’t mentioned above.
I want to sign off by saying thank you. Thank you for coming to our Tasting Room and bringing your friends and family, thank you for being supportive, thank you for letting us know what you like (and what you don’t) and thank you for making Steel & Oak what it is today.
Cheers and all the best in 2018.
Jorden Foss and the S&O Family