Opening For Real: The Long Road to our “Bottle Shed”
Disclaimer: I wrote a lot of words below so if you just want the basic, stripped down bottle shop details, scroll to the bottom.
Didn’t scroll to the bottom? Nice! If you’re looking for a deep dive into just what the hell has gone on the past few years at Badlands, you’re in the right place.
After many, many, many months of planning, laboring, negotiating, policy wrangling and getting through the countless other roadblocks we never in a million years expected to have to go through, Badlands Brewing Company is finally ready to swing open its shed
doors windows (I’m sure you’re wondering what we mean by “shed,” and probably also “windows…” more on that in a moment) and serve the fine folks of Caledon (and whoever else wants to trek in from surrounding areas. We’re happy to have you as well!)
It’s been a pretty long road to get to this point, which isn’t all that uncommon when opening a brewery (seriously ask any brewery about their origin story and I’m sure very few will say how easy, cheap and quick it was,) but adding a brewery to a farm is a much trickier process than we expected.
We started kicking around this whole brewery idea thing for the first time in late 2015. But admittedly the first several months of the process were more of a discovery phase for us. We were pretty much just trying to determine whether we could:
a) Even open an on-farm brewery, which was essentially impossible in our area until the end of 2015 when the Province changed some rules to allow it (so accidentally good timing on our part there); and
b) determine what that would look like, how much it would cost, and how it would work.
At first we were looking to go pretty big, because if you’re going to make plans, they might as well be extravagant, am I right!? We wanted to get a much bigger brew house to start, and also have a location with food, tours, tastings, agricultural activities, friggin’ volcano space ships with trampolines, and just a cacophony of great stuff, but those big ideas were pretty quickly quashed and started to look more like a laundry list of far-fetched dreams once we really dug into the fiscal realities of trying to get everything in place at once. Even if we still wanted to do it all at once, which would have been super rad, there really wasn’t a financial institution out there willing to give several million dollars to idiots in their early 20s who, at the time, really only had a dream of opening a brewery in a barn, and a business plan based around selling all of the beer they made direct to public from said remotely located farm (also, financing several million dollars is a terrifying prospect when you do the math. Who the hell has money like that!?)
At the time, we didn’t have steady jobs, we had just finished university and were fortunate enough to either be flat broke or only in like lower end, 5 digit debt and we were dead set against the idea of contract brewing. Naturally, a magical, rich angel investor that wanted to give us money at 0% interest and a payback period of whatever timeline worked best for us with no strings attached never materialized, so we took a good hard look in the mirror and realized this was going to be a much, much smaller project than we originally envisioned, but we were alright with that.
Our HUGE 1bbl System
Once we had finished
wasting spending several months looking at and getting quotes on everything from equipment to ingredients and packaging materials for a much, much bigger system, we just scaled everything that we had planned on doing way down and effectively started over (we also obviously cut out the whole food, tours and onsite thing… cause money). It was sort of freeing to look at much smaller numbers on the spreadsheets (ones that didn’t have all those pesky zeros attached to them), but at the same time smaller numbers on initial capital spending meant smaller numbers on the cash flow side (this is where it is much less pesky to see zeros). Classic business realities stuff. But again, we were fine with that. We really just wanted to make beer, and even if it was at a smaller scale with lower revenue, at the end of the day our ultimate goal was to put beer in people’s mouths, and this would allow us to do that. Mission accomplished! We had a new, much smaller business plan that we think could still work. Now we just had to, you know, do the work to make it a reality.
By now we’re pretty much into late 2016, early 2017, so in a way you could say we really didn’t start physically “working” on anything that we currently have in place until then (though I assure you many, many hours were spent working on other things that eventually helped us get open. Such as researching fun things like the nuance between different soil types and it’s impact on septic system cost. Fun fact: we have the worst soil for installing a septic!) But once we had a plan in place we started the process of sourcing ingredients, getting equipment, and locking in other mundane things like licenses to produce and sell alcohol and insurance to protect us from lawsuits and such. Classic logistics stuff.
That pretty much takes us right up to August of 2017, where we decided to open our brewery and start selling beer exclusively through our bottle shed. We opened with a diverse lineup of beers with a particular focus on all things hops, exactly as we had drawn it up in our minds. Psych! That’s not at all what happened. We got held up on the bottle shop portion and ultimately decided to temporarily turn into a distribution only brewery (an exceptionally bad business decision if anyone thinking about doing that is reading this) because we thought having some beer out there was better than none, and I mean, how long can it really be until we have that bottle shop thing figured out anyway?
Turns out the answer was nearly 21 months. Who would’ve guessed? Not us, that’s for sure! We never intended to try to operate a distribution only brewery with a 1BBL system and 2 people who knew literally jack shit about the industry, had very little sales experience of any kind and really only knew how to make beer and DIY glycol loops and keg washers, but that’s just kind of the hand we were dealt and we made what we could of it.
The margins are razor thin in the beer distribution biz (initially we tried to sell only bottles to restaurants to make the margin more palatable, but alas, kegs reign supreme in the licensee world… Making money is overrated anyway). Overall I think we’ve come out the other side stronger, though probably more haggard looking, for having tried to kill ourselves with long hours of exceptionally manual labor making a paltry amount of very-expensive-to-produce beer (hops are expensive!) That being said, hopefully you got to try some of our beer somewhere on tap at some of the exceptional places that took us on while we toiled away in piles of red tape trying to figure out this selling beer on a farm thing.
If there is one underlying thing that has been an extreme positive for us over the past 21 months, it’s the relationships we’ve built with the licensees who carried us. We’re lucky to be able to call a lot of the people who own/work at these fine establishment, friends. It’s a very strange, bittersweet feeling to be able to finally sell beer direct to the public while simultaneously pulling it away from the people who kept us alive as a business and helped us build a brand. In the near term, there won’t be much Badlands on draft anywhere, simply because we need to keep as much of it in house as we can and we just can’t make that much of it on a 1 bbl brew house. But I promise, we’re working hard at expanding and we will be bringing all the licensees we were serving back on when we are able.
New Life and Switching Gears
21 months in, there’s no denying we are weary, bruised and beaten from the process (literally and figuratively), but we also feel a renewed sense of energy and excitement that we haven’t felt since making and selling our first beer; what an exciting and seemingly infinite time ago that seems now.
In a lot of ways, getting to this point is like a full on reset for our brewery and a fresh start for us as we radically alter the way we do business (i.e. selling everything on site rather than everything off-site). It’s difficult to say what the future holds for us at this point, but one thing we can say for sure is that this is like a second beginning. We may have started as a two man team, feverishly running around like starry eyed oblivious morons in a new (to us) industry, but we are anything but a two man team at this point (still pretty moronic though). My wife has taken on full time duties of managing all things social media and often helps out with just about anything where an extra set of hands is needed, and her parents (who also happen to be our landlords) have been helping with everything from beer delivery, to human bottle de-pallitizer and pipe de-freezer extraordinaire (and yes, like us, they work for no pay).
We are now where we wanted to be when we decided to do this thing all the way back in 2015. We’re just a little late getting there. We hope that if you’ve stuck with us this long, hunted for our beer on tap handles across the GTA, and found bottles of it at various Beer Stores who at times failed to even shelve it, you’ll be happy to know we will, from now on, be selling every beer we release from our bottle shop (Note: We did send kegs out the week before we opened, so you may still see some one-offs pop up for another few weeks).
Badlands Brewing (re)starts now.
The Bottle Shed
You can see our exact location for retail sale right on our website and we made doubly sure that the Google Maps dropped pin lands at the right place (i.e. at the gable roofed shed and not the house where my wife’s parents live. Please do not drive in to that drive way.) If you type in “Badlands Brewing Caledon” into google maps, El Goog should be able to get you here (we will also have ample signage, so look out for that).
The Bottle Shed, as it has come to be named, is our creative, and admittedly poor man’s way of creating a store front for people to come and visit us on premise. Despite its small stature, we put a lot of time and effort into making it look like the nicest friggin’ shed in town. We want this to be a spot where you can not only buy our beer, and merch, but also somewhere you can come have a chat with us about the beer, the process used in making it, the ingredients that went into it or how awesome it was when your dog did that thing you thought was so super cute today. This is very important to us. We want to make sure our beer has a face, particularly since it’s been largely faceless since we’ve been open, which is the polar opposite of the way we want it, and we want you to have the opportunity to meet the people who make the beer you drink. On the flip side, we also wanted to be able to meet the people who drink the beer we put so much time and effort into making.
We promise that the shed is way nicer and, we think, cooler than your average off-the-shelf storage or tool shed that you are probably picturing in your head (we built this beauty from the ground up!) It is pictured above. Beautiful right!?
More Details About Bottle Shed and it’s Future
Epoxy smudges sharpie. Fun fact
We are officially set to open to the public Saturday, May 18, 2019 from 12-5PM.
To start, we will be open every Saturday from 12-5PM. We may add more hours as we go along, but ultimately that will come down to how much beer we produce/how thirsty you all are. At some point we would also like to use the space that we have for some cool events on some of those Saturdays when it’s no longer monsoon weather, but for the time being we are laser focused on continuing to make our beer at the super high standard you expect from us, and getting it into your mouth at its freshest, most positively yum town.
It’s been a long road to get here, and we are super excited (anxious?) to get going and finally give you guys access to our beer on site. This is particularly true for our Caledon fans that, until now, have had to travel away from where the beer is made just to get it. It’s been super backwards to hear about people driving from Caledon to Kitchener or Toronto to try our beer when they live around the corner from the brewery. It’s incredibly flattering to hear that people were wiling to do that just to try it, but it brought us no joy knowing that we were sending you on a much further journey than necessary to get locally made beer. From now on, that is no longer the case! No more missing out on a beer that is only available in Toronto while you live all the way in Kitchener-Waterloo area, or vice versa. All our beers will be sold from our home, here in Caledon.
Final Thoughts and Other Things
I’m sure you’re wondering what we were teasing on Instagram with all those construction pics. The finished (ish) product is what you see above. It’s a nice little 2000 square foot Quonset (translation: steel building). If you thought that was the bottle shop and/or a tasting room, we are sorry to disappoint, this building is purely for production (this building is what I was alluding to regarding bringing draft back, but more on that another time).
We ran out of room in the last brewery almost instantly. It is only 600 square feet and man, that does not go far. So the idea is to eventually use the new building to expand our production, while leaving the old building as a pilot room of sorts where we can do whatever, whenever and turn out some small batch, experimental beer. But we’re still quite a ways off from that (there is a very significant amount of infrastructure that still needs to be put in place and we aren’t rich, so it’s going to take some time). I’m not going to put a timeline on how long any of that will take because if i’m certain of anything, it’s that my timeline will be wrong. So for now, everything will be small batch stuff. 1 bbl for the win!
There are a lot of people to thank for all their help and free/cheap labor, so I’m not going to mention them here, but you know who you are. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!!! This brewery would legitimately not exist without you. As I said above, we’re morons, and we’ve required your big brains and your generous disregard for your own time on a lot of things to make this happen. Again, thank you.
We’ve been bad at maintaining our website until now because, honestly, it provided little additional value with the way we were doing business. However, we are now going to be keeping this website and our social media accounts updated with all the latest news and information for all things Badlands. We will 110% be updating our beer availability no later than every Friday before we open on Saturday (if we eventually add Friday as a sales day, then the update will occur Thursday. Either way, it will be updated before our first opening of the week as beers are released).
If you want to check out what beers are available for sale, this website is your best/most accurate resource to get the most up to date information we have (in addition to our Instagram, where we will be announcing all the things).
The Bottle Shed Details You Are Probably Looking for:
What: Badlands Retail Store (Also known as “The Bottle Shed”)
Location: 13926 Chinguacousy Road, Caledon, Ontario (look for the black gable roof shed and our owl)
Hours: 18 May, 2019 – 12-5PM (and every Saturday 12-5 here on out!)
Beer Format Available: 500ml bottles only. (Note: there are no cans, growlers, crowlers, online sales, onsite pours available. It is take away bottles only.)
Merch Available: Yes. Hats, shirts, glassware of varying sizes. Though the stock is limited to start.
Beers Available: They will continue to change on a weekly basis as we add new beers and run out of old ones. Our “Beer” section will be updated weekly with what will be available, in addition to pricing, and our Instagram will also be a good tool to keep an eye on as we will announce all new beer releases through there.
This weekend we will have the following available:
- Saison Mauvaises Terres (With Caledon Hills Wildflower Honey) – Farmhouse Ale – 7.8% ABV – $8/Btl
- Dora #11 – IPA – 6.5% ABV – $7/btl
- Cautiously Optimistic (IPA with Vic Secret & El Dorado) – IPA – 6.5% ABV – $6.5/btl
- The Kid With the Golden Shoes (IPA with Mosaic & Simcoe) – 6.5% ABV – $6.5/btl
Look forward to seeing you all May 18th!