Prince Edward Island will soon be increasing its production of craft beer, as Upstreet Craft Brewing has announced plans to open this Summer in downtown Charlottetown. Started by friends Mitch Cobb, Michael Hogan, and Joey Seaman, the brewery and tasting room will be located at 41 Allen St. All three were nice enough to provide a bit of background on themselves, and fill us in on the roles they will play in the brewery:
Mitch Cobb: Mitch has an MBA from UPEI and worked in the Business Administration Program at Holland College before coming on at Upstreet full-time. While at Holland College, he taught marketing and entrepreneurship, and he comes from an entrepreneurial background. Mitch is definitely a big picture kind of guy and will play a major part in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company (keeping Joey and Mike in-line).
Mike Hogan (aka Hogie): Mike is a computer engineer by trade. He graduated from Dalhousie University in 2004; he also holds a diploma in audio engineering. His career path has taken many twists and turns through industries such as: veterinary software, offshore weather forecasting, tv/film post-production, and even Swiss Chalet delivery. The only constant has been a combination of building, tinkering and mad science — fortunately these are skills that can and will be applied to brewing, too.
Joey Seaman: Joey has worked in sales, marketing, business development and management roles with two start-up companies. He and his wife Suzanne are also involved in running Village Pottery, which is a 40-year-old family business and the longest running pottery shop in PEI. Joey is one of those strange types that just loves being an entrepreneur, seeing opportunities and making them happen. He’s also a big beer fan and has been a homebrewer for the past three years.
Last month, we exchanged emails with head brewer Hogie to get a bit of background on his brewing history, and what he and the others have planned for Upstreet when they open. We’re happy to share that information, now!
ACBB: Tell me a little about your homebrewing history.
I’ve been homebrewing for several years now. It’s safe to say I’ve done over a hundred batches by now, in three provinces. I won’t say they’ve all been exceptional, but not a drop was ever poured down the drain!
My friend Aaron was the first of our group to start making his own beer and wine. I think he was making the partial extract kits right away. I recall creating quite a mess in his kitchen with the three small pots on the stove required to boil all of the wort. I also shared a couple batches with another friend, Tim, in Halifax. He’s a hophead, and was into dry-hopping Festabrew kits before he started brewing his own all-grain IPAs.
Shortly after moving to St. John’s in 2009, I purchased my own homebrewing equipment and was making beer with liquid extract canned kits, by boiling them and adding my own hops. One of the earliest batches was a honey-brown with Fuggles. I was mostly satisfied with the end result, but knew that I wanted to have more control over the final flavours. That Christmas, I received Charlie Papazian’s The Joy Of Homebrewing and couldn’t put it down once I started reading about all-grain brewing and alpha-amylase. A couple of weeks later, I was at Home Depot, buying the hardware for my cooler mash tun, while a bag of barley and wheat malt sat in the car, waiting to become my first all-grain Hefeweizen. In similar fashion to Charlie Papazian’s first batch, by the end of the day the kitchen was an absolute disaster and every pot and utensil we owned was dirty. The efficiency was low but the satisfaction was high. I’ve come a long way since then, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the pride that comes with crafting something from scratch.
What made you decide to take the step into brewing professionally?
I’ve always been very happy with the beers I’ve brewed, and so have my friends and family. I’ve been dreaming of having my own brewery for years, but I knew it was something I’d never be able to do alone. There are so many things that have to come together to pull off this kind of project, and fortunately Mitch and Joey have the business experience to make that happen, and maybe more importantly, keep the doors open. I’m confident the beer will be great, but I’m not foolish enough to think it will sell itself. Upstreet is a total team effort.
What steps have you taken so far getting everything up and running?
We’ve been working on this for well over a year now and learned very quickly there’s a lot more to opening a brewery than brewing beer. The first thing, and most important, was investing hundreds of hours into building a really solid business plan. I can’t stress enough how important this process was because it’s something we all learned a lot from and has guided all of our decisions from the beginning. The second major step was raising a fairly significant round of funding, which was a lengthy process but was strongly supported by everyone we worked with to get everything in place. Once that was sorted out the floodgates really opened up and we’ve been going flat out ever since. Some of the highlights would include finding an awesome location (it’s not easy to find an empty 7,000 square foot building in downtown Charlottetown), ordering our system from DME and working with a few talented friends to design the whole brewery. I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but let’s just say there have been many evening and weekend meetings spent working through the project over beers, and appreciating how cool it is to be opening a brewery.
What size/type of system will you be brewing on?
We’ll be brewing on a 15bbl (~17 hL) system from our neighbours, DME. Our equipment should be arriving soon, with installation happening in April.
Do you know when your beers will be available to the public?
We’re on track for May right now. We may have a couple beers released initially, and should be up to four for the grand opening.
What are your plans for distribution? Plans for tap accounts, bottles, growlers, etc.?
You’ll be able to find our beers on tap at restaurants and bars across the Island. We will have 500mL bottles in the PEILCC stores eventually, too. At our tasting room, all the beers will be on tap and we’ll have growlers available for take-away.
Do you have any beer bars/restaurants in the area lined up to serve your beers?
There’s been an incredible interest and support from so many of the local restaurants. As long as we put out a great product I’m confident we’ll be in quite a few establishments across the Island early on.
Can you tell me about the beer(s) you plan on offering initially? Are you planning on offering a specific style, or genres (German, English, etc), of beer? Any seasonals, one-offs, or will you stick mainly with a “flagship lineup”?
We can’t comment on specific styles right now, but I can say the beers are all based off of recipes I’ve been honing over the past few years. We’ve been doing a lot of homebrewing on an electric pilot system and it’s been really fun trying out different hop combinations, yeast, temperatures, etc. Big shout out to Ryan Palmer for putting that system together! It allows for so much control over the brewing variables.
What inspired the name of the brewery?
Upstreet is an old PEI saying – like… “Johnny’s headed’ upstreet to meet the fellas”. It’s typically a term used for a spot just outside of downtown. It’s perfectly fitting with our Allen St. location. It also reflects our hopes to be rooted in the local community. We’re all Island guys who have spent some time away, but are so happy to be putting down roots and pursuing our passions on home turf. We love this town, and we just love the name.
Have you had any assistance from other breweries/people in Atlantic Canada (or elsewhere)?
We’ve chatted with many local breweries while we’ve been planning the business. I’d like to give a personal shout-out to Emily Tipton at Boxing Rock, who met us at their brewery in Shelburne, NS one Saturday morning about a year ago; she has always been there to answer a few questions via email ever since.
With the recent increase in the number of new breweries in Atlantic Canada, what will make Upstreet Craft Brewing different from the rest?
We’ll be introducing some beers that aren’t very prominent in Atlantic Canada yet. Many of these are locally-inspired interpretations of traditional beers that I’ve been brewing for years. There’s also a really strong farming community on the Island and we’ll be drawing additional local ingredients for our seasonals. In comparison to the other Atlantic provinces, the PEI craft beer scene is really in its infancy, so we’re really going to focus on working with the others to bring more attention to the great beer that’s coming out of PEI these days. We hope to see some interesting collaborations coming out of our brewery, not only with the other local breweries, but maybe even with some of the distilleries as well. Aside from the beer, a core piece of our business is also built around a strong sense of social responsibility and creating meaningful initiatives that will benefit the Island community. This is something that is really important to us.
Where do you hope to see Upstreet Craft Brewing in the next 2-3 years?
Early on, we hope our beers permeate through the local restaurant scene and that our tasting room becomes a favourite neighbourhood hangout. Over the next 2-3 years, we hope to expand our lineup of beers and have them available across the Maritimes, and hopefully further. We can’t wait for the day Upstreet is first on tap at one of the beer bars “on the mainland.”
Do you personally have a favorite beer style? Beer? Brewery?
I enjoy all beer styles and I’ve taken inspiration from all of the breweries I’ve visited, big and small. I won’t list them all, but some of the highlights include: Chimay, Pilsner Urquell, Stone, The Alchemist, Allagash, Garrison, Boxing Rock, and here at home, BarNone and PEI Brewing Company.
Do you have a specific ingredient in brewing that you like to brew with? E.g. a specific malt and/or hop variety?
Not really… anything’s fair game for me. I’ll brew anything, with anything. I may refer to my basement as Hogie’s Brauhaus but I’m no Reinheitsgebot purist.
From what/where/whom have you learned the most in respect to brewing?
There are a couple of people I’d like to thank for helping make the move into professional brewing. One is Greg Nash. We’ve exchanged a few candid texts, emails, and calls these past several months about brewing. He doesn’t mess around, tells it like it is, and knows what works and what doesn’t.
The other is Michel Gauthier. The three Upstreet guys travelled to Ottawa-Gatineau in October and attended Michael’s week-long intensive brewing course. We not only covered the fundamentals, we also got to pick his brain and learned so much about optimizing the brewery process and brewing equipment. I’ve been applying that knowledge every brewday since then and can’t wait to get him down to Upstreet in the Spring so he can help make our system “go like hell!”
Is there something specific that got you into the world of craft beer?
Long before the days of Untappd, I was still drinking craft beer, but just not sharing my exploits with my beer nerd friends. One of the first craft beers I had was Rogues Roost Raspberry Wheat shortly after I moved to Halifax in 2001. It was quite a novelty for me. A little sweet though, so I starting mixing it half and half with their Cream Ale. It’s safe to say I started “crafting” my own flavours with beer right away.
Congratulations to Hogie, Mitch and Joey; we look forward to trying their beers when Upstreet officially opens in the near future! We’ll be sure to keep you updated on their progress. Also, keep an eye on Upstreet’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts for news and more information as it’s released.