Good Robot Brewing Company will be launching this weekend at 2736 Robie Street in Halifax. Angus Campbell, Doug Kehoe and Josh Council are the President, Head Brewer, and Marketing Director, respectively, on paper, but their jobs are certainly more than that! Think trench digger, grain hauler, spirit animal, and so much more. Josh was kind enough to answer a few questions about the guys, the brewery and everything else.
ACBB: Can you tell us about how the Good Robot Crew came together?
Good Robot started with late-night college dorm room chats, the kinda chats buzzed teenagers have while looking at the stars on a wasted summer night. Were we really going to pursue engineering, or were we going to sail a party yacht from Bonaire to Ibiza? Throughout college, we threw parties for a crowd of misfits decidedly different from that of the typical social cliques. We brewed together – disastrously – but our passion for craft beer really took off as Angus, Doug and Josh parted ways and entered the corporate world. To escape the monotony of our white-collar environments, we sought sanctuary in the pubs, dives and comedy clubs where craft beer abounded and misfits roamed. Independently, we became obsessed with craft beer until one day, we finally realized what we needed to do. Good times introduced us. Great beer brought us back together.
What brought you to Halifax?
Angus hails from Whycocomagh and as Maritimers can appreciate, nowhere else quite feels right. Doug has always remained close to his home of Perth, Ontario, preferring the laid back rural lifestyle and community spirit of small towns. After college, Doug visited Angus in Halifax on several occasions and fell in love with its charm. Angus and Doug promised Josh that Halifax bolstered an eccentric personality reminiscent of the big seaboard cities, like Seattle and New York, in which he did business. Halifax’s small-town love with big-city amenities was a natural fit for all three.
Can you tell us about the brewhouse (manufacturer, size, etc)?
DME supplied our 10-bbl brewhouse complete with 120-bbl fermentation capacity (2x 30 bbl and 3x 20 bbl) and one 30-bbl bright tank. We do not filter our beers.
What beers will you be serving at launch?
We are launching four beers to start: Tom Waits for No One Stout, Goseface Killah Gose, Burban Legend Citrus APA, and Crown on the Ground Steam. Details on each can be found on our website.
Are these flagship beers, or will they be rotating seasonals?
We have been playing with the idea of evolving flagships, almost like software releases. The launch beers are all version 1.0. A future iteration of the Gose, for example, may include rhubarb extract and be updated to version 1.1. Like any living thing, we expect our brewery to grow and adapt with our palates and those of the market. Of course, if one particular release has people drowning in their own saliva, we could bring it back. We also expect to release new seasonals when we’re itching for something fresh.
Can you talk about Good Robot using Clarityferm in the beer?
Of course! We have several friends who have been diagnosed with gluten allergies. We pitied their inability to partake in our fun. We didn’t care for the beers made without cereal adjuncts and began researching Clarityferm as a potential solution. We applied it to several homebrews, performed in-house testing, and served them to our gluten-sensitive friends with great success. Our party posse has always been inclusive. We felt our beers should be likewise.
How can folks enjoy your beer: on tap around the city, and growler fills?
Our beer is best served with good times, whatever that may be. We have several confirmed tap accounts – Stillwell, The Stubborn Goat, The Wooden Monkey Halifax, The Brooklyn Warehouse, 2 Doors Down, The Auction House – with more on the way. Growlers and grunters are to be served at our retail space, and we are slated to open our taproom in late summer, including a dirty driveway space which will eventually evolve into a beautiful beer garden.
Can you tell me a bit about the tasting room plans and progress?
Our tasting room will reflect the house we lived in together during college: eccentric, childish, surreal, nonjudgmental, and above all, fun. We have special events planned that may not reflect a typical craft brewery environment. Hell, they may not reflect any typical environment. We plan to release one-offs at the taproom and maybe host special taps for homebrewers and other breweries we love. Ultimately, we’re beer lovers and want to showcase a variety of styles that we may not be brewing ourselves. Demolition begins this month with opening slated for late summer.
Have you had any assistance from other industry folks in getting started?
Boat-loads! There are few people who haven’t helped, which is part of the reason this industry is just the best. Jeremy from Big Spruce, Don from BarNone and Gary from Muskoka Brewery all deserve special praise for their extra efforts with brewing, commissioning and planning. Lorne, formerly of Rogues Roost, is in nearly every week offering tips and breaking our balls. The Brewnosers are always offering something interesting up at their meetings. Plus, of course, the myriad bars, restaurants, media and other brewers that have made working such a pleasure. There are too many to thank, plus my wrists hurt from typing. Which reminds me, we’d also like to thank our osteopath.
Where do you hope to see Good Robot in the next 5 years?
We love the direction craft beer is going in the States: a small brewery in every neighbourhood (or in the case of the North End, several breweries in every neighbourhood). When we drive to Port Hawkesbury, we don’t want the same beer we can get in Halifax. We want our beers to be ever-evolving, our knowledge ever-growing. The beer should reflect its locale. When weirdos and misfits come to Halifax, they know where to find us. And if we do expand our borders, we want our beer in another location to be wildly different from what we serve here.
Do you guys have a favorite beer, or style, or brewery you reach into the fridge for?
For a long time, we tried to consolidate our thoughts into a singular beer brand direction. This proved difficult since we all became obsessed with craft beer in different locales. Angus’ assertive personality and tour in Fort Mac made him a target for the hop-forward west coast IPAs, especially Mission’s Shipwrecked and Lagunitas’ Maximum. Doug’s well-balanced lifestyle and job locale on the border of Quebec and Ontario drove him to Beau’s Lug-Tread and Bog Water. Josh’s stint in Seattle and affinity for dark, yet sweet, people led to an obsession with rich stouts, including especially Deschutes’ Obsidian, Elysian’s Split Shot Espresso and 21st Amendment’s Marooned on Hog Island. We’re thrilled to be in Nova Scotia among so many styles that weren’t as prevalent out west, and we always make time for the beer that made so many memories for us: the 2012 GABF Gold Winner for American-Style Lager, Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Can you tell me about your brewing history and training? Did you start out as homebrewers?
All three of us have homebrewing history. Angus started out with his dad at an age that our counsel has advised us not to disclose and brought that knowledge to college where Doug and Josh joined in the fun. The three pursued continued to pursue homebrewing after college, with Doug and Angus splitting on a Sabco Brew-Magic system to up their game. Doug dove further into the technical side with the Siebel Institute Concise Course in Brewing Technology, classic brewing books, and myriad magazine subscriptions, and later gained commercial brewing experience with Jeremy White at Big Spruce and Lorne Romano, formerly of Rogues, upon moving to Nova Scotia.
Do you have a favourite ingredient that you like to use (ie, specific hop or malt)?
Doug gets heartburn from beers that are high in alpha acids. He has always been a malt guy, and is also increasingly a yeast buff. His favourite malt is amber. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the toastiness imparted by amber malts makes him smile.
Anything else you want to be sure our readers know?
Beer isn’t exclusive – it brings us together. Beer isn’t pretentious – it’s fun. Beer helps us laugh and dance and joke the way social stimulants should. So enjoy yourself. It’s beer.
We want to wish Josh, Doug and Angus all of the best with their launch this weekend. NS Craft Beer Week’s Open Brewery Day on Saturday will be their coming out party, with beer, food and fun starting at 10am. Follow their adventures on their website, where Josh has been documenting the planning, construction, name change(!), and final opening details on his blog. Check them out on Twitter and Facebook too. Cheers!