Be The Key

Thanksgiving is a perfect day for reflection; not only on what we’re thankful for but where we feel we can offer more to our customers. After some overdue self-reflection, we feel we haven’t been absolutely crystal clear with you in our social mission and how we are pursuing it. Today, we change that.

Our social mission is simple: to spread as much joy as possible and to empower you to do the same.

We opened this brewery because the passion we have for beer and the joy we seek in serving you are unparalleled avenues for spreading joy. Beer is the great uniter. It brings friends and family together to share ideas, experiences, and a collective moment. It’s easy to understand why our love of the craft beer community and the welcoming atmosphere it creates drove us to open True Respite. We wanted to create our own center for spreading as much of that joy as we possibly can.

But that’s the key—there is only so much joy we can spread through providing great beer in a great spot with great people. Your engagement in the pursuit of your own joy is critical for achieving the level of happiness we’re seeking to spread. In fact, our very name, True Respite, emphasizes the role that each of you individually play in your own pursuit of moments that soothe your soul and rejuvenate your spirit.

That’s why we recognize a critical part of our job is to inspire you to create moments of mindful bliss by providing a forum in which you can build them.

You must BE THE KEY.

Practice gratitude. Pursue hobbies. Show love. Make time for friends. Focus on community. Prioritizing these activities can be a sincere challenge in our increasingly busy lives but they’ve never been so critical. It is our hope that every time you see the name True Respite or our iconic keyhole, you’re reminded that you must be the key to experiencing and sharing joy.

Sometimes, a simple reminder that happiness requires effort is all it takes to set a person in motion towards achieving their own happy moment. Once again—that’s why we’re here, and that’s why you’re reading this joy-filled Thanksgiving blog post. We just want to remind you to be the key to your own True Respite.

The support we’ve gotten from you, our customers and our community, has been tremendous. We can’t say thank you enough for the joy you bring us in running this labor of love and we hope we’ve been able to share that with you. We’re now recommitting ourselves to making that goal a more prominent part of experiencing True Respite.

Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for supporting us in our mission to support you.

Cheers!

#bethekey #mytruerespite

On Brewing w/ Gushers (& Other Wacky Ingredients)

The flavor profiles of Gushers and citrus fruited sour ales are a match made in heaven. Tart and tangy, they tease us with sweet, ripe fruit flavors but linger with a defined acidity.

There’s a certain romantic allure associated with plundering the depths of the millennia-old history of beer and wanting to precisely recreate a historical style that, for a moment, might whisk you to another time and place where life was simpler, mugs were clankier, and a person could belly up to a dimly lit wooden bar draped in handmade chainmail or fresh beaver pelts (or something all cool and historical like that.)

Tavern Interior

The downside to a strict stylistic approach to beer is that style guidelines might at best serve to define what one specific historical beer may have tasted like… And often only approximate the average of a variety of beers that were brewed guideline-free around roughly one time in roughly one place. My biggest gripe is that pure stylistic traditionalism inhibits the one driving force that has kept this industry relevant for quite literally thousands of years: evolution through innovation.

To us, that means recognizing and perfecting what has worked and what’s currently working while simultaneously doing our best to progress them. We do this by attempting to design and produce beers that tap into something deeper than just hitting a specific SRM or ABV target. Instead, we want to offer something that truly taps into the spirits and minds of our customers in new and interesting ways. To do this, we most often design beers with the “MAYA” concept in mind:

Most

Advanced

Yet

Acceptable

This concept recognizes that if progress is the goal, brewing strictly traditional styles does nothing to advance consumer preferences and challenges no norms; but also recognizes that pushing the boundaries too far threatens to lose sight of what makes beer (and beer culture) so appealing in the first place.

MAYA is about balancing these two forces to find that perfect tipping point where something familiar is tweaked just far enough to become interesting and exciting while still offering a foundation of familiarity and comfort. Finding this balance opens our minds up to exploration because we have that foundation of familiarity to ground us while our palate explores new and exciting territory.

Fruit Crushers
True Respite Fruit Crushers Fruited Sour Ale w/ Gushers & Lactose

This brings us to Fruit Crushers, our new Gushers-infused fruited kettle soured ale. It’s no secret at this point that fruited kettle sours are incredibly popular in Maryland. Our collective palates have advanced to the point where absolutely burying a kettle sour in fruit is no longer enough to stand out in a crowd. Letting MAYA be our guide, we aim to offer something that grounds us with familiarity yet pushes the boundaries just far enough to be exciting and new.

Enter Gushers. Gushers remind us of the care-free days of childhood. They remind us of weekends and freedom and Saturday morning cartoons. You yourself probably have specific memories of Gushers-laden lazy days, like Bailey remembers herself and her brother sprawled out in front of the TV surrounded by empty Gushers packages and without a single other care in the world.

The flavor profiles of Gushers and citrus fruited sour ales are a match made in heaven. Tart and tangy, they tease us with sweet, ripe fruit flavors but linger with a defined acidity. Combined, you have an incredibly delicious MAYA fruited kettle sour ready-made to provide a nostalgia bomb in a glass of something new yet familiar. It’s honestly a match made in heaven and you shouldn’t knock it until you try it.

Speaking of those who have knocked it, we can’t talk about our decision to brew with Gushers without addressing those who profess that brewing with Gushers is a sure sign that beer is dead. If you’ve been paying attention at all over the last few years, it’s crystal clear: Beer is anything but dead, despite Old Bay Summer Ales, Beaver anal gland juice (castoreum) raspberry vanilla chocolate stouts, and… yes… Gushers sours.

Small breweries are growing like crazy and continue to sprout up everywhere while cutting into the depleting market share of the macro brands that once dominated, even in the face of a shrinking beer market overall. Beer lovers are showing that they value the exciting new twists small locals can offer and that they crave the local connections small independent breweries make with our communities. So as long as small independents continue to innovate and connect with their neighbors, changing consumer preferences will continue to advance the industry to new and exciting heights.

Lastly, for those of you who are still not sold on the idea of your local brewery infusing a perfectly good Fruited American Sour with *shudder* more adjuncts, we can promise you this: You can count on True Respite to respectfully and lovingly continue to brew the traditional styles we’ve all come to love while also using the ample space in our fermentation cellar and on our taps to curate evolution and experimentation. We are fortunate to have up to 16 taps to fill with all kinds of different stuff, traditional and experimental included. And while the nature of experimentation means we won’t always enjoy the outcome, you can be assured that if we brew something that truly doesn’t work, we’re willing to dispose of it, learn from our mistakes, and move forward.

Construction Progress – 2017-12-27

On December 4th, 2017, it finally happened. We started construction on the True Respite brewery and tap room. Progress felt painfully slow for the first week as our concrete floors were saw-cut to open up access to our sewer and drain piping:

At one point, we had our very own Stonehenge made of concrete slab:

Once saw-cutting was complete, things started to really pick up speed. We got an excavator in to dig out the trenches and open up the pits for our plumbers to lay pipe while the drywall team started framing out our walls:

It wasn’t long before we received approval from the WSSC plumbing inspectors so we filled in all the trenches with dirt and rocks and continued to build our interior walls. This wall in particular may have a very interesting future as a 14′ x 28′ art piece:

The concrete crew then came out and began prepping the tank farm sump curbs and the concrete sublayer for rebar supports:

Meanwhile, the drywall guys have gotten to work closing up one side of each wall while the electricians pull wires for our brewery lighting and power outlets:

Every day it looks more and more like the brewery we’ve dreamed up over the years. It’s a warm, happy feeling to watch this all come together exactly like we’d imagined it!

We look forward to offering more exciting updates in the near future. Stay tuned!

Cheers,

The True Respite Team

Brendan, Bailey, and Kenny

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: Meet Our Brewer

He’s a wonderful teammate, a highly accomplished brewer, and a humble family man.

The wait is over. Today, we can finally introduce you to the man whose experience and technical brewing excellence will be a differentiator for True Respite. We’re very proud to announce that Kenny Allen will be joining the team full time as Head Brewer and Director of Brewing Operations.

Meet Kenny Allen

Kenny’s 17+ years of professional brewing experience started in Ashburn, VA, at Old Dominion Brewing Company. His first day was a last-minute bottling gig he landed after walking in and asking for a job on a whim. It didn’t take long for him to realize that he’d stumbled into a special place full of uniquely talented people. He put his nose to the grind and did whatever odd jobs needed to be done while continuing to put in regular work on the bottling line.

Through the high caliber tutelage of the cast and crew around him, he learned the ropes of running a brewing line. He soaked in as much as his peers and mentors could offer, eventually earning his way to becoming a shift brewer. He continued to learn feverishly and climbed the ranks through lab manager and packaging manager until finally earning Old Dominio’s esteemed title of Brewmaster.

OD brewed no less than six GABF medal-winning beers under his direction as Brewmaster. Some were original OD recipes (like the GABF Gold Medal the OD team earned for their IPA) and others were beers contract brewed for other brands. Regardless, the brewery thrived, putting out quality beer after quality beer.

After 13 proud years at Old Dominion, Kenny ventured out to pursue professional knowledge in a larger and more structured manufacturing environment. He spent six years as a production coach and quality manager for Nestle, learning and perfecting lean manufacturing practices. By the time he left, he was armed with all the tools necessary to dominate quality control and to maximize production while minimizing waste.

Six years was long enough to reinvigorate Kenny’s thirst for brewing great beer and a golden opportunity soon presented itself: Kenny was offered the role of Brewmaster at Ashburn, VA, startup Old Ox Brewing Company. Kenny joined up early enough to help oversee construction. He was there for the critical early life of the brewery and helped make it the esteemed beer lover’s destination it is today.

Mid-2016 saw another opportunity to help grow a fledgling brewery arise. Mustang Sally Brewing Company had just opened in Chantilly, VA, and Kenny got word that they were looking for a seasoned pro to take the reins on their young brewing operation. Kenny, now experienced at growing a successful craft brewery from the ground up, jumped at the opportunity to leave his mark on another great Virginia craft brand. A short year and change later, MS is growing at breakneck pace and earning a reputation for consistently brewing high quality, approachable beers. (If you haven’t tried their Amber Lager yet, we suggest you do!)

Still, one thing has been missing at each of Kenny’s stops: true ownership. It’s one thing to love brewing and to love the excitement of growing a young business into a flourishing industry leader. It’s something entirely different for that business to be yours.

Early on, we [Brendan & Bailey] decided that we were never going to hire True Respite’s first brewer. It just didn’t feel right. We wanted a partner in this process. We wanted our brewer to have the same level of energy and devotion that we were bringing ourselves. In regards to managing the business, we wanted an equal who would challenge us to find newer and better ways of accomplishing our goals–especially if those challenges came from a voice of experience.

We’re so lucky to have Kenny joining our team as he has all that we’ve been looking for and more. He’s a wonderful teammate, a highly accomplished brewer, and a humble family man. He’ll be the perfect torch bearer for this movement we’ve been building. We can’t say enough how proud we are to have gotten where we are and to have built the team we have. This is truly the start of something great!

Cheers,

Brendan, Bailey, and Kenny

[P.S. We start construction in two weeks!]

Missing The Mundane

Let us first start by saying we are very much looking forward to one day writing about emotionally mundane things like cutting concrete and passivating steel. We continue to feel a bit like that bitcoin guy:

Bitcoin - Up
Good day.

Bitcoin - Down
Bad day.

Bitcoin - Roller Coaster
Pretty much every day.

It’s a good thing motion sickness only applies to the physical world; we’d never hold down a lunch. Anyway… We’ve crossed another major milestone: We’ve finalized our brewery and tap room design and secured the funding we need to build it! (Stop us if you’ve heard this before.) Still, we have to admit that we’re feeling pretty great about managing to squeeze a little blood from this stone just one more time. (We’ll save you the horror of posting a .gif for this one!) Let’s take a moment to reflect on what has happened since we last wrote:

  1. We designed two breweries: Best Case and Worst Case. This let us determine how much blood must be squeezed from the stone.
  2. We requested a loan increase through the SBA.
  3. Our request was approved by the SBA.
  4. Our request was approved by the banks using the SBA guarantee.
  5. We secured additional private funding from a few key people.
  6. We finalized the brewery & tap room design. (It’s a very happy medium between Best & Worst Case.)
  7. We got a new tap room rendering to finally share with the world (and we’ve featured it on this blog post!)
  8. We received our pilot brewhouse and our pilot cellar tanks.
  9. One of those cellar tanks was badly dented upon arrival.
  10. We received a few of our production cellar tanks.
  11. We received our glycol chiller, air compressor, and keg washer.
  12. We got our online merch store up and running.
  13. We passed the Montgomery County Liquor Board hearing.
  14. We received our Montgomery County Building Permit and had our Forest Conservation Plan approved.
  15. We’ve applied for our plumbing permits through WSSC.
  16. We’ve put in progress cool things like tap handle, flight carrier, and glassware design.
  17. We brewed a great NE IPA and an absolutely delicious Grisette.

Here are a few photos to offer a little imagery for some of the bullet points above:

Bailey defending our request for a liquor license

Denton the dented fermenter

The pilot cellar tanks

The first batch of production cellar tanks still strapped in the shipping container

Hauling the first production fermenter into the space

Our first three production cellar tanks

Our semi-automatic keg washer

Things are still in progress that may end up delaying this process yet again–but we’ve learned to roll with those punches. This thing is happening and we’re very, very proud of what we’re building. Hopefully the next time you hear from us we’ll be droning on about trench safety, p-traps, and low point drains. Until then…

Cheers!

The True Respite Team

Pouring Our First Festival

This past Saturday, for the first time ever, we poured our beer for the public at the King Farm Wine and Music Festival. It was a huge and exciting milestone for True Respite. Naturally, it was rainy and cold when we arrived but it still felt amazing to put up our brand new True Respite tent, pull out our kegs, and set up the jockey box. We cannot wait until this is a regular weekend occurrence for us!

Fortunately, the Maryland Comptroller’s office issued us a homebrew exhibition permit that allowed us to participate in the event without yet being a licensed brewery. We’d like to offer a huge THANK YOU to them for working with us on a short timeline!

We served three beers: Our Roasted English Stout, our Belgian Dubbel, and our Grisette-Au-Vin Blanc. Each beer offers something distinctly different.

Our Beers

The Roasted English Stout is jet black in color and very malt forward with hints of nuts, dark roasted coffee, caramel, and chocolate. We were shocked by how many “stout people” we met, especially at a wine festival! Those who self-identified as “stout people” absolutely gushed over this beer. It was quite humbling–though we definitely agreed.

The Belgian Dubbel is complex, malty, and presents a full-on estery Trappist ale flavor profile. It’s a deep reddish-copper color with a thick, long-lasting head and a moderate-to-high alcohol content. This seemed to be our “Goldilocks” beer that hit the sweet spot for most beer drinkers. It was appreciated by dark and light beer lovers alike.

The Grisette-Au-Vin Blanc is light and refreshing. It was born as a marriage between a sessionable saison and a white wine. The result was fabulously crisp and drinkable, drawing many oohs and ahhs from people who claimed they’re not usually “beer people.” We think this beer really got its moment in the sun due to the fact that the festival was both a beer and wine festival.

We are very proud to say that each beer was very well received. It was an incredible feeling to have our customers repeatedly ask to buy growlers or where to find our beer in stores. Unfortunately, we had to let everyone know that we can’t sell our beer yet. Still, it was nice to be able to refer them to Facebook and our other social media outlets so that when the day comes, they’ll know! (“And here–take a sticker!”)

It was extremely special to us that our daughter, Aislinn, was there with us to help serve the public for the first time. We got some great pictures with her and we’ll make sure to tell her all about it when she’s old enough to understand and appreciate it. We missed our son, Aidan, dearly but knew that if our two year old was with us we’d be chasing him around all day and would not be able to give our full attention to our guests.

Good Crowd

Overall, it was such an honor to get to participate in this event. We had so much fun! We LOVED being able to share our story with so many wonderful members of the community. We also loved learning more about our customers and getting excited together for the arrival of True Respite in Rockville. It was a nice bonus that many guests noted we’ll be walking distance from their homes and jobs. In fact, Google Maps told us the festival grounds were just a 29 minute walk from our future brewery location.

We want to take this moment to say thank you to everyone who stopped by. The Rockville community is incredible. Everyone was so welcoming and you all deserve the very best brewery in the DC metro area. We can’t wait to bring it to you!

Cheers

Cheers!

The True Respite Team

The Final Countdown

Three years of effort comes down to this one day…

(Hit play on this YouTube video for effect before continuing.)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017.

Three years of dogged battling to get this brewery properly planned and fully funded will have brought us to this one day.

This Wednesday, one critical finance partner will send our loan package to their loan committee to decide whether or not to finance our project. We have several finance partners involved with this project and each requires the other’s commitment. That means one piece falling through will cause this entire deal to collapse.

We’ve slogged tirelessly forward for three years, enduring massive life-changing course adjustments–like getting laid off from a lucrative career and resolving to sell our home to move East and follow our dream; like unexpectedly welcoming two new, incredible, beautiful children into our lives; and like losing a couple family members to injuries and illness when we just weren’t ready to say goodbye.

We’ve suffered devastating setbacks–like being denied business loans over two dozen times for not having enough collateral or personal wealth before we were finally approved by a community development lender that saw real potential in our business. Even after we got our preliminary approval, we lost the real estate we had included in the loan package over a questionable parking dispute. That alone set us back four months.

But despite the heartbreak (and to be quite frank… often in spite of it) we’ve also celebrated huge wins. That local community development lender, Business Finance Group, saw the potential in us and worked patiently with us for months as we built a creative deal that will work. We’ve also managed to bring together a group of investors whose expertise has proven invaluable in navigating the challenges of starting up a small business.

We can tell you right now–we are not sleeping well… and it’s not the 2-month old baby screaming for food and cuddles in the dead of night that’s costing us the most sleep. The anticipation of this decision is weighing heavily on us as we try to act calm and carry on for the next three days.

To be clear: If this decision is a no. We’re hanging up our brewer’s paddles and conceding defeat. We can only take so many body blows.

But if this decision is a yes, the fight for funding takes a massive leap towards the finish line. The SBA is still mulling over our application for a working capital loan and we’re in the process of onboarding a conventional partner to join the capital equipment financing side. But these pieces can’t fall into place without this huge decision coming on Wednesday, and a yes vote will only help to strengthen our position in these approvals as we finalize our financing and move towards construction.

So here we are: The Final Countdown. The loan applications are out and our brewery’s fate has been passed into the hands of the lenders who are considering joining this crazy, beautiful ride.

Check back later this week to see what will become of True Respite Brewing Company.

 

Cheers,

Brendan & Bailey

Adding Momentum

February 21st, 2017, brought another massive change. Our daughter, Aislinn Liv O’Leary, was born healthy and happy at Reston Hospital Center weighing 7 lbs 9 oz. and measuring a respectable 20″. (The name Aislinn is Gaelic in origin and is pronounced “Ash-lynn”. Yes, we know we have condemned her to a lifetime of misspellings and bad pronunciations. Just wait until she realizes what the apostrophe in her last name will do to nearly every computer database ever…)

Aislinn Liv O’Leary

Like most parents, we had about 9 months to prepare for this change. Unlike most parents, we’ve had to balance the challenges of new parenthood with the immense battle that opening this brewery has proven to be. Fortunately, Aislinn is as placid and content as one could ever hope a newborn might be and her brother, Aidan, loves his sister and is all too enthusiastic to help us with brew days and baby duties.

So… Instead of pushing our train off the tracks, we’ve managed to let this little addition build our momentum. Things are looking better than ever right now as we finally negotiate a lease and solidify our financing. There’s great news and progress at every turn!

Unfortunately for you all, we’re not releasing the address for our location just yet. We’ve learned from our past efforts that nothing is final until the ink is dry on the last bit of paperwork. But our patience is paying off. Forward progress continues and we hope to have an exciting update for you in a relatively short time!

Cheers,

Brendan & Bailey

On Goals & Getting There

As we enter the new year, it’s hard not to reflect on our initial goal of opening by January 18, 2017…

As we enter the new year, it’s hard not to reflect on our initial goal of opening by January 18, 2017. We’d set that goal three years ago with the intent to be open by Brendan’s 30th birthday. We will not be meeting that goal. There have been so many more ups and downs than we could have ever predicted. Some of the things we thought would be hard turned out to be a breeze—like working with the county to validate our concept and to vet locations. Yet many of the things we thought would be easy turned out to be extremely difficult—like earning a lease from a landlord.

Late in the afternoon on December 23rd, we received some bad news: The landlord who gave us a letter of intent to lease their property back in August let us know that they no longer approved of our use and that they would not lease the property to us. They were concerned that our parking needs exceeded their building’s ability to provide the space. Per a meeting with the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services, the county disagreed. But that doesn’t matter now. It sets us back yet again as we set out to find a new location.

We are still targeting Rockville, MD, for our destination brewery and tap room’s location. We’ve fallen in love with Rockville and want to call it home. Still, our ability to stay depends on space availability and landlord approvals.

The good news is that we’re at a point now where we’ve solved all the major hurdles that would prevent us from opening at least once prior. Some we’ve had to solve multiple times. But today we have a clear path forward. We’re ready to charge into 2017. We’re ready to bring True Respite beer to Montgomery County. We’re ready to give the residents a comfortable place to relax in, a product to enjoy, and a brand to be proud of.

Stay tuned. We will post an update on location as soon as we have one. Big things are still coming, Montgomery County!!

Rubbing Elbows with the Biggest Names in Craft Beer

Savor 2016 was a fantastic welcoming party to DC! The biggest names in craft beer were all around and I had plenty of opportunity to bump elbows with all sorts of people who were willing to share a kind word and some great advice. Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione (pictured with me below) took some time to discuss the future of craft beer:

image

The best conversation of the night happened early on with Richard Norgrove of Bear Republic as we discussed what could have been a large feud over branding. (This story was covered in “What’s In A Name?“) It was cathartic to stand with him discussing old issues and laughing them off over a freshly poured Bear Republic beer. New friends are great, but new friends made from old disputes are even better. This right here is why we decided to leave a life of being cattle herded from cubicle to cubicle and instead join the craft beer revolution:

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The festival itself was spectacular! The Brewer’s Association did a fantastic job making the event feel cultured and high end while still leaving plenty of room for aimless wandering and tons of beer and food tasting. I especially loved the way the food and beer were presented together as a single paired entity:

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I tried a lot of great beer and dishes, but my absolute favorites were the sweet chili fried chicken and the Allagash/Deschutes Belgian Pale collaboration called Pettygrove’s Chance. This beer in particular was featured at the Salon covering the sourcing of local ingredients for beer production where we were also treated to a very special tasting of a few of the two breweries’ rarest specialty brews:

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All in all, it was a fantastic night of great food, great beer, and great company. I had certainly found my True Respite for the evening, and I encourage all of you craft beer fanatics out there to make sure to include Savor on your list of must-see beer events.

Cheers!

Brendan