The Origin Story

True Respite Brewing Company is the culmination of an ever-growing love for the craft beer moment

Our story started when Co-Founder Brendan O’Leary set his phone’s alarm for 5 minutes before midnight: January 18th, 2008. That 5-minute window gave him just enough time to wake up, wander through his empty house down to the fridge, grab a cold brew of choice, and head back to his dimly lit room. Then, right at the crack of twelve, he took a hearty gulp and welcomed himself to the ripe age of 21.

Although the rest of the house was dark and still, that moment still burns brightly in his mind. His discovery of craft beer while off starting an internship 516 miles from his friends back at Georgia Tech quickly turned into a home brewing hobby meant to pass the time. That hobby turned into a passion; that passion turned into a dream. Today, that dream is becoming True Respite.


Although they’d been dating for nearly two years, it wasn’t until 2011 that Brendan finally convinced Co-Founder Bailey O’Leary to join a brew day. She immediately fell in love with the marriage of art and science found in home brewing. Even more so, she became inspired by the culture surrounding the craft beer movement. Her appetite for embracing new beers in new environments became insatiable as she soaked in every detail of each local brewery experience. For her, the wholeness of the social and cultural moment was every bit as crucial as the tasting of the beer itself.

Energized by the growing scene, Brendan and Bailey spent four of the next five years living in Denver, CO, soaking in the vibe of every local brewery and tap room they could find. Together, after drinking great beer and conversing with former strangers, they often discussed what made each visit special. These shared thoughts and experiences eventually snowballed into a vision for the “perfect” craft beer experience.


Now, True Respite Brewing Company is the culmination of an ever-growing love for the craft beer moment. Creating these moments of true respite, where great beer and a relaxed environment turn strangers into friends, is our primary mission.

In the end, we just want to see you all happy.


 

We Did It.

For three years we battled. We battled naysayers. We battled inertia. We battled the slow onset of doubt that followed rejections from thirty different lending institutions. (This is the actual number. It is not an exaggeration.) But today… today, we don’t need to worry about a single one of those battles anymore. Those ones are behind us. For a moment, we’ve ascended to our own nirvana. You might even say we are experiencing something extremely valuable: True Respite. Why?

All of our loans have been approved.

We weren’t expecting the phone call on Wednesday when, while on a cycling trip through a very sticky 90+ degree heat, Brendan’s phone started ringing from an awkward back zipper pocket in his cycling shirt. After a precarious bit of fumbling and while coasting to a slow halt, he answered to a cheerful voice on the other end offering congratulations. Bailey, unaware, pulled up beside him and waited patiently to restart the journey.

The conversation didn’t last long. When it was finished, Brendan turned to Bailey and simply said, “That was Craig. We did it.” That’s when the rush hit.

 

Funding Moment
Us just moments after learning that our final loan had been approved

We leaped and cheered and hugged and high-fived and shouted without reserve. A couple of friendly guys who were stopped in their car at the intersection beside us laughed and danced a bit along with us, not knowing what incredible news we were celebrating.

 

Funding Moment Scene
The unfittingly plain scene surrounding our moment of great joy

The weight that was finally lifted off of our shoulders was immeasurable. That’s when we knew it was really happening. Like–really happening. We celebrated with a family trip to the local fro-yo spot and let our minds race to fill insanely long lists of things that must be done. It was all so incredible and terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

This morning we had a conference call with all of our lenders to choreograph the oncoming blitz of loan closings. Timing has proven to be a critical factor and that’s especially going to be so when considering the delivery of our equipment. Therefore, it was decided that we had to get it on order as quickly as possible to cut the lead time as short as possible and to fully inject all of our required equity to satisfy the lender requirements.

As of today, our brewing equipment is officially on order.

mug of beer
A similar size and comparable model to the brewhouse that will grace the True Respite brewery

We’re absolutely giddy with excitement! The next major step is to sign our lease. We expect that to occur mid-to-late next week. Monday we have our final walk-through scheduled with the landlord and we will likely need to make a few minor tweaks to the formal lease document before finally being able to sign it. At that point, we’ll make a major announcement and let everyone know the address where we’ll be opening.

From here, it’s a sprint. We’ve stacked our dominoes well and are now having a blast helping them tip one after the other. Just today, we received our Design & Development documents from our architect. We cannot wait to share more about the incredible brewery and tap room we’re bringing you. We’ve designed something completely unique that will immerse every one of you deeply into what True Respite really is.

Hang on to your hats, folks. This wild ride is just getting started.

 

Cheers!

Brendan & Bailey

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!!

Finding Home

We’d decided long ago that Montgomery County was going to be home for us. The people are wonderful, the cities and towns are beautiful and lively, and there is not nearly enough local beer to go around. What took some time to figure out, though, was where in Montgomery County we would finally set our roots. Each locale has its own charm and its own long list of pros.

Silver Spring is a dense, diverse city with very easy access to DC and a beer friendly attitude. The downtown area has also undergone a strong retail revitalization and that progress continues to this day, adding flavorful restaurants alongside fine art galleries as the city continues to define its culture.

Bethesda is a very clean community with a strong affection for local business. The continued success of Bethesda Row as a culinary and retail destination is a living testament to the sort of appreciation the city has for idiosyncratic businesses touting their wares.

But despite the clear pros for these other front runners, we have chosen Rockville to call our home.

Rockville Town Square

Rockville is the perfect balance of accessibility, affordability, and being an all around attractive place to live. Rockville’s beer scene is also flourishing of late with Gordon Biersch and 7 Locks anchoring the scene. We’re looking forward to contributing our own brand to the beer culture that is blossoming here as we continue to usher the craft beer revolution into Montgomery County.

This isn’t speculation or some passing dream. It’s real. It’s happening. We’ve signed a letter-of-intent on a property in Rockville. The only obstacles standing in the way now are completion of our fundraising round (which is very close to finishing) and approval of our loan application. Once these steps are complete, we’ll create a formal press release to announce the exact property we are moving into.

We are confident in our ability to complete these steps in a timely manner so that we can be serving the great residents of Montgomery County our beer before Summer 2017 arrives.

We look forward to serving you!

Cheers,

The True Respite Team

Homebrew Con 2016

In early June, Brendan took a weekend trip up to Baltimore to enjoy the American Homebrewers Association’s annual Homebrew Convention. The atmosphere was relaxed and social as beer geeks from across the country congregated in the Baltimore Convention Center to share beers, recipes, brew stories, and our general love for beer. We also took time to meander haphazardly through what seemed to be an endless assortment of vendor setups displaying cutting edge brewing equipment and technology. All around us, industry professionals were running live podcasts and the biggest names in craft beer greeted us with open arms. As a matter of fact, I happened to have met Randy Mosher as he was jumping off of a podcast at one booth in the vendor hall.

homebrewcon2016randymosher.jpg
Meeting Randy Mosher at Homebrew Con 2016

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head gave a great keynote speech and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan made a surprise cameo to officially announce that June 9-11 were to be known as Homebrewer’s Days in Maryland.

In the end, the team decided to purchase a Blichmann BrewEasy LTE 10 gallon turn key brewery for perfecting recipes and entering homebrew competitions. We’re looking forward to kicking out our favorite recipes to finally get them into the hands of our closest supporters (albeit in extremely limited volumes.) Maybe one of our next posts will have a few pretty pictures of brew day!

Cheers!

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:

image

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:

image

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:

image

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

When the Train Comes Off the Tracks

Sometimes life can feel like being the conductor on a train. These are very precious times. It takes a lot to derail a train. You’re driving full speed in the direction of your destination. Little bumps and pushes come and go, seemingly unfelt. Debris will fly in your way but you plow through. The train is practically invincible. It takes a force of nature to change its course.

That’s how Brendan and I felt in April of 2014 when we first began planning True Respite. We had a plan, we had a vision, we had a destination and we were plowing towards it, full speed ahead. Then in July of 2014 a true force of nature knocked that train over and we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get it back on track. I was pregnant.

We discovered the news four days after Brendan sat down with my family and explained that it was the worst possible time to have kids because we were opening a business. He calmly explained what we had already decided together: they would have to wait at least five years for grandkids. We wanted to give our all to both the brewery and our kids and therefore didn’t want to have any kids before the business took off and built momentum of its own. Little did we know that as he explained this, I was already 6 weeks pregnant.

Needless to say, the news came as quite a surprise. How would we make this work? How could we have a child while we’re trying to start a business? Can we manage the financial risk? What about the wellbeing of the child? What about our own wellbeing?

After much thought and toil, we decided not to let having a child stop us from pursuing our dreams of opening a brewery. Instead, we could keep pushing forward as if nothing had changed. So we did. (And as a personal side note, I will tell you that giving up beer for nearly 9 months is extra hard when almost all of your free time is spent planning to open a brewery!)

Then the most incredible thing in the world happened: Aidan William O’Leary was born on March 5, 2015, at 10:20 am, weighing 7 lbs, 2 oz and carrying the key to our hearts. There is nothing more exhilarating, more terrifying, or more beautiful than welcoming a child into this world. As of that moment, our entire view on life changed. Opening True Respite went from being our dream and passion to being a way to teach our son how to set goals, follow dreams, and nurture passions. Everything in life became more than it was before.

It all became far more difficult, too. Trying to care for a newborn was the hardest thing we have ever done. Brendan went back to work full time after one short week and I went back full time myself when Aidan was 12 weeks old. So there we were, both working full time as engineers, caring for a baby, and staying up late at night to write the business plan after Aidan went to sleep. It was tough. Sleep was a luxury we couldn’t afford if we were going to accomplish everything. We stayed up late to work on the brewery, woke up early to go work, and woke up multiple times a night for at least 6.5 months when Aidan needed us. It took a toll on us physically and emotionally, but we somehow found a way to power through. We wrote a full 140-page business plan, built and perfected our financial models, selected contractors, selected brew house equipment, met and secured our Brewmaster, and more. It’s amazing what you are capable of when you really, really want something.

This experience taught us so many things:

1) Having a kid and helping them grow is the most incredible thing we’ve experienced. Kids change everything but they are more than worth every hardship.

2) Motivation and drive is a powerful, powerful tool.

3) The train of your life really can’t be derailed unless you let it. Sure, powerful blows can become diversions on the track. They may take you to a new destination; sometimes close and sometimes very far from your original destination. But you always have the power to keep the train on the track.

It’s up to you, the conductor, to choose how you approach these diversions and how far you’re willing to travel “off course.” Sometimes the scenic route can be incredible. Other times, you just have to make sure you have your cattle guard installed.