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

Scary Stories to Tell in the Bright Light of Day

When we were younger, we used to tell a lot of scary stories. For the best effect, we’d tell them in the dark and be sure to include tales of vicious monsters and mysterious creatures of the night. There was always this sense of terror that something like ManWolf might one day snatch us from our tents and sneak us to his lair under the bushes. Fortunately, alongside that fear was the comforting notion that at least our parents might be able to protect or save us. They were practically super heros, after all!

Those stories don’t scare us so much anymore. Our reason tells us that ManWolf is no more real than vampires, goblins, or zombies. But as entrepreneurs, the terror never really left; it has only changed form. Here we stand just 16 days away from closing on the sale of our home in Denver, CO, to move out to Washington D.C. We are taking this huge leap of faith for one simple goal: The pursuit of our dreams. We’re leaving stable, lucrative jobs in a city we love to chase the dream of owning and operating a brewery without the promise of income or any other small measure of success.

This is true fear: We’re putting just about everything we own on the line with the belief that this venture will turn enough of a profit to enable us to provide a roof and food for our family. The idea of this is romanticized in Hollywood and rooted deeply in this concept that is the American Dream. Let us tell you from experience: It’s far more romantic in story books and movies than it is in real life.

As of May 26th, 2016, we will no longer be covered by employer sponsored health insurance. On May 31st, we will not have a permanent address. On June 3rd, our final paycheck will be deposited into our bank account. We have no jobs waiting for us. We have no promise of income or healthcare. All we’ll have is the generous offer to live rent free in Brendan’s parents’ house for a year while we sort this all out. There is something truly humbling about accepting that sort of gracious offer from one’s parents long after having moved out and built an independent life–especially when married with a child.

While it all sounds crazy, we believe in one simple thing: We will succeed. That doesn’t stop us from being absolutely terrified as we take these concrete steps to move forward without any real certainty on what the future holds. But through our work ethic, through our dedication, and through our willingness to sacrifice the comfort that so many hold dearly, we truly believe we will be successful. We will create a brewery that connects with our customers. We will create a brand that proudly displays our culture and our values. We will create a product that makes our customers proud to be regular patrons. We will create a business that is profitable, sustainable, and that fulfills our personal dreams. We will succeed.

You, as our customers, deserve it. We, as entrepreneurs, will earn it. Together, we believe that these sacrifices and this fear will not have been in vain. Together, we’ll create something much greater than ourselves. And for that, all of this fear and sacrifice is worth it.

UPDATE (5/24/2016): We recently got some great news that helps quell a small amount of the terror in this scary story–Bailey was offered a work-from-home position with her current company, allowing us to move to DC and keep our health insurance and her income while we continue to pursue our last investors! This takes a massive weight off of our shoulders and makes this adventure slightly less scary. It’s amazing how quickly change happens in this world of the unknown!

What’s In A Name?

We are True Respite Brewing Company. We weren’t always, though…

Way back when, we started with a whole lot of enthusiasm and a heck of a name: Rebellion Brewing Company. It was a strong word with historic ties to the region. It was symbolic in the fight against boring pale macrobrew. In a word, it was perfect. The vision for the brand was clear—we even had a pretty neat logo:

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Sure, some brewery out in California had brewed a beer under that name a few times. But after all, it was just the name of one beer; not an entire brewery. We felt confident we’d be able to work out some sort of agreement with the owner and we’d both move on our happy ways. Boy, were we naïve. You may also have noticed that this crest proudly announces that we were established in Loudoun County, VA, in 2015. That, in and of itself, is a story for another day. In the end, the biggest hypothetical headline resulting from our first foray into branding was: “Rookie Entrepreneurs Burst Their Way into Multimillion Dollar Branding Hell.”

Before we get further into this story, we’d like to clarify that the following sequence of events was only what we understood from a couple verbal encounters with a primary stakeholder in this story. We have not verified the extent to which these storylines outside of our own team did or did not happen. We just know that we became very scared of stepping on some rather large toes…

Let’s start from the beginning. Long ago, Bear Republic Brewing Company began experimenting with various single hop IPAs under the name “Rebellion.” Under this name, they brewed IPAs where they kept the same malts but varied the hop varietal to showcase the different flavor and scent profiles of their various hops. What they didn’t do, originally, was trademark the name. It wasn’t until early 2014 that Bear Republic finally submitted the formal paperwork to take full ownership of their beer’s trade name.

Along came Boston Beer Co. (a.k.a. Sam Adams.) In a move of strength, Boston Beer flooded the market with a new beer called “Rebel IPA” without discussing with Bear Republic or filing for a trademark. Instead, using their new market share as evidence that the “Rebel” brand and trademark should rightfully belong to them, they brought suit against Bear Republic for trying to trademark the word “Rebellion.” Curious, is it not? “Rebellion” and “Rebel” are not even the same word. How far can a brand reach? Does trademarking the singular of a collective thereby trademark the collective as well? If I trademark “Zombie,” do I also have the right to “Horde?” And what about Bear Republic? They’d been using the name for years before Boston Beer flooded the market with their own version.

Meanwhile, Bear Republic had apparently been working some form of a branding or distribution deal with LucasArts via Disney. Obviously, as new owners of the Star Wars franchise, Disney had special interest in the word “Rebellion” specifically, and as such, may have been willing to back the legal efforts of Bear Republic to protect the trademark. What resulted was a multi-million dollar legal Mexican Standoff as we at True Respite more or less walked into the saloon with a loaded six-shooter and one really bad attitude.

The threats flowed like sweat and tequila and we ditched our request to share the word so fast our spurs left scorch marks under the swinging saloon doors. We imagine the faint smell of burnt hickory lingered for weeks. That wasn’t our fight.

It left us in a bit of a hole, though, as we realized we had not only lost our brand but that the availability of any name for a brewery or beer was now a possible source of litigation even if the exact word hadn’t been used before. As a fledgling startup with naught but an idea, we wouldn’t have one hundredth of the cash needed to protect ourselves in court. We had to find something that had never been done before in any form or fashion.

Foolishly, we first considered The Holiday Brewing Company. Sure, Christmas Ale was a seasonal style, but nobody can claim a trademark to a style, right? Well—except that time Lagunitas tried suing Sierra Nevada over their IPA lettering. Or the fact that Full Sail claims ownership of “Session” despite the popularity of “sessionable” styles in the craft scene. So we already recognized we were on potentially rocky ground. Then, almost prophetically, one gentleman in Pennsylvania stumbled across our information and informed us that he and his partner(s) had already intended to open Holiday Brewing Company in… where else… Hollidaysburg, PA. Although they were more friendly, in the end, we passed on that brand. It was clearly far too risky.

At this point, we were bitter. No—we were angry. How could our brewing brothers and sisters be so selfish and so shamelessly aggressive? Where was the camaraderie and the “us vs the big guys” mentality that we witnessed as customers to the craft beer industry? We took that disdain straight to brand town: Odium Brewing Company. To us, it sounded regal and epic. It had an old world feel to it, almost like a Roman colosseum. It felt big, bold, and dangerous. After all, it meant “extreme dislike or hatred as a result of someone’s actions.” It was retaliatory. It was deliciously disobedient. “No bullies allowed,” would be our defiant motto.

Our friends and family, however, overwhelmingly hated it and repeatedly told us, “that doesn’t fit you at all,” and, “it sounds like odious. Gross.” In the end, we decided they were right. We had let the negative nancies out there drive us into trying to be something we’re not. We love beer because of the culture of beer drinkers. We love beer because it lets us escape into a relaxing place where flavor profiles and ingredient origins are all that matter. Rather than letting the big bad guys win, we had to persevere and be true to ourselves. We knew we could breed the originality we needed to create a strong brand that truly represented us and our values. And finally, we did that:

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True Respite is wholly ours. The word “Respite” doesn’t even exist elsewhere in the brewosphere. Somehow, we managed to put our heads together and collectively scour the English language for an available word that really captured our spirits and our vision for a communal tap room where the most pressing issue is what style to order next. The keyhole at the center of our brand represents the gateway to that relaxing environment. Now, we are the proud owners of the “True Respite” brand, and we are very excited to continue on our way as we bring you, Montgomery County, MD, another great chapter in the storied history of DC beer.

Cheers!!!