B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Posts Tagged ‘pub

The Next Wave: Darby’s Pub

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Darby's Pub taster glass with Red Racer LagerTransforming an established neighbourhood pub is not an easy thing to do. In fact, if serving up the old formula brings in enough bums on seats throughout the week to make a bit of a profit (because the real money is in the attached cold beer & wine store), then why change? Change may upset the apple cart, annoying your macro-drinking staff and alienating your bread and butter – the regulars whose habits the staff know well enough that they automatically deliver what is wanted. Why take a risk by throwing a monkey wrench in that well-honed machine that has taken a lot of time and money to develop?

You know you’ve walked into one of these places when you have a déjà vu experience that teleports you back to the eighties, only there is no shine on the brass, the floor coverings are looking well-worn, the furniture has stains and nicks, the walls have tape residue from old posters, and there’s a certain stale smell that seems to follow around post-50-year-old blue collar bachelors. You may see a number of the latter who have made the establishment their surrogate living room because it offers the basic things they seek to satisfy them – cheap beer, fried food, women to serve them without complaining, sports on the TV, and companions to argue over sports and politics with. And if the establishment truly does function as a neighbourhood pub, they will turn to look at you, wondering what sort of force you represent to their social oasis.

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The Next Wave: Pumphouse Pub

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Bear Republic Long Table dinner at the Pumphouse Pub (l to r: Norm Eng, Tom Orange, Rob Angus of Beerthirst and Chef Daniela Iaci, Micah Noble, Tony Iaci of Pumphouse Pub)

Think of a neighbourhood pub in BC and it’s usually not that difficult to predict what you’re going to find – a wide selection of industrial lager, lots of fried food, a pool table, and televisions. They largely follow a cookie cutter business model that offers Joe Average some macho time with the mates during the week, away from the wife and kids. Come the weekend, it’s time to take the missus out for a little treat of sweet drinks, spinach salad, and live music, maybe splurge a bit on Keno for a chance to take that trip to Vegas or Maui on the winnings.

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SYWTOABP: Writing a Business Plan

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This may not be the final post in the series, but writing a business plan is one of the key steps necessary to opening a brew pub or starting most any business.  You need the business plan to apply for financing or perhaps to secure a lease or even a key permit or license.  Writing a business plan is work.  A great amount of time can be spent refining a business plan and more business plans get written than get financed.

Writing an entire business plan was never a goal of this blog series, but providing some of the numbers, resources, and information that goes into a business plan was among the goals.  I found a pub business plan posted online that was made available for free, specifically to help others open a bar.  Brewing beer was not part of this business plan.  It is dated but with the exception of including brewing as part of the operations and brewmaster among the key staff it has all the major sections you can expect to see in the average business plan.

It is still available on the forum I found it, but I also put a copy on WordPress.com to ensure that it remains available as long as this blog is online. The numbers are mostly all there, but need to be revised and adapted for the new decade and British Columbia.  Part of that work was done by me in my big spreadsheet post.  I thought we should look at the major sections of an actual business plan and the information they should contain. Potential investors and funders will want answers and if you don’t even know the questions, you will look foolish in a key meeting that may determine the future of your dream.

You can’t anticipate every question, but the most important questions such as the experience of the team, the depth of the market and industry research, the veracity of the sales forecasts, the details of the startup costs, these can be researched and written up prior to any important meetings.
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New Irish Heather Officially Opens

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Irish pipers pipe the spirit of the old Irish Heather across the street over to the new on its official opening on September 29, 2008 (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Irish pipers pipe the spirit of the old Irish Heather across the street over to the new on its official opening on September 29, 2008 (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Guinness brewmaster, Fergal Murray, arrived in Vancouver from Dublin on Monday, September 29, to officially open the new Irish Heather.

Publican, Sean Heather, started off the ceremony with a few words of welcome and introduced Murray who noted it was a rare opportunity to attend a pub opening.

Heather then had two pipers pipe the spirit of the old Irish Heather across the street to the new; toasts were made; and the Irish Heather was officially opened.

The pub was packed with friends, regulars, and local food industry types. Guinness was freely flowing as staff brought out food samples from the menu. Musicians and the pipers provided musical entertainment for a festive atmosphere.

While some are nostalgic for the ambiance of the old Irish Heather and have misgivings about the new location, I think they will eventually come around. The decor is entirely appropriate for Gastown—warm with a sense of the past, yet incorporating contemporary stylistic elements that dispel any mustiness. It just may need a bit of time for the construction smells to dissipate and the furnishings to get a more lived-in look for the reluctant to be converted.

Written by BCbrews

October 1, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Irish Heather Reborn

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I popped into the new Irish Heather on Friday to check out their new digs as the final touches were being rendered. I was very impressed with the clean lines of the interior which gave it a sense of modernity, while the brick and dark wood lent a warm, historic feel a la Gastown. (See Andrew Morrison’s video on urban diner.)

Most newsworthy for this column, however, is that they are the first establishment in Vancouver to offer cask ale daily. Red Devil Pale Ale, dry-hopped with Centennial, is being served from a traditional beer engine that R & B will be supplying continuously. I joined R & B’s Barry Benson, Rick Dellow, and Aly Tomlin in savouring the first pulled pints.

There’s no current plan to offer other styles of beer. However, customer demand could influence this — e.g. if enough people ask for cask-conditioned Auld Nick in winter, we may just get it. It’s also nice to see a couple of B.C. craft taps in addition to the Kronenbourg, Strongbow, and Irish imports — Howe Sound Rail Ale and Phillips Phoenix Gold.

Competition in the neighbourhood also seems to be having some effect. The Alibi Room, Six Acres, and Boneta have quality beer lists. Consequently, the Irish Heather’s bottle list has substantially improved:

Lager: Czechvar, Okanagan Spring 1516, Paddock Wood Czech Mate, Rogue Kell’s Irish Lager

Wheat: Mill Street Wit, Pyramid Apricot, Pyramid Crystal, Rogue Morimoto Soba

Ales: Fish Tale Organic Amber, Mill St. Tankhouse Ale, Newcastle Brown, Pike Kilt Lifter, Pike Naughty Nellie, Rogue Juniper, Sleeman Honey Brown, Tin Whistle Killer Bee

Bitters & IPA: Brooklyn IPA, Pyramid Thunderhead IPA, Rogue Brutal Bitter

Dark Beer & Stouts: Fish Tale Poseidon Imperial Stout, Paddock Wood Black Cat, Rogue Shakespeare Stout

Bottle Fermented: Brooklyn 1, Unibroue Ephemère

All beer can be ordered in the Irish Heather, Salt, and the Salty Tongue. As there is something for all tastes, hopefully it will encourage more people to try beer with their food. How successful they are will depend on whether or not the servers will take the time to educate the neophytes.

I’m looking forward to going back and trying the new menu. My only hesitation is in the execution of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. My experience at the last St. Paddy’s in their old location was of glacial service and substandard food. I think this will only improve if there is an adequate ratio of staff to guests — either limit the number of patrons or have more staff on.

Loud Music = Heavier, Faster Drinking

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If you go into a bar or pub that plays loud music, do you find that you drink more?

A French professor of behavioral sciences at the Université de Bretagne-Sud concluded from research conducted in two bars that louder music leads patrons to drink more in a shorter period of time. This may be due to two reasons:

  • lounder, faster music leads to higher arousal which causes faster drinking
  • loud music interferes with social interaction; patrons talk less, so they drink more

While the study is not scientific, anecdotally, I am inclined to agree with the conclusions. The effects of music on human behaviour has been extensively studied. It has been shown that appropriate music can create a mood that may make people more inclined to buy something than if it were inappropriate or completely absent.

While this might be a good thing for bar owners, Professor Guéguen rightly points out that it can lead to greater problems with drinking and driving. Therefore, he would like to see owners turn down the music to moderate patrons’ drinking.

In pubs, this is not the only problem. In ‘The blanding of Britain: The murder of the English pub‘ in the Daily Mail, author Paul Kingsnorth described the forces at work in Britain that are leading to the decline of the pub as a social focal point. One of those is the spread of vertical drinking establishments that:

…have no chairs (the more you sit, the slower you drink), few tables or flat surfaces (if you can’t put your glass down, you’re likely to drink faster), and music so loud you can’t hear yourself speak (so you drink instead).

The article contains a staged promotional photo of one of these places that is rather unrealistic because the place would normally be so loud that socializing of the sort depicted might only be possible when the place is slow. Even then, I’ve been in Hugo’s in Victoria when there were only about ten people in the place, including the staff, and the music was mind-numbing. If you tried carrying on a conversation for a period of time, your voice would definitely be hoarse the next morning.

What the photo in the Daily Mail article also shows is that everyone is young. They are of the age where there is a tendency towards excessive drinking. I was certainly that way when I was their age. Go down to Vancouver’s Granville entertainment district on a weekend and you’ll see the same. If you go into one of the vertical drinking establishments on the strip, you may find that they carry strictly mass market beer (predominantly lager) and typically offer it to you in the bottle — not a good way to appreciate a beer.

Perhaps I’m getting old. But if I want to enjoy a beer, I want to do so in a relaxed atmosphere amongst my friends with the music adding ambience in the background. If I want to go dancing, I don’t mind loud, pulsating music as long as the club has a place where you retreat to chat with your partner and not have to yell at them. A fixation on profit maximization puts both in peril.

Written by BCbrews

July 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm