Tool Shed Brewery: Changing Laws & Fighting Trolls

Tool Shed BreweryTool Shed Brewing Company
Graham Sherman & Jeff Orr

Office Guardians: I will say that interviewing you guys is a big change from some of the past companies we have highlighted. Your company has such an interesting start, can you tell us how you got started? 

Tool Shed: We met while working on an IT and satellite communication project back in 2007. We connected over a love for taking our hobbies WAY too far and Tool Shed Brewing Company is the natural result of two good home brewing friends that took their favourite hobby further than most.

From it’s inception in Graham’s back yard tool shed, on a basic 5 gallon home-brew system, Tool Shed Brewing Company has always been destined for great things. We bring an obsessive love for great craft beer and high level of geekery to the craft of making it!

Everyone grew up being told to find something you love to do, and then find a way to make a career of it! We realized that almost every home-brewer who’s taken that first sip of their amazing, living, home-brewed creation has experienced that slight smirk break across their face as they continue to enjoy the craft of great beer while fantasizing about a lifelong career of bringing this beautiful creation to like minded people.

That is who we are.

Tool Shed BreweryOffice Guardians: Do you have any interesting stories of taking things too far?

Tool Shed: You wouldn’t believe how into coffee I am. I ordered an industrial coffee roster from Italy and had to change it all around to make it work in Canada. I could log into it outside my house! It was pretty crazy. BBQ is another one, we were the top 10! The BBQ will tweet you when the ribs will be done. Through an admin access link and you can log in and change the temp away from home. Just like brewing beer is so complex you can brew forever and still know nothing, I was built for these types of challenges.

“If it’s worth doing it’s worth going way too far for” 

Office Guardians: That is a really cool story. I imagine going from Tool Shed to Brewery was a large challenge. What has been the biggest road-block in making Tool Shed a reality?

Tool Shed: After we quit our jobs to go after our dreams we discovered that there was legislation in the province where you were not even allowed to apply to be a brewer (2013). There were 100+ breweries in BC; 120 in Ontario; and only 2 in Alberta. No one could go up against the legislations. So there I am, without a job, starting a company that is illegal in Alberta. I walked into the house and told my wife that I quit my job, “we don’t make money anymore we make beer.” (Side Note from OG: You’ve got a great wife!)

“There is a level of commitment that is out of control.” 

So we decided that we had to change that law! Alberta grows the best barley on the planet, but we can’t brew it?

We ended up driving to British Columbia, and found a Brewery that would allow us to import our beer back into Calgary. 2800KGs of Barley from Alberta to British Columbia and then beer back!

Fact: 10,000 Litres of Beer = 200 Kegs of beer.

We showed the government how out of date that law was. Now there are 5 times as many breweries in this province.

Tool Shed Brewery

Office Guardians: Your products have really cool names and the branding that you have chosen is exciting! What do you think will be your motivation for your next brew?

Tool Shed: “Handcrafted beer best served with a story” that is what beer is about. When you start making a beer it really connects great times with great people sharing great stories. To answer your question, our next brew, “Black Cap Stout” Jamie Gordon. With his passing, this is the way we have chosen to remember the inventor of craft canning.

Office Guardians: On your website you have said “Everyone grew up being told to find something you love to do, and then find a way to make a career of it!” Do you have any plans for the future with Tool Shed, to keep doing the thing you love and getting paid for it? (New direction or products?)

Tool Shed: We always find new ways to create this. I do every tour at the brewery because I love sharing my passion.
All the people that we have at Tool Shed are on their way to great big things. We know we are just a stop along the way to their great big journey. Help them to get to where they are going. Our head brewer wants to open her own brewery one day. How can we help her achieve her goal? We are so fortunate to follow our dreams and we have to share that with everyone around us.

Tool Shed BreweryOffice Guardians: Recently you fired one of your customers. This is a very bold move, especially in a downturn, when customers are few and far between. In this article you stand up for the small business in Alberta. Why did you decide to do this? How has this stance on internet trolls and ungrateful customers effected you?

“We have had a billion road blocks, but when you quit your job and find out that its illegal to do what you have set out to do there is no turning back.”  

Tool Shed: I decided to do this because I am a huge advocate for Social Media. I exist in a world where I spend $1 the big guys could spend a BILLION. I market in a different way because I am switched on, I watch.

When someone’s goal is to engage in a fight it drives me nuts. Why is it okay to say it on Social media? I think businesses are afraid to stand up because of the blow back. People are so scared of that, so no one says anything. “Hey man stop talking trash about AB beer because its phenomenal.”

The customer is not always right, so you can stand up and defend your business. The impact of a troll army attacking your business is surprisingly not that big.

In a very positive way, my Troll attach has become my most successful social media campaign ever. We had the top trending story Canada wide for 2 days. It didn’t matter how negative he was it was tremendously positive for us. Anyone who actually looks at it, you look at 1 start reviews, you look at the 150 1s, now you are intrigued and I linked the story and I raised the awareness with every review. The customer quickly realizes what happened. Not only did Trolls attack us, but we also stood up for Small business. 

Office Guardians: It seems like you do not shy away from controversy. If you were to start over would you be more or less controversial? Why?

Tool Shed: I don’t think I would do anything differently then I have already. Everything I do is very calculated. I don’t do things emotionally. The situations that weren’t perfect we learned so much and the great ones were so great.

We are one of the only breweries speaking out about the Tax change. The NDP did something to benefit my business and my family, so I a thanking them.

Office Guardians: What has been the best part about being a business owner and what is your biggest take away since you launched?

Tool Shed: 100% impact on the community around me. You think it’s about us in life and then, wait! It’s not about me anymore. You start a business because you want to do what you want to do and then you have people who depend on you. If you can do something that benefits those around you, you sleep well at night. 10,000 people today may try my beer; maybe 9,000 people really loved it. I MADE 9,000 people happy today!! What a great feeling!

“People thinking about starting a business come on my tours and hear my passion. SO many people have started their dreams because they have heard my story.”

Office Guardians: Your beer was used on TV for a recipe, what would you say is the best beer recipe and which one from your line up would you select to cook with?

Tool Shed: They asked me to bring IPA and some of the hops to work on a salmon recipe. But our BBQ Red Rage for BBQ reduce to a sweetener, braising a pork shoulder in Red Rage is also unbelievable! Want the recipe? Ask on the Tool Shed Facebook Page 

Thank You Tool Shed Brewery


Office Guardians would like to say a big thank you to Graham & Jeff for taking part in this month’s business profile. Please take a second and connect with them and Tool Shed Brewery online today!

Twitter: toolshedbeer
Calgary Herald:
Email: moc.gniwerbdehslootnull@olleh

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