33 Acres Brewery is Vancouver-based doer-of-great-things Josh Michnik’s third venture, which opened just six-odd months ago. We thought the space was so terrific that we threw our issue 41 launch there last month. After the party we had a chat with Josh about how he’s so good at keeping his shit together.
Did you start 33 Acres so you and your friends could drink great beer for free?
More or less… oh and so I could make a whole warehouse floor white. As unpractical as that actually is.
So far, what has the neighborhood’s reaction been?
Its been great! The area is growing quickly and lots of new business is in the area. They seemed stoked to have a local brewery in the neighbourhood and actually get to know there local brewer.
Do you have a regular drunkard yet?
We have regulars for sure. Our tasting lounge stays pretty mellow to be honest. Everyone is laid back, it’s a more mature crowd. A place to relax after work, not so much for the type that likes shots. Its more of a place to come before you get to that point.
Any good stories of tossing people out of the bar?
Nah, we don’t sell liquor.. a lot mellower here.
Simplified, how is beer made?
Easy… Water, Yeast, Hops, Grain, mash that all together in some tanks + time = beer. Usually the more time the better the beer.
Did you know beforehand how to make beer or was it something you learned for the business?
My brewmaster has been brewing beer in a production environment for 15 years. Myself I’m learning, I’ll get there. I learnt how to build a brewery from scratch though. This was a pretty big challenge not having any experience in the industry. I’ve learnt tons on the general contracting side of things.
Why growlers? Where are they produced?
Growlers are the cheapest, freshest and most environmental conscious way to get your beer. Our ceramic growlers are handmade for us in Portland, Oregon. We can’t keep them in stock. People love them.
The space is very simple. Who designed it?
I designed everything. The brand, the space, the furniture inside the space, and of course the business model. Its been a hectic 2.5 years of my life but its been worth the sacrifices I’ve had to make. My friends and family have helped me make this project a reality, with out there help it wouldn’t exist.
What was there beforehand?
It used to be a metal fabrication shop. Lots of heavy machinery to make diamond cutting blades for cutting concrete and what not. It was filthy. We brought it right down to only 4 walls and a roof. We redid everything ourselves.
Does the drinking age being 19 help your business or just make for less-experienced drunks?
We don’t get a ton of 19 year olds. They’re only looking to get drunk, not experience great tasting craft beer. Hopefully this will change with the amount of local breweries opening in Vancouver. Educating people is our goal.
There were 18 breweries opening in Vancouver in 2013; what would you equate this rapid influx to?
Only 3 actually opened. 2014 will bring a lot more. Its a very tough thing to do in Vancouver. There is a lot of red tape to open a business like this. I have a lot of respect for people who take the leap to open a business they are passionate about. There are a lot of people passionate about beer in BC, this is where the majority of new breweries are coming from. They believe in a local fresh product. This is happening in more industries then just beer. Been to a farmers market lately?
You sold your ’73 Triumph to pay for the cold room! What other sacrifices have you made?
My health mainly. I’m sure the amount of stuff I’ve breathed in construction-wise through-out this project will take a few years off my life. Surfing. I used to surf a ton. Since starting this project I’ve gone months with out a surf. I’m finally getting back into the water now, which has allowed me to start thinking clearly again.
You said before that you had worked on another project that was a community-based space. Can you tell me more about how you came up with that idea and how it turned out?
The project was called This Space. We took a empty retail unit and asked the surrounding community to vote on every aspect of building a business in the space. Starting from a simple question. “Do you want a retail store, a restaurant or a local service in this space?” to as little as, what should the name be. It was a extremely interesting project. We ended up building a little cafe / local viagrapillnow grocer called Harvest Community Foods based completely on what the community wanted. I came up with the idea after a week of ramming my head against the wall trying to figure out what would be a good fit for the neighbourhood. My business partner in the project purchased it a few months prior and didn’t really know what he wanted to do in it. I said give me a week and I’d come up with something. The night before I had to pitch him, I was so frustrated and couldn’t think what would work in the community. My wife said, frustrated watching me out of the blue, “I wish there was a way you could just ask the community”. She sparked the idea in my head. As soon as I heard her say that I stayed up all night writing a plan on how we could actually do just that. Its been open almost two years now!
You’re so young and this is your third business. Who’s influenced you the most?
My Father. He’s worked very hard his whole life. I’ve learnt my extreme work ethic from him. I’m addicted to proving people wrong. When they say I can’t do something it fuels me. My dad, as awesome as he is always says, “No” when asked a question. No matter what, even if he thinks its a good idea. So I always had to prove my case to him from an early age.
Any advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs?
Things always cost double and you’ll always earn 1/2 of what you think. Remember that and if the business still makes sense, then do it. Don’t be delusional.
Do you ever have time to surf? Where’s your go-to spot?
I’m finding more time now that the brewery is open. I feel a bit guilty, but fuck anyone that doesn’t get it. I’m in love with the South Island (Vancouver Island). The crowds are getting a bit intense these days, but you still manage to get days where its overhead and glassy with only 3 other guys out. Actual South Island spot would be, zipper-mouth creek.
Quick, one sentence to describe Toronto’s mayor, Rob Ford.
I’ll leave this one to one of our guys Jon Dewald; he’s the political one of the group. “A sad, unhealthy addict, that needs more help and less attention.”