(Note: Sarah Taylor Brigham, 32, is the owner of Sycamore Brewing along with her husband Justin.)
Looking back at my photographs from two years ago it’s hard to not get emotional.
In the moment, I never thought I would have sentimental feelings about the all-nighters spent at the brewery or Justin and I taking naps in shifts on a mattress in the office upstairs.
The bills were piling up and the timeline kept getting pushed further and further back. I had a constant knot in my stomach.
Had we made the right decision?
Were we right to risk everything for our dream?
The last few months of construction were manic. There were hundreds of decisions to be made daily in order to transform our building from an auto garage into an operational brewery. Money was tight and everything that Justin and I could do ourselves, we did in order to save money.
After over 24 months of work and preparation, the brewhouse arrived.
Justin’s recipes, which were designed for a five gallon pilot brewing system, were converted into 500 gallon batches on our brand new system.
After the brewhouse arrived, Justin and Jordy [the brewery operations manager] didn’t sleep solidly for five days while the kinks were worked out.
They kicked in hop boxes and used them as pillows on the concrete production floor.
There were endless issues to be worked through.
This was a highly stressful time.
But we were able to brew our first 6 beers for Sycamore: Winchester ESB, South Mountain Cream Stout, Lemongrass Blonde, Southerly OPA and Opening Day IPA.
Our Grand Opening was scheduled for November 1. We decided to host the event outside in the parking lot. The weather had been perfect all October and then the week before the event the forecast wasn’t looking good.
Rain, wind, cold.
I was able to scramble and find a large tent rental for our event. This was a several thousand dollar expense we weren’t anticipating, but we didn’t have a choice.
I remember Justin, Jordy, Andrew [head brewer] and the tent crew erecting the tent in the darkness through driving rain and gale-force winds. This wasn’t good.
The next day came; it was cold and windy but the rain had stopped.
I remember standing in that giant tent by myself early that morning thinking, was anyone going come?
Thank goodness they did.
Our grass-roots marketing campaign had worked and the turn-out was fantastic. It was a surreal day for Justin and I. The moment we’d been thinking, talking and dreaming about for years had become reality. People were at our brewery drinking our beer! Surreal!
Hundreds of batches and two years later, here we are.
It feels like we’ve come so far. We’ve learned so much and in many ways we have changed. We’re a little harder around the edges than when we got started back in 2013. We were so naive, so unaware of what it really meant to run a business like Sycamore.
Thank God for our unwavering optimism and our determination to make our dream a reality.
The growth has been staggering.
In our first year we quadrupled our production capacity, and this year we have officially maxed out production at our Hawkins Street facility. Our award winning lager — and my favorite beer — simply could not be produced because of the beer’s longer turn-around and our desperate need for tank space. Our packaged product necessarily took a back-seat to keep up with the demand of our taproom.
As far as we’ve come as partners and as business owners, we’re only just getting started.
Our next big venture is our production facility a 31,000-square-foot facility located in North End, which we’ve been working on behind the scenes for just under a year now. Our new brew house is able to make 16 times more beer a day than our current system and is 260 times bigger than Justin’s pilot system that got us started all those years ago.
The two year mark means so much to Justin and I and I hope you will join us in throwing down at our anniversary celebration on October 22, where we celebrate how far we’ve come in two years and where we’re heading next.