Firehall Brewery looking to expand with crowdfunding campaign

The Firehall Brewery in Oliver has nearly reached its goal get the doors open on a beer shop next to the brewery and restaurant.

A crowdfunding campaign is inching ever closer to helping a landmark Oliver brewery create its very own beer shop.

Brew Chief at Firehall Brewery, Sid Ruhland, launched the Kickstarter campaign on his birthday, March 15.

It has been a learning process as much as a fundraiser for Ruhland and Firehall Brewery, discovering crowdfunding and familiarizing the community with the process.

“I didn’t even know about the Kickstarter webpage a year ago, so I’m totally part of that small-town citizen crowd,” Ruhland said.

Six months ago the campaign was being seriously considered, and at the beginning of 2016 Ruhland and his crew decided to pull the trigger.

“There’s not really much to lose, other than time, and I guess if we didn’t hit our target there’s a certain amount of shame I suppose, embarrassment,” Ruhland laughed. “We knew that if the campaign didn’t go through we would be opening a shop anyways, but it would have been much slower, piece by piece.”

Since the Firehall Brewery opened it has essentially been a wholesale operation, with an initial attempt at a retail portion smaller than the average bathroom Ruhland said.

“It didn’t make sense for our business at that time. Now that we’re brewing a lot more, we’ve got more tanks and fermenters, we’re able to expand a bit and properly have a space to interface with the public.”

If the campaign is successful and the beer shop is realized, there is going to be a separate door from the restaurant on the exterior of the building where bottles of Firehall brews will be available for purchase and a draft tap ready to pour tasters, pints and fill growlers.

April 15 is the deadline in the all-or-nothing campaign. When the Western News spoke with Ruhland the campaign was hovering around $9,500 raised with 145 backers, as of press time Firehall is less than $1,000 away from their $12,232 goal.

Ruhland said he’s familiar with most of the backers due to the size of the Oliver community.

“In a small town even if you’re not friends with everybody you at least know friends of friends, but there are a few people I don’t know from Kelowna and elsewhere, which is always neat to see,” Ruhland said.

Exclusive merchandise including Firehall Brewery decals are going to be awarded to backers should the campaign be successful, and every contributor gets to sign an oak barrels table that will be situated in the shop. Pledge $10 or more and you get to “slap the Brew Chief’s ass, once,” and Ruhland promises not to sue. Other rewards to contributors include a 20 oz. Firehall Brewery mug, Back Alley Concert Series tickets, a professional photo shoot and more.

Ruhland was cautiously optimistic they would achieve their goal while the campaign was close hitting the $10,000 mark.

“I know there’s a honeymoon phase, and we saturated social media. You start running out of people,” Ruhland said, adding he planned to go door-to-door talking to business owners.

The goal is the minimum needed to get a draft system in the shop, a sink and a fridge.

“It leaves no budget for building the bar that we’re going to need, getting furniture, signage. It’s really the bare minimum and it takes into account the cost of the rewards that we’re going to be sending out,” Ruhland said. “It will be important to go as much as possible past the minimum.”

The beer shop is the perfect fit for what Ruhland calls “wasted space.” It will be an easy transition.

“There’s a lot to do with opening a shop that normally would take way longer, like getting a license and that sort of thing,” Ruhland said.

Fortunately the space already has a license attached to it, prior to opening of the brewery, there was just no way to use it at the time. Changes in legislation have put Firehall in a good position to use the space, as breweries are now able to have shop space as well. The area will be poised to operate a smaller scale musical performance space and will find a spot for a record player to indulge in Firehall’s collection of vinyl.

“As the liquor laws relax, it’s really enabled us to use this license we previously couldn’t use,” Ruhland said. “All we have to do apply for more insurance, hire a shopkeeper or two and get the draft system in here.”

Those looking to contribute can visit the Kickstarter page: www.kickstarter.com/projects/firehallbrewery/firehall-brewery-beer-shop-and-social.