Member Stories: Trider's Craft Beer

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Turning a passion project into a full-time gig is never easy, but when you love what you do, the rewards can be worth the risks—just ask Joe Potter, owner of Trider’s Craft Beer.

We chatted with Joe about making the leap from brewing beer in his backyard, to bottling over 200 gallons in downtown Amherst, Nova Scotia. He tells us what it’s like to start a micro-brewery, what he’s learned so far, and how he’s standing out in the craft beer game.

A Trider's growler.

Q: What made you want to get into brewing beer?

A: I’ve always been a passionate home brewer and beer lover, but I started my career as lawyer here in Amherst. When the craft beer boom started to take off in Nova Scotia in 2015, I thought more seriously about opening my own brewery. It seemed like the right time to take a risk and go for it.

Q: What was it like making the transition from hobbyist to business owner?

A: In early 2016, we were brewing beer in a shed in my yard. Once we got serious about the brewery, we focused on getting the recipe down, building a plan, and getting the funding we needed—the funding was the big thing.

Those early days were scary and tricky. It took a lot of business planning and trying to poke holes in those plans—anticipating what could go wrong. We knew we had to get things off the ground before more breweries opened up. We wanted to be the first in Cumberland County.

Q: How did you get the funding you needed?

We had some private funding and worked closely with the Cumberland County Development Corporation and our local credit union. Because I grew up in Amherst, I knew most of the employees at the credit union. I was able to chat with them about the loan programs that were available and put together a plan that felt right for me. The credit union is our main bank now—the draw has always been the local thing. You know all of the decision making is being made right here by people you can trust.

Brewery equipment.

Q: How have you managed to grow the business?

Once we secured our funding, we were able to move from our yard to a warehouse. From there, we’ve been focused on slow, steady growth. We went from brewing 10 gallons a year to 200, and three employees to ten.

We started by selling to bars and restaurants in the Amherst area, which built up our support locally. Now we’re in 40 NSLCs and in bars and restaurants across Halifax. We’re hoping to expand into New Brunswick this fall.

Q: How is your product different from other craft beers on the market? How do you stand out?

We saw an opportunity for an easy drinking, approachable beer. Our beers are 4 or 5 per cent and not too hoppy. When we got our start, it was hard to find a fresh, local version of that kind of product. We’re all about being down to earth and approachable. Our beer is made for the customer.

A pint of Trider's.

Q: What have been the biggest challenges along the way?

A: The brewing part of the industry has always been what I’ve loved, but there’s no rule book for turning that into a business. You have to build your own. I’ve had to learn about sourcing raw materials and things like human resources, inventories, and payroll. You learn pretty quickly that there’s a lot more that goes into it on top of making your own beer. But once you figure it all out, there’s a great sense of accomplishment—and it gets easier as you go.

Q: Any advice for someone that’s thinking about starting their own small business?

A: Do your research and make sure it’s something you truly want to do. Starting a small business quickly consumes your whole life, so you have to ask yourself, “Do I want to do this 24/7?” You have to love what you do—and even if it doesn’t succeed at first, be willing to learn and try again.

The most important thing is to make sure you’ve created a financial plan and that you’re properly funded before you get started. It’s important to have a strong support system behind you and a team you can trust. You’ve got to tread carefully, but with passion!

Q: What’s the best part about being part of Atlantic Canada’s craft beer industry?

A: Craft breweries have become staples in Nova Scotian communities, and that’s an exciting thing. We’re small businesses, we’re entrepreneurial, and we’re good for the economy. We play a huge role in our communities, and those communities are giving back and continuing to choose local. It means we get to keep making great beer!

The best part about making a product in this industry is that I get to hear from my customers. When someone tells me they love my beer, I know I’m doing the right thing.