“One thing led to another, I guess, and the hobby just kind of grew into a monster,” says Mark.
He says this from a barn in Cherry Hill on Highway 331. If an unsuspecting driver were cruising along that road, she or he might miss Hell Bay Brewing Company, the micro or craft brewery, which opened in April 2011.
Last week the open sign, a flag visible from the road, was rolled up because the business is not open on weekdays. The answering machine, though, tells callers to leave a message if they’d like to drop by outside regular business hours.
The room where Mark and his wife Melanie make their microbrew is small. That’s why the two would like to expand and relocate their business to Liverpool.
“Here we’re limited with space, and the utilities are limited – the power, septic, water and all that,” Mark says.
The plan is to have a storefront where customers would be able to sample and buy Hell Bay’s beer. Melanie and Mark will also distribute to local bars and restaurants. In Queens County, Hell Bay Brewing Company distributes its beer to Lane’s Privateer Inn.
Books, the Internet, and a lot of trial and error.
That’s how Mark learned to brew beer. Since learning, he’s spoken with professional brewers and would like to take a course when he has the time.
Malt, hops, water and yeast. Those are the main ingredients in Hell Bay’s beer, unless it’s a specialty brew.
The first thing that happens is the malt gets crushed and put in a tank with hot water.
“Pretty much steep it like tea, and that will convert the starches to sugars,” says Mark.
After about an hour, the mixture goes into a boil kettle and stays in the kettle for about an hour as well. Hops then goes in the kettle to give the beer its bitter flavour.
Mark says he has about 20 varieties of hops.
After the beer is taken out of the kettle, it cools down and goes in a fermenter.
“And that’s cooled down to about 20 degrees Celcius, and then we add the yeast to that, and then the yeast will eat all that sugar that we just converted, and that will produce alcohol and give off C02 as well,” says Mark.
After about three weeks the beer is ready to be bottle.
One of the challenges in terms of establishing the brewery was getting financing.
“We went through South Shore Opportunities,” Mark says.
They also worked with Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). The organizations helped them not only with financing but also the business plans.
Another challenge is keeping up.
“Drinking a nice cold beer at the end of the day,” says Mark.
That’s one of the more satisfying parts of the job. The other satisfactions would be selling and having people enjoy their beer, he says.
Melanie and Mark hope to begin the work for their expansion in January.
“We probably wouldn’t even be brewing until sometime in February, so the first batch probably wouldn’t be out until March,” he says.