There’s nothing more rewarding than handing someone a pint of your beer and seeing the look on their face.
— Joel Gregory
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This is Joel Gregory.

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Joel is a really nice guy.

Joel is about to start a really awesome brewery with a really awesome mission. 

In Portland, Oregon.

Which is here

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He's calling his brewery "Ex Novo Brewing" because his brewery is being built from scratch, or "from new", as it were. A humble start to be sure.

The Brew Enthusiast wanted to know a little more about Joel and his new brewery. So we asked him about it.

TBE: So…who are you?

JG: Well, I’m Joel Gregory. I'm not from the beer industry originally and I moved to Portland 6 years ago. I’ve only lived out west. I sort of came out to Portland and dove right into the city and the brewing industry. I'm an electrical engineer by schooling and gave that a run for 6 years, but never could really get into it. During that time I worked my way through all the great west coast beers, Ninkasi, Laurelwood, Boneyard, Stone etc. I started homebrewing about 3 years back, and jumped into that hot and heavy. Spent my days dreaming up beer recipes instead of working, which furthered my interest in the brewing industry. Whenever we found ourselves in a pub, there was always something nice about having a beer and talking about our lives. That, coupled with the unrest about my job, inspired me to move forward with the idea of a brewery. I was laid off almost a year ago, and that was the prime impetus for me to get involved with this project. There are a lot of great craft beers in Portland, but I really wanted to establish a place of my own. There's nothing more rewarding than handing someone a pint of your beer and seeing the look on their face.

TBE: Who is on the founding team?

JG: All the directors outlined on our site are sitting in an advisory role. We're all buddies and we meet once a month to hash out the details and review our progress. They help out on a volunteer basis (because they all have full time jobs), and work in various industries that can really contribute to our breweries success. To start, it'll just be our head brewer and I hitting the road. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m sure we can make it.

TBE: Speaking of your head brewer, who is he and how did you find him?

JG: I’m really excited about us finding Ian Greene. He's working in Norway right now, making award-winning beer and really pushing the brewing scene, but will back over here to brew for us full time shortly. Before going over to Norway, he worked at Boneyard Brewing in Bend, Oregon, taking on a really hands-on role for them. He worked at Stone before that. Being a head brewer is a really interesting job and Ian has a 10-barrel system to work with here at Ex Novo. He can really take creative control of the type of product that we’ll put out as a brewery. His passion and creativity really has shown in his work and I’m stoked to see him go at it for us.

TBE: How did you come up with the concept of a non-profit brewery?

JG: I was looking at the non-profit sector for a while, and some organizations that I worked with previously in different capacities. I asked around about what they do to raise money. Turns out they typically spend most of their time raising money instead of fulfilling their mission, so selling something in a sustainable business model makes sense if we want to support these causes. We'll pay ourselves enough to make a living, and get people excited about the beer we're brewing. Portland loves breweries and mission-driven organizations, so why not capture those core values at once?

TBE: What do investors like about this idea?

JG: Initially they loved the idea of a non-profit brewery. That said, we're not a non-profit that makes beer...we're a brewery that will make high quality beer and also donate to great causes. It’s a fundamental change in how we’re framing the business.

TBE: How are you going to do all this with a two-person team?

JG:  A lot of people who start breweries want to run everything. Beer recipes, fundraising, finances, kitchen, marketing, legal, etc. I'm laid back and I'm not a control freak. I know how to delegate and I want to build a team around me that can make their own decisions and take ownership of the business. We’ll do our best to get rolling, but would like to bring on a few dedicated people to help us as we move along.

TBE: Biggest pain point in starting this brewery?

JG: People don't like turning their property into breweries. They love the concept and the industry, but it's pretty high-impact on the building, and some people get skittish. We just walked away from a deal a few days ago because we couldn't hammer out the terms. It's more complex than I thought and finding good leads is tough. We've got another property coming up that looks promising. The rest of the stuff is going to seem easy after this.

TBE: We’re seeing a lot of brewery collaborations lately. Are you going to collaborate with any other breweries to get yourself started?

JG: I'm totally down with collaborating with other breweries. As soon as Ian and I can hammer out suppliers and recipes, I'd love to work on that concept, even before we open our doors. Hopefully we can create our own recipes that people love, but this is a community product and there's a lot of great opportunities out there.

TBE: Any particular sort of beer you're going to focus on?

JG: I've got staples that I like, and some great northwest styles that I love brewing. But we have to hit it out of the park here in Portland, with all the great beers in this town. People know good beer around here. We'll probably rotate the line-up every few months with a few year-round staples. A lager on tap year-round is something I’d like to do as well. We’ve tossed around some ideas for a few different IPA’s and a Saison as well, I think Ian will create some things that have never been done before.

TBE: Launch date?

JG: Barring any major location setbacks, we're still on track for mid May launch. We’re going to work on it as hard as we can to get it there on schedule.

TBE: Anything else? 

JG: We’re really excited to get this going! We’ve had a lot of support out there so far and I think the community will really get behind an idea like this.

 

So now that you're totally involved with Ex Novo Brewing and their mission (like us), you should probably go check them out yourself. Donate to their mission. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

 

And look at their video too.

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Published January, 2014.