The Lean Mean Shebeen Team

I walked into the brewery on a Thursday morning before the tap room opened. Justin, Alyssa, and Casey sat around comfortably in the space, wearing Shebeen gear. They threw ideas back and forth to each other, and it felt more like walking into someone’s living room than a workplace. They asked me if I wanted a beer, and we started talking about all things Shebeen.

I spent nearly two hours talking to the crew about life, beer, and the intersection of both things. What makes this team work so well is a unifying belief in teamwork, beer, and pursuing your dreams.

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The Brew Master, Rich has assembled a young and talented team, an A+ Brew Crew, if you will. He talks about them like a proud parent and boasts, “This is the best crew to date that we’ve at Shebeen.” Collectively they run the front and back of the house of the brewery. Although each member has a specific job title, it is clear that the entire team has a “whatever it takes” mentality when it comes to the brewery and they are all happy to jump in and do jobs outside of their official titles to make sure that the beer and the customers and their home, the brewery, are taken care of. It is rare to find a group of people that care so much about their work these days, and this dedication to Shebeen’s success emanates from the top down, the top being the Head Brew Master and owner, Rich Visco. It is even rarer to interview an entire team of workers and have them ALL say good things about their BOSS (even when he’s not around!)

He promotes from within, is willing to take chances on people to cultivate talent, and leads by example by scrubbing the floors, canning the beer, and doing any other job that needs doing.

Casey Noonan

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Title – Tap Room Manager

Favorite Beer – Hadouken

Bio – Casey has been with the team since January. She came to the brewery with a Groupon and left with a job. (Not a bad deal!) She’s the master of schedules, front of the house manager, and in charge of overall crowd control, so if you’re gonna try to get rowdy at Shebeen, she’ll remind you to do it within reason.

 

Justin Vale

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Title – Sales Manager

Favorite Beer – Baby Seal Dance Party

Bio – Justin’s been with Shebeen for just over a year. In his time here, he’s worn a bunch of different hats, but his role now centers on making sure that the beer gets to the people it needs to get to (and honestly, it needs to get to all of us!) He manages the sales, invoices, collections, payroll, and still lends a hand to the Brand Ambassador role.  He came from a job in insurance, which, shocker, he did not find particularly fulfilling. He recognized that it’s cliché to say, but he loves the “family vibe” of the brewery.

 

Alyssa Dombroski

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Title – Events and Marketing Manager

Favorite Beer – Cucumber Wasabi

Bio – Alyssa was looking to get her foot in the door of the brewery world. She loved the vibe and like many other members of the Shebeen Team (and the world) she was feeling pretty uninspired and overstressed by her current job. She started volunteering in the tap room and since Rich fiercely believes in promoting from within and giving folks chances to learn, she starting learning the trade and moving up. She does everything from booking events, to running the social media, to getting the Brewery into some of the best beer fests in CT, to promoting International Women’s day with a specially brewed beer to promote women in the brewing industry.

 

Luis (Lou) Vega

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Title – Head Brewer

Favorite Beer – CT Pilsner, JavaPig Stout, Hadouken (the man likes beer!)

Bio – From vet tech to head brewery, Lou’s story is just like Cinderella’s if Cinderella was brave AF and left a secure job, with brand new baby twins, to pursue a passion of brewing beer full time. Lou went from home brewing to volunteering with Shebeen, to apprentice brewer under Rich and the (at the time) head brewer, Matt Miller, to becoming the head brewer himself. Now he’s even got a beer created in his hardworking, martial arts fighting, ponytail wearing image. See kids! Dreams do come true!

 

Nick Renna

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Title – Apprentice Brewer

Favorite Beer – Baby Seal Dance Party

Bio – Nick started out managing the tap room, but his real passion is in the craft of brewing the beer. He’s in the process now of learning the art of brewing, from the loads of cleaning, to the familiarity with all the equipment to the careful composition of the recipes. Nick notes that it’s not about boo-coo bucks as an apprentice brewer, but more about the “happiness and fulfillment” that the job provides. Baby Seal Dance Party (originally named Baby Seal Clubbing which needed to be changed for obvious reasons) is his recipe, and if you want to see a man beam with pride over their first born, ask Nick about this beer.

 

Matt Dominichi

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Title – Fulfillment Manager and Assistant Brewer

Favorite Beer – Double Cit-Mo

Bio – Matt’s got a degree in Bio-Chemistry and came from a career in public education. While he loved the kids, let’s just say he loved the idea of opening and running his own brewery one day more, so he jumped at the chance to learn the business from Rich and the rest of the team. He recognizes that leaving his job to pursue his dream came with a big pay cut, but it also provided a huge stress cut too. And now he can (legally) drink beer at work!

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Over and over the team reiterated their love and passion for the business and for each other. I asked Alyssa to name her favorite co-worker, and with a big smile, she beamed, “I can’t! I love them all!” It’s a bold move, to leave a steady, stable job and jump into a lifelong dream, but the Shebeen Team is all in. These guys are working insanely hard to make their beer, market their beer, sell their beer, and provide their customers with an unparalleled beer drinking experience. From the moment you walk in the door, you’ll pick up on that laid back vide. It’s a group of people you want to drink with who happen to make delicious beer that you want to drink.

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A Brew For Me and a Brew For You: The Story Behind Contract Brewing

 

 

Delicious Beer is Delicious Beer!

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Shebeen is full of beer enthusiasts, bottom line. These guys care about the brewing process, the science, the exploration, and experimentation and the fun of developing delicious craft beers, and they also understand the nail-biting frustration of getting started and learning to craft a perfect beer. Since the team at Shebeen has such a love for craft brewing, they have a love for talking with other brewers, helping them perfect their recipe, learning from them, lending their expertise and at the end of the day, doing the noblest work any man on this planet can do: Create delicious beer. The craft brewing community cares about sharing information. They understand the importance of an inclusive vibe and not a secrets-behind-closed-doors kind of community. We all get better as we learn, and the bottom line is that more delicious beers that exist in the world, the better, so why not help each other out?

Whether a beer is produced in its own brewery like Stony Creek and their delicious Big Cranky or a contract brewer works with a host brewery as is the case of Little Sip of Sunshine and Two Roads Brewery, the beer that is produced is a treasure for us to enjoy.  I spoke to the brewers at Shebeen in detail about contract brewing, and they kindly provided me with different articles all about this interesting, and sometimes mysterious brewing process. This sent me on my own rabbit hole adventure into the history of contract brewing. After hours of research and maybe a few too many beers (in the name of research!) these are the conclusions I came to about contract brewing:

It promotes a sharing of information.

In 1978, Jimmy Carter officially lifted the ban on home brewing. Up until that point, if they were brewing at all, homebrewers were doing it privately, behind closed doors. With the lifting of the ban, brewers were finally allowed to talk openly about their craft and the exciting moves they were making with their brews. It’s not a surprise that the 1980’s brought America its first real craft beer boom. Imagine if Dogfish Head, or Sierra Nevada, or Goose Island, or the Boston Beer Company weren’t talking and sharing and pushing each other to be better. I tear up thinking about the beers that might not have been invented.

Some of the biggest and best names in the game started out and continue to use this method.

Boston Beer Company (you know, Sam Adams) brewed their first batches at the Pittsburg Brewing Company in 1984. Does that make them any less marvelous? Does it diminish the work of the Pittsburg Brewing Company (who is still cranking out awesome beers 150 years after their inception?) Absolutely not. Just the opposite. Through contract brewing, these two brands were able to flourish and expand. Mutualism! Even right here in Connecticut, Two Roads brews amazing beers of their own, but they also use their state of the art facilities and experience from their master brewers to brew beers for Lawson’s and Maine’s Peak Organic Brewing Company among many others.

It is an excellent way for small batch brewers to get in the game without the need for big dollars and cents.

Let’s face it. Dreams are expensive. We all know a lot of people, stuck in their nine to five because they can’t imagine getting the money together to get out and pursue their passion. For some, that passion is home brewing delicious beer. Contract brewing is a way for small batch brewers to take their ideas, their recipes, and their passion and add to the craft beer scene without going broke. At the end of the day, brewers are trying to get their beers into cans and get those cans to the public. Contract brewing is a perfect way to make this happen.

How Contract Brewing benefits the Contracting Brewer

It can cost upwards of a million dollars to start a brewery. Contract brewing is a smart way for a homebrewer who is looking to start marketing and distributing their product but isn’t ready or able to toss around that amount of cash. It opens the doors for the births and introductions of beers into this world that maybe wouldn’t have had a chance to become known otherwise.

How Contract Brewing benefits the Host Brewery and Master Brewer

Host breweries can use contract brewing as a way to help them with the overhead of owning a craft brewery. It is a smart way to keep their business running at 100% capacity, and in the case of Shebeen Brewing and many other host breweries, it is a chance for one brew master to meet up with and exchange ideas and recipes with other brewmasters. Contract brewing is a chance to widen the circle of information, and for breweries like Shebeen Brewing Company who is always experimenting with new recipes and ideas, it allows them the room to focus on their tap room, their personal recipes, and development of their brand without too much financial pressure.

How Contract Brewing benefits YOU (the beer drinker)

Think about it. Imagine if you could get Hostess and  Hershey to sit down together and bounce ideas off of one another, learn from one another, and work together to craft a new junk food. That would be one dope candy bar, right? The same theory applies to the craft brewing scene. The more these master brewers get together and share ideas, work together, and push each other to be at the top of their games, the better it is for us, the beer drinker! I mean, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield were innovators on their own, but without their partnership, we wouldn’t have Chunky Monkey today. Paul McCartney and John Lennon were individually talented powerhouses, but we wouldn’t be high off of those Strawberry Fields without their work together. Contract brewing is one of the leading forces that helped establish American craft brewing, so why wouldn’t we support its continuation?

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We’re at a glorious place in history where 75% of the entire American population lives within ten miles of a brewery.  Shebeen Brewing Company is adding to this impressive statistic with their brewery. It took the team over 20 years of passionate home brewing and an unwavering love for beer before they felt ready to open. Today, Shebeen Brewing Company’s taproom is pouring 12 of their handcrafted beers as well as a rotation of beers they brew for other companies. The Brewery openly admits that they couldn’t have been able to do it without the help of friends and family and the master brewers that came before, so needless to say, the team is thrilled that they can now give back to the craft brewing community that inspired and supported them while they got their start.

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For the brewers at Shebeen, and many other brewers across the country, giving back takes the form of contract brewing. Currently, Shebeen Brewing Company produces beers for Fat Orange Cat, Shakesbeer, and Boondoggle. As defined by The Brewers Association, contract brewing is essentially one business (contracting brewer) who hires another brewery (host brewery) to produce its beer. The contracting brewer owns the beer and the recipe, but the host brewery and its brewmaster will lend their expertise throughout the brewing process. For Shebeen that means they provide their assistance in a variety of ways to the contract brewer:  Shebeen brews all the beer from brewing to fermentation to cellaring to filtration/carbonation and canning/kegging, keeps the equipment up and functional and advises the contract brewer through the process of up-sizing their recipe to a big batch.  Often this involves bouncing ideas on dry hop techniques, knock out temperatures, whirlpool hop additions, yeast selection, etc. Sometimes the contract brewer will drop off a recipe and let the host brewer run the show. Sometimes, they are very involved in the process. I’ve heard contract brewing be described as a symbiotic relationship between the contracting brewer and the host brewery, but really, a more accurate definition is mutualism. Mutualism is when two species benefit from a symbiotic interaction. (Thanks science!).