If you were married and launching a home-brewing supply business from your house, you’d probably run the idea by your spouse. David Gillett didn’t.
“He tends to always think big and get an idea in his head and then it happens in the next week,” recalls his wife Roxanne Gillett. “And so [with] the beer store, it wasn’t really a question, it was a, ‘I’m doing this. I’ve already ordered grains.’”
The business is Everwood Ave Brew Shop, which carries the supplies a home brewer needs, from grains, hops, and yeast to the equipment to make beer and serve it on tap at home.
Located on the bottom level of the Gilletts’ home in a subdivision in Hammonds Plains, it’s a bit of an unusual location for a retail shop. Jennifer Shaw, a home brewer, doesn’t mind the 25-minute trek from her Armdale home. “I think beer people will do crazy things to brew their beer or try beer,” she says.
She’s been going to the store for about two years and loves the variety of ingredients it carries, which includes roughly 50 types of grains, 120 different strains of yeast, and 30 varieties of hops, which is a huge selection to choose from.
Shaw also buys her brewing equipment at Everwood. The business carries almost 1,000 products, including washers, stainless steel fittings, kettles, and fermenters. “I can get anything he carries online, but I can go to his shop and actually see it and touch it and talk to him about it,” she says. “It just sort of brings something extra to the equation.”
Everwood Ave Brew Shop started as a response to a problem David and some home-brewer friends experienced. The group couldn’t buy grains in bulk for making beer, so he decided to start a small business to get the supplies they needed. He made the first order in March 2013.
“It was a quick decision because in the beginning we didn’t envision what it’s grown into,” says David. The business made for many late nights and led him to quit his full-time sales job working for a company that manufactured water quality monitoring equipment. And early this month, to meet the growing customer demand, Everwood is scheduled to move to a new home: a storefront on Old Sackville Road in Lower Sackville.
The timing coincides with Nova Scotia’s craft-beer boom, but David isn’t sure that’s had an impact on his business. “It seems to be more a hobby that’s driven by personal experience and word of mouth than by the growing craft beer industry,” he says. “That being said, I do get a lot of people coming in saying, ‘I had this great craft beer. Do you think I can brew it at home?’”
The answer is yes. David says it takes time for people to get better at making craft beer, but as their skills improve and they upgrade their equipment, people will be able to make beer that matches the quality of their favourite microbreweries.
David says the misconceptions people have about home brew often stem from their past experiences with it. The quality of ingredients and technique has improved dramatically in the last decade, he says. When he started brewing in 2000, all he could get his hands on were malt concentrate kits, a syrupy concoction that requires just adding water and yeast to get the process started.
Running the business has had some unexpected benefits.
In his previous job, David was on the road a lot. Now, he gets to spend more time with his wife, young son, and daughter. “We were kind of in the same place, but not really seeing each other at all,” says Roxanne.
They recently hired their first employee, and plan to have Roxanne soon working in the store too. “We’re always amazed at the number of people that drive out to the middle of nowhere, Hammonds Plains, to come see the store,” says David.