Hey everyone! Mark and Neil here. Is it spring yet?
Even though it’s been a mild winter (so far) here in Jersey, it’s been a tough one for us at Varitage, full of starts and stops and lots of waiting and anticipation. We’ve faced more obstacles than we care to count these past few months but have overcome them all, and the future is getting brighter.
We learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, about being business owners and about what it takes to become successful entrepreneurs. The bottom line is that we are coming out the other end of this stronger and cautiously optimistic for things to come as we make real strides in bringing craft beer to Bloomfield.
Let's jump in.
First, we'll be as transparent as we can: The primary hold up of late was the work that needed to be completed by the landlord's construction team. In their defense, they had a lot of untangling to do once they bought the property from the previous owners. Prior to the construction, we had no insulation or drywall, no electric meters or electrical panel, no water connection and no HVAC. The work finally commenced the first week of December, and at the time we were told that it would take roughly 3-4 weeks to complete. We anticipated delays, but we didn't anticipate two months of delays. It was a tough obstacle to get over, especially since we had no control over the situation.
The landlord's construction team did all they could to move as quick as possible. We were down at the space almost daily, checking in on the progress. Ultimately, there were delays tied to a miscommunication concerning our electrical meters, which prevented the landlord from passing their final inspections and obtaining the letter of occupancy. As a result of all this, our team was held up from starting our work until everything was sorted out. At this point, it was a waiting game.
We officially received the green light to start building out the brewery in the last week of February. From there we began a mad dash to round up all of our subcontractors to try to make up as much time as possible. The challenge was that, due to these delays, our subcontractors had to take on other jobs to fill their calendars in the interim. Nevertheless, we and they scrambled to try to carve out time for the team to jump back over to our project as quickly as possible.
Before we can build any structure, and before we can receive any more of our equipment, we have a ton of work to do on the floor of the brewery space.
The trench work that we dug out in March of 2022 had to be excavated further and reinforced with rebar prior to us doing anything else. On Monday, February 27th, the space was handed over to us, just about a year and a half since we signed our lease, and we jumped right in! Mark, along with our contractor Don and his brother Freddy, spent the first day prepping the open trough drains. We had all the rebar drilled in and installed by the end of the work day.
Later in the week, our concrete subcontractor had some time on their schedule and sent their crew down. Their task was to excavate a remaining two-inch layer of the concrete slab to make additional room for our plumbing and the rebar that needed to be installed on top of it. It was a long and noisy day.
Next week is going to be a big one as our plumbers are set to come and start laying out plumbing for the whole brewery. Our concrete crew will also be back prepping the floor for supports that will hold up a storage loft in the brew space. Once the supports are dug out and installed, our steel fabricators are coming to install the loft.
Later this month, the crew will be focused on completing the plumbing and electric that has to be set beneath our slab. Once that is complete, the floor will be prepped for a fresh pour of concrete. We are raising our current floor about five inches so we can properly pitch it in the brew areas for proper drainage into the open trough drains.
We're hoping we can wrap all this up by the end of March. If all goes according to plan, we will then be able to receive all our equipment and start building our bars and bathrooms.
Once the landlord construction kicked off in December, we felt the need to spruce up the windows of our space. At the same time, We wanted to preserve the big reveal for when we complete our construction. We needed a creative solution to cover the windows. To do this, Mark worked with Avi Designs right here in Bloomfield to give these windows a little Varitage flare.
Part of Mark's design incorporates the Varitage tagline, "Born on the Bines of Tradition."
"Out in my backyard, in front of the garage where I've spent tons of time brewing, I planted a few hop rhizomes about six years ago.
They look awesome in the summer all strung up, and I've caught myself daydreaming while staring at them as I wait for the wort to come to a boil. Varitage was born out of that garage and I planted those hops once I really started to think about making beer my career. Those hops are a representation of this dream to me. Hops grow on what is called a ‘bine.’ The bine is the long flexible stem of a climbing plant, especially a hop. Everything about these hop plants became a tradition for me. I look forward to the tradition of getting up on a ladder each spring to string them up. They are a backdrop for all our family barbeques in the summer, and the tradition of picking them in September each year has been something that I hope I can pass down to my kids. I also make a special beer each year with those hops."
The idea of the brewery was essentially born in that garage adorned with these beautiful hop plants. The concept of tradition is firmly rooted in everything we do. It's our way of honoring all our family traditions, past and present, that will eventually be told through our beer brands.
Seeing the signage installed was a big win for us. It was the first time we were able to see something tangible that was ours installed into this space, even if it was on the outside windows. It's something we'll always proudly look back on.