In today’s episode, we talk with 2 of the 3 founders of Station Cold Brew based out of Toronto, Canada. We’re joined by Mitchell Stern and Mike Roy – Mitchell is the marketing guy, Mike is the brewer and Steve (who wasn’t able to join us) is the business guy. Together, the 3 of them have put cold brew on the map in Canada.
Highlights & Takeaways
Developing strong and consistent branding that aligns with company core values
Keep sales numbers up in winter (cool months) through customer education
Different brew processes for different beans/origins
Episode 50 Transcript
Brendan Hanson: Hey there, you’re listening to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. I’m Brendan Hanson and I’ll be your host today. Last week on the show, we were joined by Katy Stevens from N7 Cafe and Trish Cummings from Forage to talk about shared kitchen spaces. That episode was the first in out three-part series dedicated to cold brewing and shared spaces. You can check out last week’s episode by going to dripsanddraughts.com/49. Our next shared kitchen episode will be a week from today where we’re joined again by Matt Bishop from Café Mulé and he’ll talk about his move from brewing in a donut shop to brewing in a brewery.
But today we’re taking a break from the shared kitchen theme and we’re joined by Station Cold Brew, Canada’s first cold brew company. Station Cold Brew was founded by Steve, Mitch, and Mike. We’re joined today by Mitch Stern and Mike Roy. Steve, Mitch, and Mike are owner-operators and they’re the perfect storm of individuals to start a company. Mitch has a background in marketing as you’ll learn. Mike’s got a bit of a background in coffee and now cold brewing and Steve’s the business guy. The three of them together bring a lot to the table.
One of the topics that I wanted to talk to these guys about today was selling cold brew in a cold climate. They’re based out of Toronto Canada so it can get really cold up there. I was curious to see what they do during the winter months and how they maintain their sales. As you’ll learn, they’ve been able to lessen the dip of sales in the winter by further educating their audience on what cold brew is, what the benefits are and why it’s good. One thing that Mike mentioned during the interview about keeping sales going was getting onto shelves in retail spaces. He mentioned looking into canning nitro-coffee and specifically mentioned Chart Industries. Chart was actually on a podcast episode a while back. They were on episode 44. If you’re curious on learning more about canning or bottling nitro coffee, check out episode 44 by going to dripsanddraughts.com/44.
All right. Last little bit of business before we get into today’s episode. Our one-year anniversary episode is coming up quick. It’s going to be airing the 31st of March, two weeks from today. We’re looking for ideas for that show. If you’ve got any suggestions, find us on social media, shoot us an e-mail at [email protected] or call in 888-620-2739 extension 6. Let us know what you’d like to hear on that episode.
On that episode, we’ll be giving away an all-in-one countertop nitro coffee kegerator. That’s right. We’re giving it away. It’s valued over $1,500 and all you got to do to enter to win it is go to dripsanddraughts.com/giveaway. You’ll be directed to the product page. At the bottom of that page, there’s a little entry form. Just put in your name and e-mail address and we will pick a winner live on that show.
All right. That’s enough incoherent rambling for me. Let’s get into today’s episode with Mike and Mitch from Station Cold Brew in Ontario Canada. For links and show notes from this episode, you can find those at dripsanddraughts.com/50.
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Brendan: All right. Welcome back to the Drips and Draughts Podcast. As always, I’m Brendan Hanson and we’ve got Cary sitting in the studio with me today. We’re joined by Mike and Mitch from Station Cold Brew in Toronto, Canada. Toronto, right?
Mitch and Mike: Yes.
Brendan: [laugh] All right. I was telling Mike beforehand my Canadian geography and just knowledge of Canadian cities is just not very good– not on point. Welcome guys. How are you today?
Mitch and Mike: Good.
Mike: Yes. Things are wonderful. We’re experiencing a bit of warm weather here in February in Toronto. It’s nice and obviously, good for cold brew. Things are great.
Brendan: What’s your definition of warm? Did we lose you?
Mike: No. I’m here. Hold on. I cut out for a second there. What was the question again?
Brendan: I was going to say, what’s your definition of warm? Because we’re in southern California here.
Mike: In February in Toronto we’re seeing like 12, 13, 14 degrees Celcius. I guess that’s around– For you guys, that’d be like 50 degrees. Maybe 55 degrees.
Mike: Hey, it’s suppose to be like minus 10 right now, so I’m good with this.
Brendan: I was going to say it’s not freezing so.
Mike: There’s no snow. There’s no snow here right now which is fantastic. It’s definitely a little strange but it’s good.
Mitch: Yes, we joke around a lot. We say we’re the three guys who started a cold coffee company in Canada so.
Brendan: Yes, I know that’s going to be some of the questions we have for you guys but we’ll get into that later. Before we get into that can we get a little back story on each of you, and how you guys came together to start Station? Maybe start with Mike since you’re the first one to join this morning.
Mike: Yes sure thing. Basically, I’ve worked in the coffee industry for the better part of a decade. I started out just as a barista paying my way through school, and quickly evolved into a full time love affair with coffee. Started managing shops, got into a bit of roasting. Transitioned into a split position in a bar where I was helping get their coffee program on par and then getting trained behind a cocktail bar.
Eventually, we started playing around with cold brew. I brought cold brew to the bar as a way to integrate some better coffee cocktail options. We were playing around that way, and shortly after I met Steve through an online job posting. He was looking to find partners who had coffee knowledge interested in starting a cold brew coffee company for mass distribution, and grocery, and whatnot. Which was something that I was trying to work on myself at the time with some other friends. It just really wasn’t coming together the way that I envisioned it. Steve and I had a few quick meetings and we aligned fairly quickly on the same vision for what cold brew could be. That was probably almost three years ago this month.
Brendan: Nice, wow.
Brendan: For those listening Steve’s the third partner. It’s just three of you right?
Mike: Yes, that’s right.
Brendan: Okay, right on. How about you Mitch? How do you fall into play here?
Mitch: I came from the marketing world, specifically experiential marketing. I was out of school running promotions and marketing campaigns for some pretty big companies. Labatt, AB Inbev, I’ve done some stuff with Coca Cola, Walmart, Dell computers, so working with some big companies on experiential marketing, and working with some pretty hefty budgets. I came to the conclusion one day that I wasn’t really working for myself. I wasn’t passionate about it. I wasn’t waking up energized everyday, and I just left without really knowing what I was going to do. I started a bit of consulting in the food and beverage world because I had some contacts in that space.
A lot of chefs, a lot of people who were opening restaurants or catering businesses. I saw a bit of an opportunity to help them create brands and really be able to tell a story. As opposed to just opening a restaurant and serving amazing food. I dove into that space a little bit truthfully not knowing what the hell I was doing. I had met Steve through a mutual friend and we had always talked about the world of entrepreneurship. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s had a few other businesses. We’ll leave that as his intro, but we had talked about potentially doing something together. When he returned back from Brooklyn, when he first discovered cold brew in 2013, he approached me and floated the idea by me.
It was something I was very interested in, and the reason was not at the time because it was coffee. I love coffee. I’ve drank coffee for a long time, but I certainly didn’t have the experience in this space. The reason I was excited about it is because of the opportunity to grow a brand from scratch. Which is what I’m really really passionate about.
Brendan: You guys sound like a good team. You’ve got the marketing guy, the coffee guy, the business guy.
Mike: Yes, absolutely.
Mitch: That’s exactly it, yes.
Brendan: Yes, and I’ve got to say I love your guys marketing. It’s clean and simple. I follow you guys on Instagram and stuff and you guys do a good job.
Mitch: Thank you. We like to think of ourselves as the craft beer of coffee. Everything we do. strategically built around the craft beer industry and what we do really represents all of the things that the craft beer movement does and that artisanal handmade really focused on the quality of the product without compromising anything. And that’s what Mike’s role is, is making sure that every drop that comes out of our brewery is the highest quality possible.
Brendan: Nice. It’s funny you Parallel it to the craft beer industry. We do the same thing a lot on the show, when we’re talking with other coffee manufacturers it seems to have a lot of parallels between the cold brew industry and the craft beer industry.
Mike: Yes, it absolutely does.
Mitch: I mean if you look at it from the outside too, if you look at it as simple as we have a brewery, we sell it in glass bottles, we will be selling it in cans, we use beer technology and equipment. It really is this amalgamation of the beer world. Our product is obviously, coffee has an input and then the way we sell it is brings into the beverage industry. So it’s an amalgamation of all those three industries.
Brendan: Definitely write on, moving along. Mike, I know you mentioned station started about three years ago. We talked about where the idea came from, but let’s talk about your guys location. You are in Canada, We talked about it not necessarily being warm there for a good portion of the year. I think a lot of people would say cold brew company that’s a pretty audacious thing you guys are trying, what made you guys say let’s do this?
Mike: Toronto is quite a diverse city as far as food, culture, entertainment, and just forward thinking and innovative products go. It is very similar to the same ideology of mentality that comes out of any major U.S. city like L.A. or Chicago or New York, and the coffee scene here as has just been growing tremendously for the last 10 years.
I was a big part of that whole scene when I was growing up my early 20s. We’re quite far south as far as Canada is concerned. We’re probably one of the more southern cities anyway. Our climate here From May to October, November is fantastic weather for cold coffee. December, January, February, a bit of March, it can be a crap shoot like it can be three feet of snow and minus 20. Or we’re sitting here at the end of February with double digit numbers which is very strange. But I think that there was a demand for products like this because the only options were either your local craft coffee shop or whatever Starbucks is bottling and putting into your grocery stores. Which in my opinion should not be considered coffee. It’s got a lot of stuff in it that a coffee doesn’t need, and our whole mission is to bring a clean crafted coffee to places of retail that doesn’t exist such as grocery camiones. And that’s where the boom has happened as far as cold brew in Canada goes.
Brendan: How did you guys come up with your name Station Cold Brew, I’m just sitting here wondering what exactly that means or how you guys came up with that?
Mitch: Station represents the fuel that’s that we need it in our everyday lives. We look at the type of people that we are because the best part of what we do is we market our product to ourselves. We are our own demographic which I think it adds so much to what we do. We live and breathe the brand. We sponsor events that we would attend anyways. We’re really able to bring what we do into our everyday lives. What we see is we’re surrounded by you know a lot of people doing incredible things, younger people who are maybe venturing out and being entrepreneurs and really pushing themselves to do bigger and better things.
Mike coming from the restaurant world. He saw that all the time with people doing amazing things. Me coming from the branding world, I know people who have started their own agencies and doing all sorts of really cool stuff. And the music world, and health and wellness world, there’s so much happening. Our product is intended to help those people keep going and pushing themselves to be better and do greater with a product that they can actually feel good about putting in their body.Moving away from things like energy drinks or you know even the like 300 calorie, I’m using air quotation coffee based beverages. To Station, it really represented the fuel you need. Our brand very much brings to life the 1950s like gas station look and feel. From a visual perspective that’s how we bring it to life, and again that’s where you go to fuel your car and station is where you go to fuel up for whatever you need in life.
Brendan: Nice cool. That’s kind of cool story.
Mike: Yes, I like it.
Brendan: That makes sense with the logo now it does look like an old school type sign.
Mitch: Yes, You can walk into our bottle shop and it’s like there’s foreign boards there’s big oil drums there are old gas cans. And you’d be able to see what we do and how we bring it to life visually.
Brendan: You guys have like a retail facing storefront?
Mitch: Yes we’ve got a small little bottle shop in the front of the brewery that especially in the spring and summer. The garage door is open, People come in and they can fill their growlers. Yes, it’s a great little opportunity for us to have some face to face time with customers.
Brendan: Is it just bottles or do you guys do draft as well?
Mike: We do both. The whole concept was built around the growing craft beer market in Toronto. Like we talked about earlier there’s some amazing beer coming out of the city, And every one of these small brewers are really doing it for themselves and for their customers. Ontario has really terrible liquor laws and so these brewers are opening up these retail shops where You can go would have a couple beers a couple of pints and you can take some bottles to go and they’re working for themselves they’re doing it for their customers. We wanted to do the same thing.
We have a draft bar that has a rotating selection of the different skewers and different coffees that we make. We also have a tap in that bar that is a concentrated version of a cold brew on nitro as well. We do have a bit of an espresso or an ice espresso menu if you will, but you know instead of using espresso to make an ice latte, we’re using cool brew concentrate on nitro, so we can do lattes, we do red eyes, we can do just a shot of straight over ice. Then, we have our regular skews on the rotating nature of tap and then we have a retail fridge that people can purchase bottles of our ready to drink or concentrate to take home or to go to the park with. We even have like a bit of a summer patio vibe out in the front area of the shop in the summertime as well.
Brendan: Awesome. Sounds like he has got all angles covered there.
Mike: Got it dialed in.
Brendan: To the bottles.
Mitch: The cool thing about our brewery too is we’re actually located directly adjacent to our roaster. We don’t roast our own coffee. I’m a firm believer of you know knowing what your capabilities are and surrounding yourself with people who compliment that. That was very important to us in the beginning. And Mike specifically selecting who to work with from a roasting perspective again because of the quality and the standards we hold ourselves to.
When we moved in here we switched roasters. These guys moved into the place next to us which at first was a little bit like, what’s going on here? Two coffee businesses next to each other, but quickly developed a great relationship with them. Now, besides the fact that we save on a tremendous amount on shipping obviously, rolling over in like buckets or on dollies in big plastic bins. But Mike’s always over there cupping different coffees tasting, working with them on roast profiles. It’s an amazing thing we have gone on here and they’ve got a little outdoor space as well. It’s really like a coffee hub that we’re building here.
Brendan: Yes that’s awesome. Mike you mentioned do you guys have a couple of regular skews, how many different roasts and coffee profiles are you guys actually cold brewing and either putting on tap or in bottle?
Mike: What happened was we were working with a lot of different partners around the city, and we came across an issue where we had some vendors that wanted to specifically certain organic coffees that had certified paperwork to back it up. Our signature blend although it is direct trade, is very nice coffee, it is grown extremely clean and shade grown. It doesn’t have the paperwork to back up its any organic certification.
We started playing around with some organic coffee to appease these customers that wanted to only be serving organic coffee. That led into us starting to think about Skew expansion. What we’re trying to roll out this year, is a few different skews based on roast and varietals rather than adding syrups or flavors to the coffee which I’ve seen a lot of different cold brew companies do even just bottled iced coffee. You’ll see vanilla, See hazelnut, you’ll see chocolate or cocoa you’ll see a lot of maple up here in Canada and that’s not really what I appreciate about coffee. What I appreciate about coffee is the way that you can make a coffee taste without flavoring, it does have its own flavor based on varietals and the way it’s roasted and so that’s the way that we’ve expanded our coffee offerings is by showcasing the way that different coffees can actually taste.
It’s very unique with cold brew because it does brew so differently than the way it would be brewed hot. As we go forward, I always have our roasters sourcing these different coffees. We do some work with a honey washed coffee. Right now, we’re working on an organic skew that is a Peruvian farmers blend where these 20 some odd farmers in Peru, got sick of being middleman by Cathy importers. They came together and started their own import firm and now they’re directly importing themselves from the farm to the roasters. They’re not getting sold out by a middleman importer. That’s the level of coffee that we’re working with and it’s the way that we differentiate different skews.
Brendan: Okay, what’s your normal skew, your regular skew count versus the stuff that rotates through?
Mike: The regular skew count right now, we have two different options that are currently available in grocery and all of our retail partners or distributor listings. That is a 12-ounce glass stubby bottle, which is our signature blend. It’s a blend of Brazilian coffee, Ethiopian coffee, and a small amount of roasted chicory roots. Then, we also do 500-milliliter glass bottle, that is a concentrated version of that same blend. Which we’re hoping to see grow a little more this year in retail. We had a pretty good year with it last year and we’ve adjusted some stuff. We’ve gotten the label up to standard for national distribution.
We are actually hoping to be moving cans out of the shop within the next month and a half. We have some equipment on the way that’s going to allow us to start nitro canning and once we’re nitro canning, we’ll hopefully be able to start sending some more of those specialty skews into the grocery world and not just on our draft bar.
Brendan: Awesome, how many taps did you guys say you have going.
Mike: We have two that are always operational in the shop. The main one is our just ready to drink draft, and it’s mostly will not normally served as the signature flagship blend which is the Ethiopian, Brazilian, chicory roots. But there are times when we have some kegs of organic that are in the fridge and we’ll throw an organic on it. It allows people to showcase the difference in what’s going on with coffees.
I’m hoping that before we get super busy in the shop this year, we can actually put a few more taps in or get a bigger fridge where we can have two or three different RTDs on tap at once and give people that option the same way that a lot of shops will have on their drip pots. Where you can go in and say either, single low, Ethiopian or we’re going to go with a houseplant, or we’re going to go with the organic Peru. Then, it gives people that option. That would be the dream for retail. If we can get there it’ll hopefully happen.
Mitch: The great thing about that is, it really allows us to ask our customers for feedback. We get to have face to face conversations with them and really understand what they like about it, what they don’t like, and our team and Mike specifically will take that into account, as he is looking for different ways to create new blends.
Brendan: The education aspect, like you we’re talking about showing them the different flavors and if you were to line up a row of three or four tasters and show them all the different flavors that you showcase in each coffee.
Mike: Absolutely. That’s again we’re pulling the experience that we’ve seen. Even friends of ours in the beer industry, doing the local crafts thing it’s the best way to get people to figure out what it is they actually like. They might not like your normal signature blend that you sell the grocery but they might be really into your semi wash or honey processed single origin they might be really into your organic blend and it just gives people an option to figure out what they like.
Brendan: Right. The appreciation you can get by just tasting all of these different coffees side by side I can imagine [crosstalk].
Mike: Oh, yes. Totally
Brendan: Right on, you guys mind if we jump into your brewing process a little bit?
Mike: No not at all.
Cary: Do you guys always do a concentrate and then dilute it for ready to drink? Or do you have a brewing process for each method?
Mike: I have a different recipe for each coffee we work with, and that can vary. But we do almost always brew a concentrate unless, I’m playing around with something or whatever. The reason behind that originally started out by being in a very small shared space, when we launched this brand. We were renting a 300 square foot commercial kitchen three days a week and sharing it with caterers and it was it was very difficult to keep up with demand. The only way that I really figured out how to keep up with demand was by brewing concentrate, so I could store really heavy concentrate in a fridge, and then when I needed to bottle, I could dilute it and I’d have three times, four times the amount of liquid.
We really nailed down a good recipe that way. I have experimented with brewing just as an RTD and it is possible to get the same recipe, but I find the amount of coffee needed to get the same extraction is a lot, and I feel like it would be a heavy cost to get the same product we have now if we were just brewing RTDs.
I know there’s some of the coffee guys in the world who are really meticulous and they’re really against brewing is as a concentrate or something, they can say, “Oh, it’s you got to use this amount of coffee to get this perfect extraction rate.” But I’m a firm believer in the concentrate method It saves us tank space. It allows us to make a lot of product at once with a minimal setup and It’s been working for us so far, it’ll probably be the way we do it for a long time.
Brendan: What kind of steeping time do you guys do?
Mike: That varies from recipe to recipe, but it’s usually around the 16-hour to 18-hour point. I find anything longer than that you can get some heavy heavy sediments. I find you can also get a really just dark over extracted bitter product. I’ve definitely played around with pretty much any amount of time you could imagine. But yes, with our signature stuff we’re steeping for about 18 hours. With the other recipes, they can be a little more finicky because you’re just brewing as a single origin or one region of coffee, not a blend and they can they can definitely be a little more tricky. The grind has to change, usually, the recipe changes a bit, steeping time will vary. But I keep it around 16 to 18 for the most part.
Brendan: Are you guys doing temperature control, brewing it has constant temperature or are you just doing ambient?
Mike: We do control the temperature of our brews, but it’s mostly by atmosphere temperature. We’re not brewing in a chill tank or anything like that at this time. But we do control the temperature of where the coffee is being brewed. We’re not putting them into a fridge at two or three degrees above freezing. I find that that can be actually a negative effect on the brew. I find it freezes up what’s going on and there’s not enough of a chemical reaction and I don’t get the extraction I want, but we do have a thermostat system I guess you could say in the area where the coffee has been in brewed and it never it never changes.
Brendan: Nice. Yes I’ve heard there are people who switch from Ambient type temperature, to a cool temperature, or inside a fridge end up having to add a lot of hours to their to their brew time.
Mike: Absolutely. Coffee is a funny thing and coffee and has been brewed hot for a long time and there’s a reason that it tastes the way it does it’s brewed hot. It’s a chemical reaction with temperature and the same goes for cold brewing. There still needs to be certain reactions to get the products you want and if you start changing, if you have a recipe that works at 10 degrees and you lower it down to three degrees, it’s obviously not going to be the same thing. It’s either going to take more coffee or a different grind or different water filtration or a longer time. I feel like we’ve found something that really works well and I don’t really see the need to change it and everybody’s got their own method. But this one definitely it works for us.
Brendan: Do you guys serve hot cold brew? Is that a thing up there yet?
Mike: yes and no. We’ve experimented with it, We’ve played with it, Even yesterday I was playing around with some stuff and I was drinking a hot cold brew. The best way that I found to do it is by using a steam wand that you would find on the espresso machine. We’ve put nitro coffee into a milk tin and steamed it and drank it and it’s fantastic because you still get that note, feel, and texture. But at the same time if you’re using an espresso machine to steam cold brew you may as well make yourself an espresso.
It’s definitely a good way if you’re in a pinch, you need a hot coffee and you have a way of heating it up. It’s good but I find that you don’t get the same mouth feel that you want from a hot coffee and that’s why cold brew is so good cold. Mitch maybe wants to add to it but our whole mantra has always been like drink good hot coffee hot, drink good cold coffee cold.
Mitch: That’s one of the reasons that we started doing what we’re doing. One of many for sure but and we say it’s easy to find a good cup of hot coffee especially in there’s so much great coffee here in Toronto. But it’s always been extremely difficult to find a really good cup of cold coffee and that’s why my Mike does what he does.
Brendan: All right. Going back to the cold coffee in winter and the seasons. Do you guys have anything, in particular, they can do through the winter months to help sales? Because I’m assuming you see sales fall a little bit as it gets colder out.
Mitch: For sure, we see a seasonal dip. This is our third winter, it is that dip is shrinking as education on what cold brew coffee is, becomes much higher. We truly believe that it’s not just a cold refreshing beverage that should be enjoyed on a hot day. It absolutely is. However, there’s functional benefits to it the low acidity, the low bitterness. We really push it in the health and wellness community, one thing that we do to try and keep the brand relevant through those low months is, we work with nutritionists and gyms to utilize the products maybe as a pre-workout drink, maybe put in a smoothie, maybe put in a recipe. There’s all sorts of super versatile ways to use the concentrate. That realm is something that we go after and then the alcoholic worlds as well.
We have a few partnerships with a couple of different breweries specifically Great Lakes Brewery, which is just outside of Toronto here, been around for about 30 years. We have a couple of beers we make with them which is awesome. The concentrate super good in all sorts of different ways. Mike works at their brew master to come up with some unique ideas and recipes. They’re really great in the fact that they love experimenting and so they’re playing around with all fun stuff right now. It allows us to sell more concentrate allows us to create strategic partnerships which is actually a big part of what I do, and it keeps the brand relevant.
Then, we work with a liquor distribution company here called Corby, specifically with Jameson. We’ve got a bit of a partnership with Jameson, where we do events and we create some fun, like energizing cocktails with it. We’d love to see– Steve always jokes about this but he always jokes about the days of like the vodka Red Bull are behind us and we love to see something much cleaner like you know Jameson and cold brew become a bit more of a thing.
Brendan: Yes. No doubt.
Mitch: Jameson is just an example. It pairs so well with whiskeys, Irvin’s and even tequila. Mike mentioned before his background in the cocktail world has actually added a tremendous value to our business, so we have a recipe section on our Web site. We can bring recipes to different events or venues that want to do stuff and actually we just recently entered Mike into a contest. He’s going to Amsterdam for the Amsterdam Coffee Festival, in a couple of weeks to represent Station. We’re the only Canadian company who’s going, he’s one American and he’s going to be making some bad ass cold brew cocktails there.
Brendan: Awesome that is cool. I like how you said, “We entered Mike.” Was that you and Steve thing and Mike had no say in that?
Mike: No you know what I got an email through, It was either spread or daily coffee news about this new first of its kind competition happening at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival. Basically like when I was a barista I used to compete in cup of excellence and latte all throw downs and that stuff. I out grew it once we were focusing on Station. One of my close friends owns a bar that I used to work for and this competition was or is basically based around bringing a coffee specialist and a bartending specialist together to create a coffee cocktail that’s totally unique. It’s bringing competition world of both liquor and coffee together. We submitted a submission video and were selected, it’s going to be awesome to go over there and see what the coffee scene is like.
I’ve seen the other submission videos, it seems like a lot of people are using cold brew. It’s clearly a global thing it’s not just North America that knows cold coffee in a cold cocktail, is better than hot coffee and a hot cocktail or a cold cocktail. I brought it up to Mitch thinking we weren’t going to have time to do it. And he was totally like, “Yes, we have to do this.” It just kind of snowballed and Mitch and I put together a video with a good friend of ours in about three hours on a day’s notice and now we’re going.
Mitch: Yes, when I say, “We entered Mike.” The reason I say that also is because Mike spends 90% of his time if not higher in the brewery making sure the quality is where we want it to be. Making sure every bottle that goes out is good, and keeping our production running. Any time we have this opportunity to get him to do something that obviously he enjoys and is really good at, outside of those four walls. It’s nice to be able to do that, so I’m going to make sure that happens.
Brendan: Sure. What are your guys thoughts on the cold brew industry Just overall right now? You know everything’s starting to have a cold brew label, when you go into a store you see cold brew on everything, start seeing more and more coffee shops. What are your thoughts on just the industry in general?
Mitch: I can speak first, I’m sure Mike has a few things to say but, what I love about what’s happening and cold brew is, we’re leading the charge in Canada. It’s nice for us to be able to do what we want and be able to introduce cold brew to the people That we care about, and the people that we know. Why it’s so great and as I’ve mentioned before in so many different ways. But to me it’s actually part of like a much bigger vision we have and that we’re seeing in beverage.
You look at something like Expo West, I don’t know if you guys are there but Or are you even just like go on to bevnets website once a week and you’ll see what’s happening in beverage and that is there’s a shift happening and people don’t want your sugary pops and sugary energy drinks anymore. There’s kombucha in coconut waters and cold pressed juice and there’s all this incredible stuff happening. Actually, when I jumped on the call it the first word I heard was kombucha. That was awesome to hear. You guys are obviously talking about that and I actually personally love kombucha.
This is just a product that we see growing that can fit, Again like I said, with our brand into everybody’s daily lives as something that’s convenient, but doesn’t compromise the quality, that’s a really a big part of it.
Mike: Like I was saying to you guy’s before Mitch jumped in, three years ago this was a concept that we were talking about in an office that Steve was using to run one of his other businesses. Until last year we didn’t really have any direct competition, and now there’s five or six specific just cold brew companies trying to package and bottle or can and go to grocery which I think is amazing. Personally, I think it’s fantastic. It would be weird if there was just one company in southern Ontario putting cold coffee in a bottle and trying to put it on the shelf at Whole Foods. But when there’s four or five trying to do it and you get three of them on the shelf next to each other, it gives people this community or a category that they can investigate and learn about and they can try one and maybe they don’t like that one, and they can try the other one, and that’s the one they like. It’s choosing your brand of soda or kambocha or people have brands of eggs or milk that they want to buy.
Cold brew category is here to stay. A lot of people go back and forth in the coffee industry wondering if it’s just a rolling fad. But I think we’ve been doing this long enough now. I’ve seen companies like Stumptown, or Bluebottle doing this for the last five-six years heavily and they’re just killing it. I don’t think it’s going anywhere and I think the more people that get into this the better, we actually surround ourselves with other people who have the same mindset as us. We make sure that we’re all on the same page with other Toronto roasters or brands that are doing the same thing as we are that are trying to put the same quality we are because at the end of the day there’s ways that we can help each other and I have seen that in the Beer and Bar industry where if you don’t work together and befriend these other companies, you’re not going anywhere.
But if you guys come out like a bit of group mindset everybody can piggyback of each other and sort of help with the equipment, troubleshooting, or shipping costs, and other costs and yes I think that it’s a really cool market that hasn’t even scratched the surface up here in Canada yet. I don’t even think it’s really totally scratched the surface in the states. I think that in the next like three to five, Cold Brew Coffee is going to be a household item the same that Bottled Iced Tea is.
Brendan: Yes, I agree. So definitely here to stay?
Mike: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s here to stay and I think we haven’t even seen the start of what is possible.
Brendan: Yes, I’d agree. Right on. Well, I think we’re getting to the end of this, before we go, any particular plans for you guys in Station Cold Brew this summer?
Mike: Like I mentioned before we are entering the Can industry. I did listen in on that chat industries Webinar which was fantastic, lots of information about dosing 102 another roaster in Toronto a few weeks ago that does some canning in Hales manual line and got some experience with the nitro dosage so we do have some canning equipment on the way.
We should be testing some products in the next like two or three weeks and we’re hoping that that is kind of like phase two for us now as far as entering or continuing to enter the grocery market world. We just hired a national broker, we have national distribution and that’s definitely a big plan for us this year, is just to continue expanding that way and I mean we’re probably getting to the point of outgrowing our current facility which we’ve only been in for about 18 months. I think we’re already kind of starting the real estate hunt for next winter.
Brendan: What size is your current facility, you mentioned you started in a–
Mike: We’re just under 1200 square feet
Mitch: People are constantly surprised the output we have from our tiny little shop but it’s pretty impressive for sure and we’re kind of as a small business so we’re waiting till the walls kind of bursts before we actually do move but we are starting to have those conversations and take a look around right now.
We’ve got like I said a real cool thing happening with our roaster next door. We don’t necessary want to leave, we’re also kind of, very accessible to downtown and we know that if we do move and grow we are going to go a bit outside the city which is fine, we’re just trying to hold onto as long as we can [laughs] I suppose. But on top of what Mike said for 2017, we’re really going hard on grocery we think that a lot of the bigger grocery stores are ready for the product.
We’ve got a few sort of like so much secretive things we’re working on I would say, trying to bring some innovation into the space. Obviously, we look to the US as inspiration with some incredible stuff happening even just like Stumptown just released new cans of Sparkling Cold Brew. I mean everything they touch is awesome. It’s awesome to see what’s happening in US and how we can take it and adopt and figure out how that fits in into the Station brand and what we can do to be different.
Brendan: Very cool. Yes, right on. Mind if I hit you guys with a couple of short quick fire questions before you finish this?
Mitch & Mike: Sure thanks. Let’s do it
Brendan: How much coffee you guys drink a day?
Mike: I drink probably three or four cups a day but I stop around two in the afternoon. That’s kind of the rule of the family, you drink as much coffee as you want but stop at two or you should not sleep in [laughs]
Mitch: Mike, I’ve stopped monitoring my coffee intake. I’m about half that and specifically so that I’m not going crazy in the evening but we definitely all come into the shop in the morning and start our day with a nice hot glass of Cold Brew.
Brendan: Nice. No wonder you guys get so much worked up
Mitch: For sure. We joke around because we do a lot in office and we joke around that the keg is kind of the only keg that increases productivity. So we kind of building that model with our own shop.
Brendan: And this would be the last one. What would you guys be doing if there were no coffee?
Mike: Oh, if there were no coffee, I mean like my education background was in music and film production. I tried that out and kind of hated it and [laughs] I would probably still be bartending or living in the middle of nowhere either one or the other.
Mitch: Tough question.I would love to be doing something in the health and wellness world. I like to try and stay active myself and it’s a big part of what I do so I’d love to do that.
Brendan: Right on. Well hey guys this has been fun appreciate you guys making the time to join us today.
Cary: Yes, thanks for coming out.
Brendan: Where can people go to find you guys online or physically?
Mike: Nothing online yet so if you’re ever sort of in Canada specifically in the Toronto region we have a store finder on our website but Whole Foods is an easy because that translates into the US as well and then there’s a few bigger grocery stores up here Selby, a couple Labla stores and then a bunch of sort of smaller independent markets but hopefully this is a bit one for sure.
Mitch: Yes and just follow us on social media just add Station Cold Brew for everything and check out the website. We’re always trying to update our store finders as much as possible.
Brendan: Awesome. All right well Mike Mich thanks again and great chatting with you.
Mike: Yes you guys too and thanks a lot guys.
Brendan: Thank you guys.
If you’re looking to learn more about cold brew or draft coffee make sure you check out Keg Outlet’s Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft. But hey, don’t just take my word for it here’s Daniel Brownie from the Brownie Beverage Company in Mafa Texas.
Daniel Browning: And as I got on the internet and started looking around and I found Keg Outlet’s Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and read it couple more times more than I’ve read anything in my life. That was pretty much all the research I needed.
So if you’re looking to start your journey with cold brew or draft coffee check out The Ultimate Guide to Cold Brew Coffee and Serving Coffee on Draft, a free 34 page ebook offered at KegOutlet.com. You could there through the drips and drafts website by going to dripsanddraughts.com/ultimateguide.
Brendan: All right if you’re wondering what that noise was I’ve got a great new little ring and hook desktop game here. There’s a great chance that you’ve seen one of these things at a bar or a pub. It’s basically just a ring attached to a long string and there’s a hook on a wall in the normal case. This is just the desktop version but you’re basically just swinging this ring on a pendulum and trying to get it to land the hook. Kind of a great pastime, good bar pub type game. Great for coffee shops I would say. Good way to sell more coffee just get people stuck in your shop. Anyways, I was gifted one of these. I loved it, so we’re now selling these on Keg Outlet. If you’ve got any interest in checking these things out you can do so by going to dripsanddraughts.com/game.
All right, back to this episode. A huge thank you to Mitch and Mike from Station Cold Brew for carving out a little time and joining us today. It was awesome to learn about their company. They’ve got amazing branding if you haven’t checked them out just hop onto Google. Type in Station Cold Brew and check out some of the stuff they’re doing. They’re marketing is just great. They’ve got great branding, very consistent and just a cool look across the entire brand so check them out. Follow them on social media and if you’re looking for show notes or links from this episode you could find those but going to dripsanddrafts.com/50. That’s going to do it for today. Thanks to Cary for joining me in studio. To Mike and Mitch for joining us from Toronto Canada. I’m Brendan Hanson and we’ll see you again next Friday on the Drips and Draughts Podcast.
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