Quarter Barrel is just your semi-ordinary restaurant built from the ground up by the people who operate it, who wish that doing things the way that we do them were waaaay more ordinary than it is. Quarter Barrel only exists because we love it. It's like a minor deity in that way. What it demands, we give freely, and in return it lifts us all up. Every profit we can spare we return to the altar of customer experience like the deranged, idol worshiping villagers that we are. And now we're on the eve of our first major expansion, preparing to open the sort of place we wish (in retrospect) we could have had since the beginning.
So what are we, truly? We are people surrounded by local partners who are on the verge of their own blossoming successes with their apiaries, bakeries, and ranches. We are striving to reward long time employees the way we wish we had been taken care of when we were coming up. More than that, we want to be able to model how the service industry can be. We have made it, as a business, safely through the most god-awful phase of any life: adolescence. Now we are to the next step, one that will require a reinvestment of energy, time and debt service.
We are Quarter Barrel Brewery & Pub. Know us and tremble, out of town chain eateries touting "buy local" philosophies.
Where We are Going, Where We've Been
We didn't set out to become who we are. We're like what happens to a perfect contingency plan if the flowchart looks like a pachinko game. There were a lot of balls in play. And this is no knock against us. It showed us that we have the sort of dynamic feel for our business that keeps things moving forward. And so do we look like our original plan? Not in the least. But we are not afraid to be ourselves and explore what's possible.
Presently we operate a Newland's System 1 HL skid mounted kit, which we stretch to produce one barrel at a time. When we began, the term nano-brewery hadn't been adopted by the industry, but that's a convenient handle for our present capability. Diminutive, to be sure, but built to a professional standard that is not shared by most so-called "nano" brew kits today. It features your typical 1.5' tri clamp fittings, full scale plate heat exchanger, and a 1.5 hp centrifugal pump. It has an open fermenter and a unitank that is pressure capable to serve as a bright, both jacketed and insulated. Also, it's all copper cladded, which does nothing for it's performance or scalability but does class the joint up a bit.
We are looking forward to a Ss Brewech pro 5bbl skid mounted brewhouse at the Hamilton pub. Our cellar space will be seventeen times larger than at Oxford, which will likely result in the fantastic situation of us buying our own beer from ourselves to serve at our other location.
The point is that we won't be looking at many speed bumps on our way up the ladder, volume-wise. And we're no slouch when it comes to brewing, either. Since our inception we've put our beer up beside the best beer that North American craft brewers had to offer. Sure, our guest taps have always outnumbered our own, but we have never been outclassed. Evidence? We entered our first professional competition in 2016 (remember, we rock a small brew kit, it took a while to feel like we had enough beer to spare). We entered five beers in four categories, and we had already prepared a marketing campaign boasting that we were the third best at something, assuming that at best we would come home with a bronze.
And then we won a gold medal for our saison, Chapeau Gris, thus ruining all of that marketing work. We quickly got over it, as to add to that, we bronzed in the “Out of Bounds IPA” category for QB Sestina, our Belgian rye IPA. Go figure.
In addition to our extremely high level of confidence, then, is this new sense of approbation.
Since the beginning, our kitchen has been the bedrock of our organization. Moving into the Hamilton location will finally give it the respect it has earned slugging it out in the boom-or-bust semester oriented atmosphere of college town Oxford. We are poised to experience efficiencies of ticket times and customer experience not imaginable before. Not only are we able to operate as a commissary, preparing more of our everyday items from raw ingredients and providing practical skills to our staff, but our new kitchen will offer fine dining just feet from the line. At the Chef's Table is where Quarter Barrel's kitchen will define itself as a legend of working cuisine, which, if that seems like I'm overselling, means you've never really seen us in action.
The Expanding Universe
A good restaurant is something of a challenge to those who operate it because you sell hundreds upon thousands of same-type items, leading to the inevitable resentment of said items in as much as they have come to simultaneously represent your identity, your financial security, and the limiting reagent keeping customer experience away from the more adventurous aspects of your overall gastronomic personality. In short, you wish you could be known for more than your most popular menu item. We yearn for our own sense of authenticity or audacity, even when we admit to ourselves that success requires we are far more ordinary.
So we take pride in our everyday product, in the underpinnings and organizational decisions. We have chosen the best local sources because the quality and regional economic benefits offset the slightly more expensive COGs. We challenge ourselves to create career opportunities for our staff because we want to share their inspiration and want them to draw from their experience. There's more to this industry than SKUs and an anachronistic tipping system, and that's people. And it's our people that make our products. And that's what we're about.
Our product. Ours. Without it, there is no Quarter Barrel. We are what we give you. The products of our friends and neighbors, from their pastures and kitchens, their passions and energies. We are the tangibility we create, together, by hand.