Dennis Morgan is preparing to open Ucluelet’s first microbrewery this summer.
“Everybody wants to know when it’s going to happen,” Morgan told the Westerly News from inside his future Ucluelet Brewing Company venue last week. “There’s still a ton of variables. July is realistic if things go well. August is very realistic.”
Morgan first presented his plan to open a microbrewery and tasting room inside the building formerly known as St. Aidan’s on the Hill Church to Ucluelet’s municipal council in April, 2016.
The building, which was deconsecrated by the church in 2010 and sold to Ucluelet developer Leif Hagar in 2011, had become a point of contention in Ucluelet as Hagar had hoped to develop the space into a venue for events on the top floor with retail space below, but wound up in a lengthy disagreement with Ucluelet’s district office and municipal council in 2012 that left the very visible building in the centre of the community locked and looking rundown.
Morgan’s pitch to transform the then-defunct building perched above Ucluelet’s downtown core into a brewpub received a loud and unanimous endorsement from the community during a public hearing in May, 2016, and the town’s council approved his plan at their regular meeting later that month.
READ MORE: Ucluelet cheers microbrewery
Nearly three years after receiving the community’s and council’s endorsement, Morgan was inside the significantly revamped building mapping out how his new brewpub’s entrance will flow and kicking off interior renovations last week.
“It’s taken what it’s taken, but it’s happening,” he said estimating he’s about six months away from opening the doors to the public.
Morgan had initially hoped to open the space last summer, but realized he could not complete his dream off the side of his desk and decided to buckle down to see it through.
“Suddenly it became all consuming. I did not go back to work this year so that I could do this full-time and that’s why it’s suddenly happening. You can’t do this kind of thing part-time and expect it to be finished. I learned that,” he said.
“I’m just happy that the buzz that this project has generated is finally going to move into fruition. There will be something. It’s not just talking about it…The paper is going to the reality and that’s pretty cool.”
He added the positive buzz created by his 2016 announcement has endured the entrepreneurial road to reality.
“I think people are looking for a space because there isn’t one; just a chill place to gather, play games, have a beer, hang out with your friends and that’s year-round too,” he said adding the community’s support has been consistent throughout the process, providing an important barometer for the venue’s future success.
“Without the community, there’s nothing. In the summer, sure, there will be a ton of tourists and that’s great, but that’s not who this is aimed at really. This is aimed at the people of town. That’s always been the goal. So, knowing that they’re supportive is obviously pretty critical.”
He said he’s putting together a ‘Founders’ Club’ where locals can invest in the company and that the funds raised through the club will help build a “slush-fund” to cover any unexpected expenses as the brewery gets going
“The details of that are still being finalized. But, for people who want to support this project from the get go, prior to opening, that’s a way for them to do it,” he said adding club members will receive their investment back in beer and will also receive free merchandise.
He said he’s currently imagining a seven-beer rotation, but hasn’t finalized the brew-menu just yet.
“There’s so much room to play in that realm…There’s no shortage of options,” he said adding he’s currently hiring a head brewer. “I’ve had five really good candidates. I’m pretty excited. There’s a bunch more things to do, so I’m just going to start the countdown and get done what needs to be done.”
Morgan’s love for craft beer began when he was completing his Master’s Degree in Oregon during the late-80’s and was immersed in the booming microbrewery culture.
“It blew my mind in terms of the quality and the variety of beer,” he said
Morgan, who moved to Ucluelet in 2014, said he had never expected to launch his own microbrewery, but the opportunity popped up during a conversation with Hagar about the former church building.
“This just kind of fell in my lap as a possible project,” he said. “I began my adventure in learning everything I possibly could about craft beer and here we are.”