A Visit with One Well Brewery Co-Founder T.J. Waldofsky
Interview by Alicia Segnitz Discover Kalamazoo Beer Week Intern
Last week, I took a trip down Portage Road in Kalamazoo to interview T.J. Waldofsky, one of the powerhouses behind One Well Brewing. Upon arrival, T.J. informed me that Co-Founder, Chris O’Neil, was just down the road at Latitude 42 Degrees to pick up some brewing supplies, a mission comparable to “borrowing a cup of sugar” from the neighbor. What’s so unique about the craft brewing community is just that—beyond a little friendly competition, there’s a genuine support system amongst fellow brewers.
The feel of the brewery is quite awesome—I was especially impressed when T.J. informed me that they are doing the entire renovation and startup for under $80,000. He explained that they were fortunate enough to have a great local network local artists, craftspeople, and family members that were fully supportive in the process. In fact, I was able to meet a local woodworker/musician who was in the back at the time working on a set of stools that, when put together, would fit like puzzle pieces perfectly making one long wooden bench. Much of the brewery’s attributes were made from recycled, repurposed, and rescued materials integrating to make a well-crafted shabby-chic environment.
Since One Well Brewing is still in the ever long process of Brewery code approvals, they are not yet allowed to distribute their beer, alas, I was unfortunately unable to sample the forbidden fruit. The good news is they had coffee—and not just any coffee—it was Waterstreet Coffee, a well-known local coffee beanery. After pouring a Cup of Waterstreet’s specially made One Well Brew, we got down to real business, my enlightenment in the ways of One Well Brewing. My exclusive interview is highlighted below.
One Well Brewing will initially utilize a 3-barrel brewing system which will produce 90 gallon batches. Additionally, Chris’s set up is a 25-gallon system they can eventually use to produce smaller, specialty batches.
What is their background?
T.J. has moderate experience in the actual art of home brewing, his foundation in craft-beer lies in experiencing the craft-beer connoisseur culture─ he has visited over 100 microbreweries and brewpubs in the U.S. alone. Over ten years ago, Chris began looking for a new hobby and realized he had a passion for it and never turned back.
What drew you to brewing?
“The Culture─ I’ve never met a bad guy at a microbrewery!”
Why did they decide to open a brewery in Kalamazoo, and more specifically, the Milwood area?
They know that Michigan is a great beer state and Kalamazoo is an awesome craft-beer city on the rise. More specifically, they feel the Milhood neighborhood is “thirsty” and needs something close by.
What are some of the things that advanced One Well’s brewing, or made their beer better?
“Trial and error─ we are always learning and improving.”- T.J
What was the single best tip you received for opening a brewery?
“Keep it simple─ that’s why we decided to perfect four beers and expand it from there.” -T.J.
Knowing what you know now, what advice do you have to give someone for starting up a brewery?
“Be ready to work and know that it’s a labor of love” -T.J.
T.J. agrees that opening and operating a brewery is like being an actor─ it seems glamorous on the outside, but on the inside it’s hard and takes dedication.
Do you have a mentor?
“My grandfather─ it’s his work ethic─ he’s 80 and still cuts the wood to heat his own home!”- T.J.
What do you love most about Kalamazoo?
“The culture and the people”-T.J.
What type of events do you wish to have at your brewery?
T.J. wants to do as many events as they can─ they want to host events like game nights involving their vintage arcade games, live music, featured artist displays, and more.
What beers do you hope to have on tap for your opening?
Whoppy hoppy─ Hoppy wheat ale with a golden orange color and a mouthful of flavor
Bad Adz─ an English-style brown ale named after their wood design specialist, Tim Overhuel, and his company, Bad Adz Custom Wood Design.
Opener ─ an American-style blonde ale with moderate hoppiness
Simcoe Rillo ─ an American-style India Pale Ale brewed with Simcoe and Amarillo hops
Current Specialty Brew─ a Jalapeño blonde which is basically the opener infused with Jalapeños
Every brewer out there could make a beer using the same recipe and each beer would still have different, what makes your beers unique?
T.J. says that Chris and he quite fond of West Coast style beers and a lot of the beer reflects that, and of course, Chris’s magical touch makes each beer unique!
When do you hope to be open?
Their goal is to be opening by late November. Stay tuned folks!