Tribus Beer Company, based in Milford, Connecticut, started with three beer-loving friends in 2017. The company, which currently boasts a pilsner, porter, and several IPAs (India Pale Ales) at their tap room, is named Milton’s first and only tap house. Getting to the grand opening was a grassroots effort.
A New Start
The Tribus name comes from having three owners — tri — and the Latin word for tribe. They’re a family and they want to become a business pillar of the local community. “We’re raw and want to grow into something so much bigger,” said Sean O’Neill, co-founder and head of business development. He has a business background, while the two other owners, Matt Weichner and Sebastian D’Agostino, have both trained with various distinguished breweries in the United States and Germany.
The trio signed the lease for a building in June 2017. It had been previously rented out to plumbing and carpet cleaning companies, but it needed a bit of work to bring it up to the Tribus standards. Connecticut has been nicknamed “The Nutmeg State” and “The Constitution State,” but it’s a maybe lesser-known moniker that rings truer to the Tribus team’s mentality: “The Land of Steady Habits.”
The trio chose to do all of their own rehab work for their business. “We treat the business like it’s our child; we’re anal about it,” O’Neill said. They also had another motivating factor to laying down a floor coating themselves: money. “We ran out of money and kind of just had to teach ourselves,” O’Neill explained.
As O’Neill said, they were penny pinching already, and they were starting in a congested market with no business track record to back them, so all they had to finish the renovation was sweat equity. “It was an uphill battle,” he said.
Luckily, they had a little help getting there. Not only is O’Neill’s father a general contractor on Nantucket who made himself available for hands-on help, but they also visited their local paint shop for guidance.
An 8,000-square-foot (743.2 m²) production area and a ~17,000-square-foot (1,579.4 m²) tap room with a bar comprise the total footprint of the brewery. Outside, they have a beer garden, but it was that tap room and about 1,500 square feet (139.4 m²) into the production area that needed an epoxy floor covering. According to O’Neill, that coating was used for protection because it’s “resistant to alcohol, bleach, and soap.” He said it’s also “easy to clean and mop.” Nothing says family friendly like easy to clean!
The 4-inch (10.2 cm) slab, on the other hand, was not. According to O’Neill, prepping the concrete was the “hardest part.” The slab was cracked and there was a trench running down it for a sewer line, plus added floor drains. Wearing a 3M 8511 N95 mask and Boss Latex Gloves, the trio started by acid washing the new concrete poured over the line. That was muriatic acid, used because they knew pH levels were low in that new concrete. The rest of the floor was power washed with a gas-powered Subaru power washer. They applied caulk to the cracks and swept the floor before moving onto the coatings. In total, it took about five hours to get the surfaces ready.
The Tribus guys don’t have any experience in construction, so they relied on help from O’Neill’s father and did a ton of homework. But it was one of the only projects that they completed in the building’s renovation that went seamlessly, according to O’Neill. “Most other projects, there was a speed bump every five minutes,” he said.
One small setback popped up, though, because the installation was taking place during the summer season. Each day, they laid down the system in two 4,500-square-foot (418.1 m²) sections. The next day, they’d come in expecting a cured coating. That wasn’t reality, though. “Because of humidity, the floor was still tacky,” O’Neill said. In fact, instead of the 24 hours that was called for, it took closer to 48 hours for the floor covering to cure. “You gotta be careful,” he said succinctly of the coordination. They also circulated the air during this stage to help the curing.
Their patience seemed to pay off. Wearing the same 3M masks and gloves, the trio laid down Benjamin Moore Corotech Performance Polyamide Epoxy Coating. They mixed the coating in 5-gallon (18.9 L) buckets for 7 minutes, then let it rest for 25 minutes before applying with 9-inch (22.9 cm) Wooster rollers. They ended up using a total of four kits, although they had to figure that out along the way. “We weren’t quite sure how many kits we’d need,” O’Neill explained.
It took only 30 minutes for the crew to lay down each section of the floor, but that wait to cure cost them time — time they didn’t really have to delay opening the business. The tanks were down, the fermenters were in, so all they could do was keep moving forward and around any stationary equipment. Once the floor was ready, and any last-minute tasks were completed, they could open for business.
With such extensive backgrounds in beer and business, the Tribus brewery is sure to take off quickly. Their “coatings business,” on the other hand, might end up being a one-time event. Although O’Neill says customers won’t see any problems with the floor, he’s a perfectionist and sees some slight flaws.
Regardless, the team members didn’t shy away from getting their hands dirty, and the support from their families and community was evident. All in all, the floor turned out to be a sparkling success and Tribus is sure to be one, too!