Who are we?
Belgian Underground Brewing was started by three guys: Sheldon, Eric, and Dale.
Sheldon Lesire is a Belgian-American born in Belgium and raised bi-lingually (English and Flemish, in case you're curious) in Silverton, OR. On weekdays and during the school year, he wears ties and works as a special education teacher at rural K-8 schools. On weekends and in the summer, he wears t-shirts, makes Belgian beer, and tells stories about Belgium.
Eric Druliner grew up on the same block as Sheldon, and is considered "a brother from another mother" by the whole Lesire family. He keeps the peace as a police officer, and does most of the legal paperwork and compliance work for the brewery. If that wasn't enough, he purchased a home with a shop large enough to house a brewery--that's commitment!
Dale Coleman is Sheldon's father-in-law, and has been brewing beer for more than fifteen years. His wide-ranging fabrication experience and his technical know-how as a quality technician have proven invaluable as we've worked to get this project off the ground and produce a high quality, consistent, and repeatable product.
What is Belgian Underground Brewing?
Sheldon's Opa fought in the Belgian Resistance during World War 2. After growing up in the Willamette Valley, Sheldon discovered two things: not nearly enough people know about the Belgian Resistance, and not nearly enough people have experienced quality Belgian-style beers. After doing years of research about the unsung heroes of the Resistance, and doing years of research about the overlooked Belgian beer styles, he finally hit on the idea of spreading knowledge about both with the same project. Dale and Eric were quick and easy recruits, and we rapidly threw most of our spare time and resources into the effort. During our first business meeting, we decided on three guiding principles for the business:
- This project is primarily to honor the stories of those who risked everything to resist against injustice. That means the product quality cannot be compromised, as anything less than the best would be an insult
- We will keep brewing fun.
- We will build this business debt-free.
To this end, we have continued to research and uncover stories of the Resistance and make sure they're remembered by naming each beer after a Resistance group or event, and including that story on the label. We have patiently perfected each beer recipe one by one, repeatedly brewing each until it was exemplary, and only then moving on and developing another beer. Finally, we have each sacrificed much to build the business slowly and methodically, without going into debt: Dale has sold his collection of Vespas, Sheldon sold the classic BMW he swore he'd never part with, and Eric downsized and bought a small house with a large shop where the business could be located.
The response during our public and private tastings has been overwhelmingly positive, and we have built a community of several hundred supporters. We're starting to be noticed by the local press. We've perfected four beers we plan to brew regularly, have had good success with a couple seasonal fruit beers, and have clear plans to develop at least four others. We have partnered with a local artist to develop our logo and our labels. In addition, we have already purchased nearly all of the equipment the brewery requires. But in order to take the next step, we will require further assistance.
How can I support the Underground?
In order to make our beers legal for purchase, we must meet the licensing requirements for the State of Oregon. The biggest hurdle that we have yet to clear is the construction of our physical space. Basically, our shop must be brought up to code. This requires construction and materials. While we can do most of the work ourselves and have had many offers to help, we cannot afford the cost of the materials on our own. In order to help us spread our stories and disperse our beer, we're asking for a pledge of your financial support. To reward you for your generosity and welcome you to the Underground, we have a range of merchandise and experiences for you, as you can see on the right side of this page.
If you're new to Kickstarter, here's a good overview of how to support us:
Risks and challenges
A mission like this requires some risks to be taken. We are naturally risk-averse, so measures have been taken to make this as safe as possible.
We have never owned or operated a brewery before. But we're quick learners, and the brewing industry in Oregon is more collaborative than competitive, with nearly every company enthusiastically helping each other whenever possible. This is something we have already experienced, with the two closest breweries to ours being early and eager supporters.
Distribution and marketing of any product can be a challenge. However, we have already lined up at least five restaurants and taphouses who believe in our cause and want to be able to serve our beer. As it stands, demand will outstrip what we can supply.
Finally, we will face some regulatory and legal hurdles. We have already been working with the county regarding getting the shop up to code, and with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to make sure we're doing things correctly. Fortunately, these agencies are experienced at working with start ups, and they have already been very helpful. Sheldon, Eric, and Dale are all very experienced with completing regulatory paperwork in the course of their day jobs and this, while at times time-consuming, is well worth the effort.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (36 days)