The desire to do something that matters.
This very thought is where the Half Full Brewery story started. Upon graduating from the University of Notre Dame, I took the path expected of a finance major by heading to Wall Street. After grinding out a job for 4 years, I knew I had to make a change or risk being sucked into a career that would never inspire me. I wanted to do something that mattered, something that contributed to the “greater good”, whatever that meant. Though I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I knew I didn’t want to wear that suit anymore. And I sensed that doing the unexpected would be a helluva lot more fun and fulfilling. So, I started planning the trip of a lifetime.
In August 2008, I landed in Lima, Peru with my fiancée Lindsay, her brother, and a 50-pound backpack filled with what I would need for the next 15 weeks. Over that time, I woke up early to catch a glimpse of Machu Pichu at sunrise, observed the afternoon mate ritual in Brazil, sampled fresh wine trail-side on a hike of Cinque Terre, and philosophized over liters of beers in Munich bier gardens. Travel is cathartic and unique in how it clarifies and prioritizes life. During my trip, I realized that I needed to do something I was passionate about. But what?
On October 31, 2008, I experienced a confluence of events that would change the direction of my life forever. A push from a college buddy and serial entrepreneur, some unfortunate news back home, and the realization that I’m most happy when I’m connecting with people brought me to the conclusion that from here on out, I was going to make life count. And that meant starting a business that mattered, that stood for something more. I was going to start a business that brought people together and was celebratory in nature – a brewery. And so on a train ride from Prague to Vienna a few days later, I laid out everything I needed to learn about the beer business.
Becoming Half Full.
During my “brain dump” on this train ride, I gave a lot of thought to how I wanted to be different, about how I wanted to be about beer and more. Instead of naming my brewery after a town, mountain, street, or animal, I wanted my brewery to be a brewery that stood for something bigger. And so in my notebook, I wrote:
And it hit me. There I was, traveling the world in an attempt to figure out life, not knowing how things would turn out, but believing that in the end, everything would work out for the best. And I knew in my heart that I wasn’t the only one with this perspective, but I also knew that some people needed to be reminded of this from time to time. This would be the mission of the Half Full Brewery.
Dipping my toe in.
When I arrived home from Europe, I immediately started figuring out what I needed to do build out my dream.
I quickly realized I need to pursue two Masters degrees, one in business and the other in beer. I applied to the University of Connecticut MBA program where I would construct my business plan. I spent the whole summer leading up to this program learning everything I could about brewing and the beer business at Rob Leonard’s New England Brewing in Woodbridge, CT. I homebrewed with my uncle, my sister, my brothers, my friends, and by myself. I spoke to anyone and everyone that had any connection to beer. And I spoke to anyone who wanted to listen about what it meant to be half full and pursuing my passion to start Half Full.
Luckily for me, the critics kept pretty quiet or I simply was an incurable optimist who wouldn’t listen as on May 25th, 2011, nearly 2 ½ years after I came up with the idea for Half Full, I began raising money to start Half Full. On September 28th, 2011, with the help of my mother’s legal expertise and my expertise in running through walls, I reached my minimum fund raising goal. With the click of a button that moved the money I had raised from an escrow account into a Half Full Brewery, Inc. account, I was officially in business. Surreal. I will forever be indebted to the 51 individuals who believe in me.
Half Full becomes a reality.
Now it was time for the real work to begin. I traveled to Smuttynose, Long Trail, Troegs, and Victory Brewing to scout out brewing equipment. I interviewed over a dozen brewers and lucked out when I was contacted by Jennifer Muckerman, a brewer from a little known brewery who blew away the competition from a number of renowned craft breweries. We started demolishing and building out our space in April 2012 with the help of countless friends and family members who would stop by nearly every night (my brother Mikey) or simply stop by late night on the way through town (my buddy Pete) to lend a helping hand. In May, our equipment arrived and by the end of June, two more members joined the Half Full team, Jordan Giles and Chris Heagney, guys who have been putting their hearts and souls into Half Full ever since. In August, thanks to my wife’s incredible eye for all things branding and design, we released our vibrant and unique new logo and opened our tasting room. And on August 7th, the first Bright Ale, a style I found while traveling in Australia, was poured for the first time at Coalhouse Pizza, Station Eats, and the Brickhouse in Stamford. Half Full had finally arrived.
Being Half Full.
Building Half Full has been an incredible adventure and there are countless people that I have to thank for helping me convert my dream into a reality. Every day, we at Half Full strive to be different by pouring our passion into each glass of beer that we get to enjoy with you. We stay true to our slogan, “Look forward to moreTM…” by constantly creating new experiences and sharing them with you so that your glass may be half full as well. So, come by for a visit to meet both the crew and our brew and to look forward to more…
Conor & Crew