“Create with passion.
Serve with enthusiasm.”
This credo anchors us.
We started Fireforge to create the greatest beer drinking experience in the world.
Big goal, huh? We’re passionate about beer and hospitality.
Opening a small-batch brewery and tasting room in Greenville, South Carolina, is the first step toward that giant goal.
So how did we get here?
I (Brian Cendrowski, co-founder and Governor of Fireforge) wasn’t really a beer drinker until my mid-20s. I thought beer tasted terrible. I had transitioned from amaretto sours and Makers Mark & Sprite to Woodchuck Cider to Bud Light. I give credit to my friend Eric Betzhold for introducing me to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It was then that I realized beer didn’t taste terrible; I was just drinking the wrong beer.
Around the same time, I had a crush on a girl named Nicole Zokan (now known as my better half and Fireforge’s co-founder), and her preferred adult beverage was Guinness, so I forced myself to acquire a taste for it. (St. Patrick’s Day at Tommy Condon’s in Charleston, SC, circa 2000.) It was tough to down at first, but after a while, I started to enjoy the roasty bite.
Those initial discoveries perked my interest in beer, and in 2003 the Flying Saucer opened near my apartment in Columbia, SC. It was the first beer bar we had in the city that had a wide variety of styles. As part of their UFO Club, I began to explore as many different beers as I could. I made it to 200 different beers and was inducted into the Wall of Honor as plate #40.
It was at that point that I developed an obsession with beer. I was continually on the hunt for new beer and new breweries that I hadn’t tried. Any time I traveled, the first thing I did was look up the local breweries and brew pubs.
seeds of the dream
About three years after I started homebrewing, I felt like I could consistently make beer that was as good as what I could buy. I loved coming up with concepts and brewing beer styles that I couldn’t find in stores.
I thought it would be useful to get a feel for what it was like in a brewery, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to intern with Coast Brewing Co. in Charleston and Thomas Creek Brewery in Greenville.
Coming from a career in Web development and sitting behind a computer most of my adult life, I really enjoyed working in the brewery and being a part of creating something tangible that would make it into customers’ hands to enjoy.
Even though most of my days were spent cleaning kegs, slinging 50-pound bags of grain or assembling cardboard boxes in an un-air conditioned brewery, I came home every day with a much greater sense of satisfaction than I ever did working behind a desk.
It was around that time I first thought I might be interested in starting my own brewery. However, money was pretty tight for us in the summer of 2010. I had a job opportunity come up with a large company in Greenville. The money and security were attractive. I had to choose the path, and I chose the security of the bigger salary.
I don’t regret that decision at all. I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and by buying some extra time with the desk job, we added many new beer recipes to our catalog, crystallized the vision for what kind of brewery we wanted to create, and built a stronger network of relationships with people in the community.
time to get off my ass
In 2014, I found myself living in Tampa, Florida. (I’ll save that for its own post.) I was in another unfulfilling desk job, and I had an epiphany. I had worked for eight companies in 15 years, and I can’t say that I liked any of the jobs.
I usually blamed irrational clients, boring tasks, management, khaki pants, or whatever, for my dissatisfaction. Then it occurred to me, “Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s me.” I had eight different jobs, but digging deeper, they were all really the same role. I was repeating the same cycle over and over again, hoping for a different result.
All the while, the dream of the brewery and creating a business was still gnawing at me. I started working with an executive coach, and it was through that coaching that I came to a critical realization. Taking daily actions, no matter how small, are far more important than talent or money. I had all the ability and resources I needed. It was about taking action. Just take the first step.
And here we are.