It is a long way from Tajikistan to Winnipeg. But that is the path that has led Sean Shoyoqubov, owner of Oxus Brewing in Manitoba’s capital city, to his current endeavours. Shoyoqubov emigrated to Canada six years ago and chose Winnipeg as his new home. He first came to build a new life and work in IT, a profession that has treated him well.
But Shoyoqubov also loves beer. “I love beer. My family was always into experimenting with the production of alcohol,” he remembers. “My dad distilled and did winemaking. I came to this whole thing naturally.” He started homebrewing shortly after arriving in Winnipeg and has had the itch to open a brewery ever since.
Lack of cash and time got in the way of his dream. “It was on the backburner,” he admits. Building a new life took priority. “I knew it would take time if I wanted to own my own business.” So he steadfastly saved his money and wiled away the time homebrewing and studying – reading everything he could about beer and the beer industry. Plus he got some hands-on experience. “I spent some time in Portland and San Fransisco. I tried a lot of good brews there.”
He has been researching the project for three years, but the “tipping point” came about a year ago. “I had saved enough money to start a brewery. Or what I thought was enough.” Oxus hopes to open in the next few months, although Shoyoqubov refuses to name a firm date in fear of missing it.
Shoyoqubov’s main goal is to maintain his autonomy and not get into debt. As result he is starting small and will build as cash allows. To start he will have a 5hl system with four 10hl fermenters. “The reason I started small is that I didn’t want to take big loans,” he says. “I made everything affordable as could, if I am successful I will go for a bigger setup.”
It is a harder route, but one he thinks is worth it. “My main goal is to ensure I get to decide what and when to brew,” he notes. “Once you have shareholders what matters for them is the bottom line, numbers, and it becomes pure business.” He has more modest goals. “I just want to build a workplace for myself, make a product I enjoy and create something that I will feel happy to go to work every morning.”
Consistent with that ethos Shoyoqubov plans to brew beer he likes to drink. The line-up is still a work in progress, but his current thinking sees four mainstays with a series of small batch one-offs. “I hope to have two sessionable beer, a Pale Ale and probably an Alt,” he contemplates. “Then a West Coast IPA. I am working on a Porter and a Wheat Beer, but the final line-up is not carved in stone.” He visions the one-offs as approximately bi-weekly one keg releases that will be available only for growler fills at the brewery.
Speaking of packaging, at first it will be growlers and kegs only. “If I grow then I will look at canning,” he predicts.
As for the brewery name, Oxus is the Latin name for the main river in the Central Asia region, today known as Amu Darya, which some of its tributaries originate in Tajikistan. “My wife suggested the name,” Shoyoqubov admits. “It is not associated to any style of beer or brewery. It is just the land I am from.”
In keeping with his careful approach, Shoyoqubov envisions a modest future for the brewery. I ask him where will he be at in five years. “The brewery will be bigger – at this size it is quite small. I want it to grow and become sustainable as a business, and build a good high quality fan base, people who know beer,” he replies. “I want to be making great beer and be a part of a very good crowd of startups in Manitoba.”
Humble origins and humble beginnings for Oxus Brewing. but if Shoyoqubov achieves his goals, Oxus Brewing will be as strong and as determined as an ox in the Manitoba brewing scene.