Like thousands of other impassioned home brewers out there, Neil Kade has dreamed of having his own brewery one day. He’s made hundreds of trips to his local brew supply store, spent countless hours making a mess in the kitchen, and developed his share of new friendships as a direct result of beer. He’s even come up with a name for his someday brewery, Gilded Skull Brewing & Blending. But for two big reasons, that’s where the comparisons between Kade and virtually every other home brewer ends. For one, he isn’t interested in brewing trendy IPAs, instead preferring obscure farmhouse styles like a Grisette or a Bière de Mars. The other is that he was recently diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer and doesn’t know how much longer he has to live.
A lot will depend on the results of a recent surgery to remove the tumor, efforts to prevent it from spreading, and an upcoming bout of chemotherapy. “I just don’t know yet,” he says when asked about his prognosis. “It’s a terrible place to live in, but that’s where I’m at.” It’s an often used axiom, but for the 40-year old Kade – passionate about Belgian-inspired farmhouse and sour beer, fighting cancer, and trying to live his dream – time is literally of the essence.
Despite notable success as a home brewer, including Best In Show at the New England Regional Home Brew Competition in 2017, Kade let complacency get between his everyday life and his dreams. Then in March of this year, he began feeling ill. After seven months of uncertainty, he was diagnosed with liver cancer. “At first I thought: it’s over – I’m going to die,” he admits. But then his wife convinced him to pursue his dream of commercial brewing with whatever time he had left.
“You have to live the life you have. No one knows when their time is up.” – Amy Kade –
Ironically, the discovery of his late-stage cancer – an event most people would describe as a nightmare – may help his dream of opening a commercial brewery come true. Last week, from a hospital bed in Boston, he and his wife launched a Kickstarter campaign to make Gilded Skull Brewing & Blending a reality. In order for that to happen, the award-winning home brewer needs to raise a minimum of $12,500 during his 45-day, all-or-nothing crowdfunding effort, or the project gets canceled (per Kickstarter rules).
The Gilded Skull name came from an experience Kade and his wife had during Halloween of 2017,
when they stumbled upon a window display of golden skulls and drew inspiration.
If it’s successful, Kade would start brewing as soon as he’s able to acquire the necessary equipment, and is feeling up to it, focussing on unique offerings and batch variants of existing recipes he’ll brew in the basement of his friend’s commercial brewery. Legally, Gilded Skull will be a subsidiary of Granite Coast Brewing, a pending microbrewery and taproom that plans to open in Peabody early this spring. The arrangement would be similar to those of Springdale or Clown Shoes, both are brands that are brewed under the license of their parent company or host brewery. Should anything happen to Kade, his wife Amy, along with Granite Coast co-founder Jeff Marquis, would preserve his legacy by continuing to brew Gilded Skull recipes and other tribute beers in his honor.