Thursday, June 28, 2007

Open 10-7, Seven Days a Week

Open 10-7, Seven Days a Week. Sounds innocent enough, right? Just your regular store hours, mild compared to say, the drugstore (open til mignight!) or Canadian Tire, the only place around Vankleek Hill that's open at like, the crack of dawn for people with nothing to do to go browse at.

Now, try keeping your brewery's retail store open those hours when you have only family working for you. Then it gets interesting! From a business perspective it makes perfect sense because it's easy to remember, and it's more convenient (i.e. open earlier and later) than the LCBO or Beer Store. But it means that someone gets to miss dinner, or someone's not going to get to go to Rhett's first birthday party. Have you decided who? Okay, then YOU tell them.

Sales guy Phil's fiancee Laura has been working evenings and weekends at the retail store, so she's the nice gal who greets you most days. Laura's not missed a shift yet, but sometimes covering the days gets a little dicey. Like one day last week, Dad offered to drive his friend to the airport, and Steve offered to drive his wife and kids to a playdate. Same morning, same time. I don't know if they did rock, sissors, paper, but I have to guess that Airplane crushes Playdate, because when I showed up Steve was at the brewery, just in case anyone wanted a T-shirt or tour at 10 am. We're there for ya!

Opening a brewery changed a lot of things for our family. I think most of them are pretty cool. For example, Ruby, who's three, chased Steve out of his house with a Beau's bowling shirt the other morning saying, "Dont forget your beer shirt, Daddy!" Yup. "All Natural" was one of the first things my son Nate could read other than DOG or CAT. It's just part of their lives, part of the talk they hear every day. Dad doesn't go with the other old guys to Canadian Tire anymore at 8 am, because's he already at the brewery filling growlers or kegs. And Rhett's first birthday party might be happinin' at the brewery, so Auntie Laura can be there too.

Cheers! Jen "Beau" James

P.S. Steve sent me an email the other day that said that you can vote for Beau's for "Best brewery outside GTA" and for our LugTread beer for "Best beer brewed outside GTA" at the Golden Taps website: Last year we won the Best Beer of the Festival award, the only award decided at the event... the rest of the awards are predetermined by popular choice voting. So let's get the vote out!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Ask A Brewer who wishes he was a Ninja

So I got an email from someone who reads the blog. It was a Q worth A'ing, so I figure its worth posting up for others. Here is the message I got...

-----Original Message-----
From: Darien Taylor
Sent: June 14, 2007 4:20 PM
Subject: A Thank You and a Question From A Fellow Microbrewer

First I would like to thank you for the blog that you placed up on your site. A friend and I had the idea to brew beer just for fun to see what it would take. After having so much fun making our first batch we are planning on upgrading our equipment and buying more equipment so we can start a more continuous supply.While looking for information on the laws of microbrewing in Canada, we came across your website and your blog and we have been using it as an "instruction and information" website for the future (if this actually takes off). So on behalf of Chris Shephard (Shep) and I, Darien Taylor (Eli) of Sheli Beer I want to thank you for the information you have provided us from your blog and your website to help us turn this tiny thought in the back of our heads to an actual project.Now I read how you had people from overseas asking for labels and samples. What are the laws of sending a sample of beer across the country (We are located in North Bay Ontario and looking to ship a sample to some friends in Alberta)? Also what are the laws to send it overseas (such as to Australia)? Thank you again for everything you have unknowingly provided us and good luck on the future of your company.

And here is my response...

Hey Shep and Eli,

Thanks for writing such a nice email. It’s kinda cool to think that people other than just my mom [note: I do appreciate your readership too, mom] read the blog. Regarding your question... within the country my advice would be: legal schmeegal! I had the same worry, we needed to ship a sample bottle tothe LCBO for laboratory testing and when I asked the LCBO staffer they said something along the lines of "oh, just mark it as fragile and send it through FedEx". So I did. When we were building the business plans and working on test recipes I was still working in Toronto, and my Dad would send me a sixpack of sample bottles via UPS all the time. Just make sure you pack it real good with lots of bubble wrap. As far as overseas goes, I've never tried, but I think the same approach would be worth trying. I hope that helps and its great to hear that another brewery might be opening up soon!

So there you go...I feel so “Ask a Ninja” right now! And if you’re someone else who reads this blog fairly often, post a response so I know yer out there. It’s easier to write more if I know people are reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

10,000 Pounds of Beer Delivered Yesterday!

This weekend we’re the official beer of the Franco-Ontarien festival. This is a wonderful event for us for many, many reasons, but one of the main ones is simply that it proves we can do it. There was a lot to figure out for the event. Here are my top-three funny ones:

1. It was accidental that we actually had enough beer to supply the event. We were seeing sales spiking as we were getting closer to summer, so we decided it would be nice to build up a “buffer” of extra beer. We figured that if sales stayed within reason, it would at least allow us to do some testing on extra-long aging on the beer. As it turned out, the amount we brewed as a buffer will allow us to just squeak by.

2. We didn’t have that many kegs. After getting the go-ahead from Daniel, the general director at the festival, I did a count of extra kegs and we were more than 20 short. So we scrambled and bought a pile off another brewer.

3. How the fudge can we move the beer to the festival? 70 kegs weigh approx. 10,000 lbs when full. Our cargo van holds 3,000 lbs. Dad’s minivan and our minivan sales vehicle can each take 1,200 lbs. So we figured we could get 19 kegs into the cargo van, 8 in each of the minivans, and do 2 x 3 vehicle convoys up to Ottawa. Perfect, except on the first trip only 18 could fit in the cargo van… and then a few customers called in emergency delivery requests… so our second trip up had a fourth vehicle, courtesy of Phil’s buddy Little Jeff.

The beer dispensing team got a bit of a chuckle watching us unload from a series of minivans and 4 passenger cars, I’m sure. But guess what — we got it done! We were able to brew enough beer, get it into kegs and get the kegs where they needed to be, when they needed to be there. I’m proud of that. The event runs this weekend (June 15-17) and should be a blast — and the beer at the festival is going to taste great this year.

À votre santé! Steve

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rushing the Growler

In case you missed the memo, Beau's All Natural Brewing Company recently introduced a novel beer-drinking concept to Eastern Ontario. When you come to the brewery (have you been yet? You're getting thirsty, very thirsty), you can buy yourself some Lug Tread Lagered Ale in a big ole hoedown jug. That's right, 1/2 US Gallons of Beau's you can take home and drink on your stoop, and then blow a tune in the top when you're done. (Thanks to Beau's enthusiast Darren Wardle for the picture!)

These jugs enjoy a fair degree of poularity in the US, where they are usually called "growlers." So whenever I'm working in Beau's new retail store, people always say, "Let me see these jugs everyone has been talking about." And so I go to our converted freezer that's older than I am, and pull out a frosty one. And when I say they're called growlers, I'm asked why they are called growlers. So finally, since I like being a trivia nerd, I looked it up. Thank you Interweb! The answer is... no one knows. But there are a number of logical guesses. According to

"Back in the 19th century parents would at dinnertime send their child to a local bar or brewery to fetch beer in a pail, or covered bucket, which was referred to as a “growler.” It was also called rushing the growler, since perhaps these children were often in a hurry. Teenagers could make good money and get a free lunch if they would show up at the factories and pick up the workers’ beer pails to get them filled at the taverns. Regarding the term ‘growler' the Trenton Times for 20 June 1883 said, perhaps in jest “It is called the growler because it provokes so much trouble in the scramble after beer.”

The Otto brothers, founders of Grand Teton Brewing Co., credit themselves with bringing back the idea of the growler in 1989, in its modern-day form of the glass jug you see today. Neat, huh? So I'm thinking that, if kids are so good at fetching beer, I set myself back a number of good years by buying a "freezer on the bottom" fridge. Let's hope our boys grow tall soon. Cheers! Jen "Beau" James