Monday, October 29, 2007

Working on the LCBO

So, in Ontario there are only a few ways a brewery is (legally) allowed to sell beer. Here they are:

1) The Beer Store. This is a private, for-profit company, owned by Molson (which is owned by the U.S.’s Miller-Coors) and Labatts (which is owned by Inbev, from Belgium). Okay so Sleemans (owned by Sapporo in Japan) owns something like 1%, but let’s not split hairs. Something ridiculous like 85% of all beer sold in Ontario moves through this juggernaut.

2) The LCBO. This is a government-owned company that focuses on wines and spirits, but does sell beer as well. The LCBO does not sell larger packages than the 6-pack, so customers looking to purchase a case of beer go to the Beer Store.

3) Brewery retail store. Breweries are allowed to sell beer out of their brewery. They are not allowed to open up stores off-site, which is too bad, ‘cause that would be cool.

4) Restaurants and bars. Technically only restaurants can get new liquor licenses in Ontario, which is why you see fewer taverns every year.

So as you can see, options are really limited for a little brewery that wants to sell in the Ottawa-area exclusively. The Beer Store is very expensive to get into. In fact, it would cost us about $20,000 to get listed in 20 stores selling the usual 6-pack, 12-pack and 24-pack. Furthermore, if we don’t meet sales targets, the Beer Store takes back the listing and bans us from selling in that store.

On top of that, the Beer Store is converting more and more stores to a format where you can pick up a case of Molson Canadian or Blue Light real quick and get out the door; OR try to find what you want on a tiny list of beer, then wait in line forever while someone in the back hunts for your beer. I suppose it makes sense — if I was the one who owned the Beer Store, I’d probably try to make it tough for them (Miller-Coors) to sell their beer.

The LCBO is a much better option, but still quite challenging to work with on a small scale. Because they sell all the wine and spirits for the whole province, they have very long lead times and most of their programs expect the supplier to be able to reach the whole province. As an example, the deadline to submit a seasonal beer is 12 months in advance.

On the flip side though, the LCBO is interested in higher-end beer and I’ve had very good experiences working with the beer team and the inside folks there. For my first listing, and because I asked really nicely, they were able to fast-track Beau’s through the process, shaving 4 months off the submission timeline. (The process involved in getting a listing is rather interesting and I’ll write a separate blog about that some time). So finally, the good news is that it is looking likely that Beau’s will be able to sell through the LCBO starting in January. Although we’ll miss you all coming down the brewery to get your fix, it’ll be nice to know people in Ottawa can say, “Let’s go buy some Beau’s,” and not have to gas up and pack a lunch for the ride to VKH.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Hey, guys, what's going on?"

I thought I'd do up a little update on things that have been going down at Beau's central lately. Here's da scoop.

New Beer Style Coming Your Way

First of all, for those of you who have been eagerly awaiting a new style of beer from our brewery, this week we've been working on a test batch of a lil' seasonal treat we plan to launch with this winter. We have the basic recipe in mind, and are right now testing out a few variations. Like Lug Tread, we'll be the only brewery in Ontario making anything like it and its going to be real ly interesting and (I hope) tasty. Look forward to it in the middle o' winter, when a new beer will brighten up those short, cold days.

LCBO and New Bottles

So you love the Jug o' Lug -- and who doesn't? But we're all about options. We've ordered some smaller-sized bottles we like quite a bit. They're wicked cool , and you'll be able to buy them at the brewery retail store for Christmas and at select LCBO stores early in the new year. We're also upgrading our bottling equipment (read: getting some) to keep up with the demand for these nice new vessels. And don't worry, the jugs will still be available from the retail store for your purchasing convenience.

More Places to Get Beau's On Tap

Here are a few of our new best friends. You should check them out!

Agave Grill
Casselman Restaurant
Navan Curling Club

Museum of War/Museum of Civilization History Ball

We're the official sponsors of the coolest party of the year - the history ball. This year's theme is the age of style 20's, 30's and 40's. The museum is going to be decking out The Tank Room (it's called that because its full of tanks) and dressing up all the guests in zoot suits and flapper dresses and we're gonna party like its 1929. Tix are $500, and money it goes to raise money for the two museums.

Kurt Waldele Fundraiser

Kurt Waldele, the Executive Chef of the National Arts Center in Ottawa, has been one of the leading chefs of the National Capital region for almost three decades, and a well respected community leader as well. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment. Robert Bourrassa and the Epicurean Society are organizing a standing dinner cocktail at the NAC on October 24 from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. They have gathered 29 of the city’s top chefs, a veritable who’s who of the culinary scene in Ottawa, to contribute some of their signature dishes as well as 4 of Niagara’s top wineries, Beau's All Natural (of course) and one other brewery (I'm not being cheeky, I really don't know who the other brewery is). If you have $150 burning a hole in your pocket, come check it out, yo. The funds will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Ottawa Wine and Food Show

We'll be there again this year! Come see us November 2, 3 and 4 at the Ottawa Congress Centre. Admission is $15. Tas-tee stuff.