Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, its New Year's much for an awesome 2009. In the last year we won 3 Golden Tap awards, a Gold Medal at Mondiale in France (1 of 10) and two medals (out of three) at the National Organic Championship. We were named the #1 thing to try before you die by Ottawa Magazine, best local beer by Metro newspaper and one of 10 unique entries in the Ottawa food scene in the past decade by the Ottawa Citizen.

Mr. and Mrs. Harper poured a couple pints at 24 Sussex for us, and George Wendt visited our Oktoberfest, along with 5,000 of our closest friends!

We just started selling into Toronto LCBO stores, we've added a bunch of new fermenting tanks - 42,840 litres worth to be exact, our new bottling line has arrived (but still isnt actually working).

We rounded out our seasonal line-up with Beaver River in the Spring and we did a special one-off project with the Canadian Amateur Brewer's Association.

We've been lucky enough to try Piggy Market's and Elk Ranch's sausages made with our beer, Art-is-in Bakeries Beau's Bread, Pascal's Awesome beer ice-cream, as well as sauces, chutnies and steak-and-mushroom pies with our beer.

We've grown from 13 employees to 24 in the year. We received a very welcomed grant from the Ontario government to help us keep expanding.

We sponsored or donated well over $50,000 to worthwhile causes like Prostate Cancer research, Amnesty International, Ottawa Jazz Fest, Kelp Records, FrancoOntarien festival, Operation Come Home, Yes Women Can!, Brockville Memorial Hospital, Therapeutic Riding, Bon Apetit, Tulip festival, Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, Military Families Fund, Capital Pride, the Ontario Provincial Police Association, Rideau Valley Roller Girls, Canadian Diabetes Association, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Feast of Fields, the United Way, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Canadian Breast Cancer research, the Vankleek Hill Agricultural Society, The Ontario Federation of Agriculture and more.

I made a New Year's resolution that I would post weekly and by my count, including this one I hit 26 - or about half way to my goal. My resolution for next year is to keep this momentum going, to make sure our beer stays as tasty as ever, to grow only when growing helps make us cooler than we are, to dramatically increase our support for charities and indie music and arts and to get to 52 blog entries for next year.

Thanks again to everyone who bought one of our beers this year.

Thanks to everyone who signed up to our Facebook Group, the Beau's Army.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us for a Golden Tap, or a best local beer competition.

Thanks to everyone who visited the brewery for a tour and brought a friend or a relative or a bus load of people.

Thanks to everyone who asked a restaurant to start carrying our beer.

Thanks to everyone who gave us a tip about a new restuarant, or a good one to approach.

Thanks to all the wonderful restaurateurs who made the choice to buy fresh, local, organic beer instead of a beer that came with a big advertising budget.

Thanks to all the bartenders, waitresses and waiters and sommaliers and chefs who willingly took on the role of Beau's salesrep and talked passionately about our beer to your customers.

Thank you to the bloggers, editors, and journalists who felt that what we were doing was newsworthy.

All of our success in 2009 is really your success. Everything we are is possible because of everything you do for us. We have been truly blessed this year with kindness and support from so many people.

I'm looking forward to 2010 with unbridled enthusiasm. I hope you'll join me at midnight to ring in the New Year with a LugTread or a BogWater (actually I'm planning on mixing Bogwater with champagne for a twist on a Black Velvet, but you get my drift)

Oh Yeah!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New bottles are in!

Our brand new bottles arrived today! Now we just need to get the labels, caps, boxes, trays in and get our bottling line actually running...

So make this the first official announcement - new packaging will be coming soon-ish!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ghosts of Christmas Past

2 days ‘till Christmas and things at Beau’s are awesome! Crazy, that is; but that is awesome! I came in on the weekend to pitch in on production-type stuff like washing bottles, stacking ceramics on buggies and washing kegs to make sure we’d have enough beer for our deliveries and retail shop (which was a total zoo on the weekend).

Jen Brock, who has been working in our retail store (and booking dispensing units, filing, packaging, etc.) since June, came into work on Saturday to see me arms deep in the growler washing tub and said something like “I never thought I’d see the day…” She was that surprised to see me doing honest work instead of just hanging out with a beer in my hand [note to reader: I’m actually working while hanging out with a beer in my hand, it just doesn’t look like it].

It got me thinking of how much has changed at the brewery in such a short time…
Christmas 2006: We’d been open for 6 months. There were still just 5 of us at the brewery at the time and we didn’t sell anything other than kegs. We were still brewing out of Churchkey, too. We had heard about the Christmas sales spike, but we only sold to about 20 restaurants, so December was actually pretty quiet in terms of sales. The trips back and forth to Campbelford through snowy weather were tough and I think my brother Phil actually ditched the cargo van around this time during a delivery run through a blizzard.

Christmas 2007: By now we were brewing full-on in Vankleek Hill, there were 6 of us full time and Phil’s then fiancĂ©e (wife, now) helped out on the weekends. My sister Jen and her husband Kevin also helped out a lot, but we didn’t pay them yet (mind you, they drink their weight in beer). This was the first year we sold beer out of the retail shop – and it was insanity! We only had a little beer gun at the time, so fill rates were ridiculous – 3 dedicated folks could fill about 40 an hour and we ran out of new bottles, so we also had to clean them all before filling. Our little wash tubs could handle 8 bottles at a time – for about 2 hours when we would run out of hot water and would have to stop washing.

I didn’t see much of my family that year. We’d start filling at 5am,
get a little bit ahead before the store opened at 10am, and then we’d see our stock dwindle all day as we kept frantically trying to keep up with the pace of sales. At 6pm, when the shop closed, I’d go home for dinner with Nicola and the kids and stay till the kids were in bed at 8pm. Then, back to the brewery to start cleaning bottles for the next day. This would finish up at about 3am, and I’d go home, take a shower and get a solid 1 to 1.5 hours sleep before starting the day at 5am again. All of us were completely beat by the time we closed up shop on Christmas Eve.

Christmas 2008: This year there were 13 of us and it was the first year selling through the LCBO. We got some really good advice on planning for Christmas from Ryan (an LCBO employee) and started working on things well in advance. We now had our two-head filling machine, so one person could crank out 90 ceramics or 50 jugs in one hour (assuming someone laid them on the buggy in advance and someone else was packaging them). But holy canoly, sales spiked and things were wild.

Keeping up with orders – both filling and delivering were a huge challenge and once again it seemed like every night was a 4am one…then out for deliveries at 8am. We still only had one cargo van at that point, so most deliveries went out in minivans. This year was a bit more manageable and none of us could believe it, because we sold so much more beer than the year before, but we got through it so much better.

Christmas 2009: Its almost starting to feel like we know what we’re doing now! We’ve been running two shifts a day for the last 6 weeks, starting at 5am and finishing at 11pm – this last weekend we moved to round the clock filling. We’ve got enough staff to keep bottles on the move on filling and packaging and 2 full time drivers and a bigger truck + a cargo van. We’ve got 23 employees now and this weekend is the first time I’ve had to come in to help out in production. It’s a good feeling to walk in to brewery in the morning and see the orders packed and ready to go, people moving with purpose and generally the feeling like you’ve just walked into a beehive.

I can’t say that I miss the cracked fingers from spending 20 hours soaking in sanitizer, and I can’t say I miss working on only 2 hours sleep a night, but in some ways I’m nostalgic for that feeling that we were moving a mountain every single day. What has replaced that is an odd, rather comforting feeling that I can no longer save the day by my own effort. For us to get our orders out, our whole team has to put out the extra effort, which means I can sleep more and still make sure that the beer gets to where it needs to be. Not tonight, mind you (I’m in at 2am tonight, just like last night), but in general.

Merry Christmas. Thanks to everyone who stopped by the retail store to pick up some jugs or picked up a bottle at the LCBO. Your purchase of our beer keeps the lights on here, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate you choosing to spend your Christmas with us.


Friday, December 11, 2009

the coolest stuff I got

Ok, so here's the top ten cool things I got...not necessarily in order of coolness.

I've received an email from someone in England saying they were sending something in and could I please wait, but I gotta get this out before Christmas and I can't wait any longer. If its really cool though, I'll still send you something Darryl!

So here we go...

1. Totem pole! This gets the book plus the jersey
2. Grenade! Greg from Ottawa took my "blow my mind" phrasing a little too literally
3. Oktoberfest mask! Phil and Astli-Lisa made a cool lizard mask using one of our Oktoberfest hats
4. Tweet! Pat set me up with a twitter account - which was cool till I dropped my iphone in the toilet and now I can't text anymore. That's not Pat's fault though, so he still gets a book.
5. 70's beer! - Walter sent me a cool pic of him in the 70's at the cottage with a beeramid and an old radio on the picnic table. Way too nostalgic not to win a prize.
6. Giving is the new black! Dave helped raise over $62,000 for the Champions For Children World Trivia Night fundraising event
7. Apple booze! Christian sent a youtube video of him making apple cider. Its not beer, but it'll still earn him a book
8. Electrified! Darren sent in one of the 1,400 shots he took of a lightning storm in Ottawa. Out of the 1,400 pictures a total of 14 actually captured lightning creating instant chaos on film
9. Sumo! Steven's sumo suit shenanigans earn him a book, too.
10. Ironic photography! Jonathan's picture outside of the VKH LCBO was too good to turn down.

Thanks to everyone for sending in so much cool stuff. I'm sorry you couldn't all win, but I ran out of books.