Sunday, May 30, 2010

Canadian Family Enterprise of the Year!

Dad and I flew out to Regina last Wednesday. We had been nominated for the Canadian Family Enterprise of the Year, an annual award handed out by CAFE (Canadian Association of Family Enterprises).

We had first become aware of the organization last Fall, when they asked us if we'd like to come talk to the Ottawa chapter on our experiences as a family-run business. After our talk, they asked us if we'd like to submit our name for the award. We were humbled by winning the Ottawa-chapter award in February and at that time, we found out there was a national competition as well.

Turns out we were in the top 3, and as part of that honour, CAFE would fly us out to Regina, where the bi-annual symposium was taking place to hear if we were the winner.

I'd never been to Regina, and the symposium seemed pretty cool - guest speakers included Frank O'Dea (founder of Second Cup, former homeless person, order of Canada member), the guy who traded a red paper clip for a house, and a bunch of other cool folks. A bit drier, but no less important were tax issues for family businesses and succession planning for families.

On Wednesday we flew out and our flight was 2 hours late, so we missed the social stuff going on, which was probably a good thing, because Thursday morning we were to present our story to the symposium along with the two other finalists.

We did our presentation first and it went quite well. Then we got to learn about the other two finalists through their presentation.

First up, another Ontario-based company, Flanagan Food Service, from Kitchener. Flanagan was started up 33 years ago by Joe Flanagan and is now run by his four sons, Dan, Rick, Jeff and Murray. Their company has grown every single year for 33 years. They do eco-cool stuff like capturing rainwater to use for cleaning trucks, and installing a reflective roof to reduce energy requirements. They remain privately owned and, on a personal level, these guys were really nice and I'm glad I got to meet them - real class acts.

Next was Veriperm, and I'm still not exactly sure what they do, but it must be important, because they are doing really well in an industry that has had its challenges over the last few years. They were founded in 1969 by Bill Nurcombe. Bill is still around and actually presented on Thursday, but the company is now run mostly by his sons James and Kelly. It was nice to hear Bill talk with pride about his sons accomplishments since the passing of the torch.

So then more speakers, Dad and I snuck out for a quick trip to Bushwakkers Brewpub (great beer!) and dinner at the RCMP museum ended Thrusday. Friday involved more speakers, breakout sessions, sneaking out to Beer Bros. (enjoyed beer from Half Pint, Tree and Wild Rose) then out for dinner and the announcement of the winner.

I guess the title of the post gave this away, but we won! It was great to win and I'm so proud of my whole family and friends on the team for putting us in this winning position. It was a real honour and an unbelievable feeling. I'd like to point out that one of the first people to shake my hand afterwards was Murray Flanagan, proving once again how cool he was. On the way back my Dad and I had at least three conversations about Murray and Flanagan Foodservice as an example of true sportsmanship and class - they were quite inspirational.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I hope she said yes...UPDATE #1

It looks like love is alive and well with the Beau's fans these days; here is the update I got from Bruce this morning:

"She said Yes!

Our story begins on November 25 2008, with a first date drink, at Patty’s Pub in Ottawa. Leanna, already familiar with the organic Lug•Tread lagered ale, introduced me to it then. The story begins to write itself. At Christmas that year, after many great dates, I chose my presents carefully and thoughtfully considering the story I could see unfolding. A ceramic bottle of Lug•tread was amongst the gifts and held special significance.

The relationship grew and strengthened. At around 6 months, I noticed an article on Beau’s brewery, and pictures of Steve and Tim Beauchesne in the Ottawa Express newspaper. I also circled the name of a restaurant, Fraser CafĂ©, written in that same newspaper issue. I took Leanna there for our 1 year mark, and we shared Beau’s beer to celebrate with a great meal of local and in-season foods.

For our 1 ½ year mark it had to be special and the timing was perfect. Our relationship was at that point and it was exciting thinking of the moments that we've already shared and the many more to come, together. I wanted to make this extra special and decided in early April to weave in a special moment with a familiar thread to our story. After pitching an idea to Steve and Tim to personalize this for the two of us, they agreed without hesitation. Brewed with Love, the day and its plan was coming together nicely. Coordinating with Steve, Beau’s prepared a special sticker over the cap of the bottle dated “November 25 2008”, the date when our relationship was brewed. On the bottom of the bottle, “Can I be your Beau for life?” spelled out my intentions clearly.

After a private tour with Nicole, and discrete placement of the bottle into my backpack, we headed out on a hike and picnic in Gatineau Park; one of Leanna’s favourite things to do. She might have had an idea that the question would be asked sometime….maybe not that day but sometime soon, but she definitely didn’t know answers to two other questions: how, and where. I was hoping she had the answer to at least 1 question though. I spread out a tablecloth on the grounds of the Mackenzie King estate, under a beautiful white pine shade tree, on a hot day.

I took out the bottle, and mentioned it was a special bottle with special labelling. Leanna picked it up and reading the sticker underneath, it gave me just enough time to pull the ring box out of my left pocket while down on my right knee. I asked those famous 4 words and she said "Yes" without hesitation. We poured a celebratory drink, but not of champagne.

It capped off a great day. Thank you very much to Beau’s Brewery for helping to make this a very special day for the both of us; one that will be in our memories forever. Many more successes to you as you continue to grow, flourish, and strengthen.

All our best,

Leanna and Bruce

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I hope she said yes...

Another busy summer week last week that included meeting with potential brewery start up in Nova Scotia, meeting with our financing folks, visiting the House of Orange one last time and more, but this is probably the best story to tell...

We had a special request a few weeks ago, from a longtime fan, Bruce.

Here's how it read:

Dear Beau's Brewery;

I have a special request that comes with a short story. I met the lady of my life Fall 2008 on a first date at Patty's Pub in Ottawa. She enjoyed a couple Lug Tread ale, while I stuck with something different. I hadn't heard of Beau's beer before but I sure had now. I quickly paid your great branding, to the beautiful farm tractor image (an exact tractor as what I grew up using - International?), to your ceramic bottle, your organic malts, your down home image. I put a lot of thought into her Christmas presents that year and among them was a bottle of Lug Tread ale.

Since then, we've enjoyed sharing Beau's together on several occasions and now I want to be her Beau. This is where my special request comes in. Are you able to do private tours of your brewery, and fulfill a special request? I am looking at a date sometime near May 25th, 2010 (or Monday May 24th of the long weekend), exactly 1.5 years since we met. My plan would be for us to take a tour of your facility together, get a bottle of Lug-Tread handed to us, with your date sticker across the top printed "November 25th 2008" (as if it was brewed then) on the front side, and "Will you be my Beau" on the back side (underside). I would take this on a picnic later that day, as both Leanna and I enjoy hiking, and propose using your bottle as the lead-in.

Can you make a dream come true?

Thank you for your consideration,
Best regards,

Of course we said yes, specialy bottled a LugTread into a ceramic bottle and Jordan made a custom sticker for the "Will you be my Beau for life?" and we stuck it on the bottom.

Bruce was in yesterday and I can't wait to hear the results.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Awesome shout out!

I just found a blog written by Chris from Castro's Lounge. He's got some really nice things to say about Beau's and Rob, our Ottawa-special-events-turned-Toronto-sales-rep.

Needless to say its nice when people notice the extra effort we put into our beer.

So Thanks, Chris, I appreciate you taking the time to notice, and then even more time writing about so that hopefully others will notice, too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Waiting lists, Princess, Website, OCB Week, South African Microbrewery

Some weeks seem to take a month.

Monday was the start of the House of Orange so a pile of us went down to enjoy the very first taste of of Vrienden (our collaborative beer with de Koningshoeven to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Dutch liberation by Canadian troops) with Lodewijk and Gijs Swinkels from Koningshoeven, Remco Volmer from the Dutch embassy and a bunch of other folks. It was a great time.

Not so much fun on Monday was calling up 30 LCBO stores to let them know that we can't send them beer for the next 14 weeks or so. Let me explain...

Trying to predict what sales would do with our new 4-pack was kind of like trying to glue egg-yolks to a wall (not that I can guess why you would want to do that). We ran scenarios where people who bought one ceramic bottle before would buy one 4-pack now and scenarios where total volume stayed the same and lots of different versions of other scenarios too...but in the end, we kinda guessed total volume might double from 1,500 litres/week to around 3,000 litres/week.

Our orders for the last month have gone from 5,000 litres/week to 9,000 litres/week, with individual stores ordering as much as 600 litres (250 4-packs). While we are tickled pink that it is taking off - we totally can't keep up with that level of demand. We simply don't have enough brewers or tank space to bottle that much every week. So we've ordered new tanks and we've hired someone to run our bottling line, but it will take about 3 months for this to help us.

It is a horrible decision to have to make, deciding which stores to cut off, and even worse calling them to let them know they won't be getting our beer for a while. Jerry and Philip got the honour of letting them know.

On Tuesday Dad and I were invited to the Dutch Ambassadors residence for a private gathering with Princess Margriet and her husband, Professor van Vollenhoven. It was quite an honour to attend, although I have to admit I felt rather awkward in the company of royalty. Its not like I get to hang out with princesses all too often, and I really worried about doing or saying something inappropriate.

Also on Tuesday we met with an architect. We are going to outgrow our original brewhouse pretty soon if our sales keep growing at the rate they have been and so we've started looking at different options. Our options got a lot cooler last year, when an architect student asked if she could develop a new brewery for us as her final thesis. Obviuosly we said yes and when she came back 8 months later, she amazed us. She has since started working with an architecture firm in the area and they have put together a starting document to see if we can't get this into reality.

Wednesday was the ceremony at the Governor General's residence and this was a real treat. The ceremony was quite elegant and helped me remember the real reason this was such a cool project. We were also allowed to bring a much larger group that included my wife and daughters and my Grandfather Max, who fought in World War II. And getting a picture of my two girls with the princess was a real bonus thrill.

this week we also relaunched our website. Jordan has spent months getting this baby ready, and she is totally kick-ass. There is lots of real content, lots of interactive, live feed stuff and it is one heck of a pretty site. We constantly got compliments on our last site and this one makes the old one look like a pile of puke.

With summer almost here it was also time for an Oh Yeah's practice. The Oh Yeah's is our brewery band. We hadn't been practicing for a long time though, so Friday night after the hockey game, we dusted off the instruments and played through the old set list. Not a bad run through considering how much rust we had to shake off. We're playing a gig on the 29th for Veg Stock in Kemptville, so we gotta get it together, yo.

As if the week wasn't already action-packed enough, on Saturday we met with Ntsiki Biyela, the wine maker from Stellekaya a winery from Stellenbosch, South Africa. She was visiting Canada and wanted to stop by the brewery as she is conducting research to start a craft brewery in her country. How cool is that?

When that is the highlight reel from your week, it can be kind of hard to manage all of the rest of life, so I saw a lot of 4ams and a couple 2ams, too. But in amoungst all that I managed to mow the lawn, watch Ruby's kindergarten play, saw the end of the Habs game 7, played a couple games of UNO with the fam, made it out to the House of Orange, The Works in Orleans, Lavoie's in town and I only missed two nights of bedtime stories - one 'cause I wan't home and the other 'cause I couldn't stay awake until the kids bedtime.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

EU Auditors, sales meeting, OCB week

Another interesting week at Beau's...

I'm co-chairs of Ontario Craft Beer Week with Jason Ellsmere from Cameron's brewing and every Wednesday we meet (alternative weeks are face to face and teleconference) with our committee to review progress and set goals for achievement for the following week. Every 4th Wednesday is an Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB)executive committee meeting and this was both.

That means I spent a good 4 hours on the phone, updating the exec committee on OCB Week progress and then immediately getting onto the Craft Beer Week teleconference. My ears felt like they had been steamrolled by the end of the day.

Progress on Ontario Craft Beer Week has been phenomenal. All the OCB breweries are getting really involved and we're hoping to have an insane amount of programming, ranging from the very intimate events at tiny restaurants to much larger festival events.

From Vankleek Hill, to Barrie, to Huntsville to Ottawa and Toronto, there will be events going on all week. Its been a huge undertaking, but because we've got a great team, we're having fun and getting things done.

We had our first-ever quarterly sales meeting this week, too. In the last three months we've grown from a two-person sales team to a six-person team and our sales reps spend almost all their time on the road, so this was a great way to get all on the same page, go over all sorts of stuff there never seems time to go over and generally have some fun as a team.

On Thursday night we visited a few spots in Micheala's territory, including the Marlborough Pub, The Swan on the Rideau and The Red Dot. Then Friday was a full day session including hard core sales stuff, beer and cheese pairings, draught systems training and more.

Saturday was quite the day. We hosted a delegation from the European Union's organic certification body, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Pro-Cert, our certifier. It was explained to me that the two organizations are trying to develop an equivelency for the two certifications, and we were chosen as one of the certified processing companies to perform a mock-audit on. So the European delegates spent several hours going through our record-keeping and testing our knowledge of the certification processes and regulations.

It was pretty stressful, but also pretty great - we're coming up to our annual recertification audit and a trial run was a good opportunity to get a free test on how we're doing. Not to mention, in our small way being part of a rather historic undertaking.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

New Award!

I just received an email letting me know that Beau's won at the Ontario Legislature tasting event. This was our first year being part of the event, because the winners have to be able to supply the leg with beer for the year and we weren't in Toronto before.

Here is the release:



Seven new Ontario craft beers to be highlighted at Ontario’s Legislative Assembly

TORONTO, ON – (May 6, 2010) – Ontario MPPs cast their votes for the most popular representatives of Ontario’s Craft Brewing industry during an annual tasting and selection event hosted by Hon. Steve Peters, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario at Queen’s Park last evening.

MPPs and Queen’s Park staffers tasted a selection of 48 craft beers from 15 of Ontario ’s popular craft breweries and cast their votes in favour of the craft beers to be highlighted at the Legislative Assembly for 2010-2011. The event included a delicious menu to accompany the beer featuring Ontario ingredients and a beer and cheese pairing table.

The new beers, to be highlighted in the Legislative Dining Room and at other Queen’s Park venues, are brewed in local communities throughout the province, including: Barrie, Burlington, Cambridge, Etobicoke, Guelph, Port Credit, Muskoka, Neustadt, Oakville, Prince Edward County, St. Thomas, Toronto and Van Kleek Hill.

“An initiative of mine as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly is to ensure that our Legislature is a showcase of everything Ontario – from the gifts in our gift shop, to the food, beer, wine, and fruit wine we serve at events and in our dining room” Speaker Peters said. “Events such as this one are a great way for the Members to learn more about the world-class beer made and produced right here in Ontario .”

This is the third year the Speaker has hosted the exclusive tasting event, part of his ongoing initiative to showcase Ontario products in the Legislature. The tasting event consisted of 48 beers from 15 Ontario Craft Breweries. Tasters cast ballots to choose their favourite varieties in six categories, a seventh category the “Speaker’s Selection” was t chosen by the Speaker himself. (See below for full results).

“Demand for Ontario Craft Beer has exploded in the past few years, even despite the economic slowdown,” says Gary McMullen, Chair of Ontario Craft Brewers and President of Muskoka Cottage Brewery. “Ontario Craft Brewers have been working hard to build this industry and create jobs in Ontario and we are very grateful to the Province of Ontario for its ongoing support.”

The winning Ontario Craft Beer brands were selected in the following categories:

Golden Lagers & Pilsners
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company: Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale

Refreshing Ales
Cameron’s Brewing Company: Cameron’s Cream Ale

Amber Lagers, Ales & Honey Beers
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery: Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion Almost Pale Ale

Malty Dark Lager or Ale
Muskoka Cottage Brewery: Muskoka Dark Ale

Bold Flavoured Ale, Stout or Porter
Grand River Brewery:Plowman’s Ale

Wheat Beer & Specialty
Mill Street Brewery: Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer

Speaker’s Selection
Railway City Brewing: Railway City Dead Elephant Ale*
*To honour the 125th anniversary of the fate of Jumbo, Speaker Peters has chosen Dead Elephant Ale from Railway City Brewing – a perfect combination of the Speaker’s two great interests – Ontario Product and Jumbo the elephant.

About the Ontario Craft Brewers

The Ontario Craft Brewers is an association of more than 25 small brewers dedicated to making great tasting, high quality beer in Ontario. The 25 members of the Ontario Craft Brewers brew their beers locally using fresh, all natural ingredients in communities throughout Ontario – from the Ottawa Valley to Waterloo and Niagara to Muskoka. Handcrafting over 150 premium beers, Ontario Craft Brewers employ about 600 people in Ontario , accounting for over 20 per cent of the overall brewing employment in the province. Ontario ’s Craft brewers’ share has more than doubled since 2002, going from slightly less than two per cent to approximately five per cent of the beer volume sold in Ontario and continues to be the fastest growing segment within the LCBO’s beer category. For more information about the Ontario Craft Brewers visit

Monday, May 03, 2010

Stronger Box Handles Coming Soon

Our new boxes are selling quite well, and we're very happy for that. What we're much, much less happy about is the strength of the box handle. When we were prototyping the box, which took about 8 months, we raised concerns several times with our supplier that the handle seemed week. "Don't worry" kept coming the response, "our engineers are sure this will be strong enough; remember this is just the prototype, the final boxes will be much stronger".

I wish we had insisted on a stronger box design, because sure enough, within a few days of the boxes hitting the shelf, we started getting calls and emails from customers who had had a close call or worse after the handle snapped off the box.

We immediately got on the phone to our supplier, and we've come up with a short term way to make the boxes that we have a bit stronger while we redesign the top of the box to eliminate the problem. We have a reinforced handle design we like, and will be switching suppliers, too.

In the meantime, please try to hold the box from the bottom for the next couple of weeks. If you do have an unfortunate handle incident, please let us know about it and give us a chance to make it better for you.