Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A different way to get startup funding

Mystery Brewing Co. is looking to get started as a contract brewing company in North Carolina and he's using an online pledging system to raise the funds.

Check it out here...

Think of how many home brewers out there want to start a brewery but can't possibly figure out how to raise the funds. Think of the way that this program can fundamentally change the process of raising seed money. Think of what effect this could have on everything from craft beer, to small scale farming, to artisanal cheese, to... I digress.

Good luck Mystery Brewing Co. I hope you succeed and prove the model.

Monday, June 28, 2010

more OCB week photos (part II)

more OCB week photos

OCB Week, Governor General

I survived Ontario Craft Beer Week! (barely). I co-chaired the OCB week planning committee, so it was important to me to get to a large number of events, to lead by example, as it were. So this week I was out at the Black Tomato, Arrow and Loon, Cheshire Cat, Magpie, Highway 61, Victory, Bar Volo, Session beer festival and more (probably...its a bit of a blur). It was a great week of meeting beer fanatics, making new ones, trying other brewers beers and generally living malt, hops, water and yeast. Physically taxing and emotionally inspiring at the same time. I love my job.

I think OCB Week was a complete success. My partner in this mayhem, Jason (from Cameron's) and I put in a tonne of work along with our other committee members from Great Lakes, Mill Street and Muskoka, our OCB suppliers Colleen and Christine and all the breweries that really went out of their way to make this an awesome week (Special shout-out to Port Credit, who booked lots of events and really got involved). Next year promises to be bigger and better and will hopefully have fewer G20 summits happening, too.

On Wednesday, I took some time out from OCB Week (my apologies to Nick and Nat at Uptown 21 for cancelling) to spend time at the Governor General's. My Dad and I were invited to attend the first ever Governor General's award for the Nation's Table. This new award is presented to the visionaries and leaders in sustainable food production in Canada. I think this might be a game changing development for organic, local food in our country, and I'm completely honoured and humbled to have been in attendance at its inception. After the ceremony the entire residence was opened up and we were able to roam from room to room sampling delicious tidbits and listening to the different bands set up all over.

I can't wait now to get back to more regular week stuff - I am in serious need of spending time at the brewery, and I need to remind my children that they do indeed have a Father.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Operation Come Home Grad, Cool Invite, Looking forward to OCB Week

Another busy week at the brewery. Anne was able to get the bottling line back in business with Morris from Metec. Its great to have skilled folks so close by. Anne is learning a lot about how the line really works, so silver linings are definitely there. Here's hoping we get some good bottling runs this week!

Two very cool things to report from last week. The first came in the form of an Rideau Hall to dine with Michaelle Jean, Canada's Governor General. I think I've written before about how humbling and "Forest Gump-ish" it is to be allowed in a small way to be involved in things that are truly Canadian. Our visits to 24 Sussex, our collaborative beer to commemorate 65th annniversary of Dutch liberation, visits from Ontario's Premiere. Having a personal invitation to dine with the Queen's representative of Canada, is one of those moments. Dad and I will be there this Wednesday.

Dad and I took a few hours off work on Thursday to attend the graduation ceremony for Operation Come Home. Operation Come Home is a homeless youth centre, aimed at getting homeless kids critical support and hopefully off the streets. Beau's has been working with Operation Come Home, through the Bottleworks project for some time.

One of the many impressive things Operation Come Home does is run an achievement centre, where homeless youth can continue their education on their own terms. Regular highschool is virtually impossible for street youth to manage for lots of reasons, but lack of education is a major obstacle for youth trying to find employment in order to get off the street. The achievement centre lets the youth work away at credits as they can, provides nutritious food, allows them to bring their pets to class and offers lots of other services to make it possible to attend.

The net result was at the end of the year there were 9 youths graduating high school and a score of others celebrating progress toward that goal. Of the 9 youths, 5 had full time employment and 2 had participated in the Bottleworks program. There is nothing better than watching the underdog win against the odds, and attending this ceremony had all the drama as watching the end of a good Rocky movie; but better dialogue.

Sunday was the start of Ontario Craft Beer Week. This week looks like its going to be a great one for me...I'm heading to Toronto tonight to play Thirsty Hippos at Magpie, hopefully catch a belgian-style beer at Volo. Tomorrow I'll be at Burger Bar for a beer dinner, Wednesday the Governor General's (plus hopefully a stop at Arrow and Loon), Thursday a beer dinner at the Cheshire Cat in Carp and a cask event at the Black Tomato, Friday I'm going to try to get to the Stinking Rose in Campbellford and Saturday back in Toronto for Session! And that's just me! The whole brewery is getting involved in well over , including 14 in the Ottawa/Kingtson area, 5 in Toronto and 6 in the west or north of Toronto. There are well over 100 events listed for the week and hopefully lots of at-home tastings, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bottling line, Westfest, HR stuff, A Channel

Busy week, last week. Not a good week, not a bad week, but a busy one for sure, with lots of ups and downs and in-betweens.

We've been struggling with our new bottling line since we bought it. It has lots of nice features, but the company we bought it from is small and can't really give us the support we need to really get the thing running smoothly. Well, last week it really went down in a big way. In trying to solve the problem (we think we have) we also found a great technician (we think) who might actually be able to help us to get the line really running at peak performance. In the meantime, we reorganized bottling staff to run on our little manual two-head filler running two shifts/day to keep some amount of beer still flowing to our LCBO accounts, who have been really patient and supportive over this summer of not-enough-supply.

We also did our first official performance evaluation last week. We've recently hired an HR person (her name is Karen, and she's awesome) to help us manage all our people stuff better. Growing from 5 employees to 30 in two years has been awesome, but it has created a lot of people issues and we've come to realize we need someone focussed on them so that we don't goof stuff up. Making sure people get their evaluations on time and in a consistent fashion, our health plan is administered properly and keeping on top of potential health and safety issues is all really important. It all has a bittersweet feeling to it as well, and as we start implementing policy on things like overtime and sick leave, I'm filled with nostalgia for the good old days.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud and excited about all of our growth and the opportunities it has given us to do cooler and cooler things. But I kinda miss the days when everybody just worked as much as possible and things got sorted out later. Well, that is, until I remember how difficult it actually was, and then I'm glad we hired Karen again.

I got to go on the A-Channel for their morning program on Friday. I love the A-Channel crew. They are all great, really like our beer and are incredibly welcoming. I remember the first time we did a segment at the Black Tomato and when it cut back to Kurt he kept saying "I'm a LugTread Man" for something like 30 seconds. Since then he's been to our Oktoberfest, visited the brewery and is genuinely excited about all things Beau's (well, except maybe our brewery band, the OhYeahs, I don't think he's a fan of that).

This weekend was also West Fest. An annual street festival that has just grown by leaps and bounds. This was our first year being part of WEstFest, and it was a real treat. The event runs like clockwork and it is such a uniquely entertaining and awesome event it really stands out. A free festival boasting big names like Sloan, that also promotes local talent and also features spoken word and aboriginal talent and also has a great kids section and also has a huge sidewalk sale and I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Well this year, the weather also really cooperated - it was supposed to rain all day Saturday and Sunday, but instead after a shower in the morning on Saturday it was sunny and warm all weekend. This resulted in a panicked call from Darren (our kick-ass special events and sponsorship guru on Sunday morning "Steve, we're gonna run out of beer". At first, I was pretty worried by this news, as I opened our walk-in cooler and saw a grand total of one 50L keg ready to go. But once I learned that we had more beer in a bright tank (tank that holds filtered beer ready to be kegged), I relaxed a bit. A few calls later and i had some help, too. Matt M (who does most of our kegging and a lot more at the brewery) was able to come in and help get beer into kegs. While I washed the kegs, Matt got the kegging line cleaned and ready and filled up 14 kegs. I put them in our truck and drove them up to Ottawa and everything worked out great.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Mondial de la Biere

This weekend was Mondial...actually it started Wednesday and goes to Sunday. As always, an awesome collection of Quebec breweries and a showcase of some of the best beer available on this planet.

This year, we decided to get a booth and represent in Montreal. It was a difficult decision, because the interprovincial regulations make it really expensive (we had to buy our own beer from the SAQ at a 270% markup before selling it back) and difficult to do right (we had to send the beer months in advance and we couldn't send kegs). In the end the festival seemed to cool to miss and we're so close to Montreal, it just seemed wrong to skip it.

Overall, it was a very good event for us. We had lots of awesome feedback from customers and breweries and got to meet a lot of the brewers and owners of some of our favourite Quebec beers. The interprovincial redtape however was very frustrating...

Only half of our order was brought to the event from the SAQ to start with. By 7pm the first night, the Bogwater was gone and by halfway through Thursday all our beer was gone. Our brewery is only 45 minutes away, but we weren't allowed to bring more and were told that the second half of our shipment wouldn't arrive until Friday. So we spent most of Thursday apologizing to folks who came to try our beer. On Friday the next shipment came, but somehow LugTread got missed and didn't arrive. After a few hours it came, thankfully (I think this was due to some awesome work by Mondial organizers, who were all very cool, but I didn't get to see what happened behind the scenes).

So, yeah, by Friday night we had sold out of everything except our Stout, and that was gone early Saturday.

Enough about me complaining though...on a personal level, I had a blast. First of all, when I say "we" apologized all day, I don't really deserve any sympathy. It is such a good feeling for me to be at a show and have supercompetent people working their butts off. Darren worked the entire show and somehow kept up with it all. Nikki and Anne both took a couple days and my friend Codco took a few days vacation from his real job and worked our booth pretty much the whole time, too.

This let me, Dad and Matt meet, greet and taste a lot more freely than we're used to.

I had found out earlier that Alex from New Belgium would be up - we've been emailing about Bogmyrtle for a while now and so I was going to get to meet her. We spent a lot of time sampling and talking and she was really cool. She also introduced me to Erik, founder of Left Hand Brewing. I'm a big fan of their Milk Stout, so it was really neat to get to hang out with him, too. I also got to hang out with some folks from Benelux and Hopfenstark, some of the Ontario folks who were up for the experience, like Ralph and Julien from Volo, Bill White, Troy Burtch, and Mirella Amato.

An amazing experience. I guess there are worse things than selling every drop of beer we brought, too!

I can't wait to hear from Rob and Jerry in Toronto about how their beer festival went and from Jen and Kevin in Orangeville, to find out about the street festival we were doing there this weekend, too!