Tuesday, July 27, 2010

2010: A Box Oddessy

Our 4 pack box is a real piece of work. I mean this both literally and figuratively. I think it is a wonderful thing; enviro-cool, full of actually useful stuff, aesthetically awesome, and now very functional as well. But holy-schmolly, what a big piece of work to make this right. The whole process nearly destroyed Jordan, our designer, who had to keep pushing this project forward, despite a billion setbacks, production issues, registration complications and supplier issues.

Ok, lets start with the bottle. We prototyped the design for about 6 months - everything from the thickness of the glass to the amount of etching on the tractor became an issue. First the letters of Beau's were crooked and the typing at the bottom was the wrong font. Then it was too small. Then it was too low on the neck...took forever to get it right.

Then the labels. We had our minds set on a really out-there shape with a custom die-cut and a really slick graphic presentation. But then we discovered these enviro-cool, tree-free labels and had to completely redesign the entire graphics, because this paper was really absorbent and would look horrible in anything trying to look to slick. So, we went for a real old-timey two-colour look so that any defects in the printing would look intentional. I'm incredibly glad we did, because the labels look so much cooler now.

Then there was the problem of finding a supplier willing to print on the stuff. Basically there were no printers locally who had ever worked with this paper, or were willing to do the R&D work necessary to make sure it actually printed properly. We spent about 6 weeks in a holding pattern with 3 different companies - each of them refusing to do any testing for us. Then, Jordan found a 4th company, Claboro, who were like "sure, we'll test it right away". They got the job.

Then the box. Oh my, the box sucked. We went through so many re-designs, so many test runs, so many production issues it is truly unbelievable. Jordan was about ready to kill someone, I'm sure of it. Then after we finally put the job to bed and get our first shipment in we discover, to our horror, that the notches where the string go were place too high and the box was too thin, so the handles would break.

We tried to resolve this with our supplier, but their only solution was to charge us more to make a box that fit around the box to protect the handle slightly better. We felt we had to change suppliers and did so. The new supplier came up with modifications that made the box very, very durable, which was great - but then they had a whole host of printing issues that required dies to be remade, several more re-works to get a box that is now both durable and properly printed.

A million other things went wonky during the process and Jordan and I kept joking that this must be the reason that most breweries use a standard bottle in a standard 6-pack. But, after taking about a year and a half, watching the crazy demand for this package, and needing to hire not 1, not 2, but 3 more brewers to meet the demand that this package has created; well, it was worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hiring a new brewer

So we started interviewing for a new brewer last week. Dont' worry, everything is great with Matt, Chris, Kevin and Anne. But we've hit another brick wall in production with all the bottling, brewing, filtering and QA work that needs to get done, so our brewing team needs a new member. First interview went quite well, although we're trying to get a better structured interview going - seems that how talkative we feel has a huge impact on how long interviews go. Karen sat in on the interview to help us put together a more standard set of Q's so that we can better judge all the A's that come in.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Certification Audit, Jazzfest fun, Oktoberfest planning, SAQ conversations, Canada Day, VCI Grad

We had our annual organic certification audit today. There is an annual audit and then random unnanounced inspections throughout the year. Today went pretty smoothly, we'd had a delegation from the EU and CFIA do a mock inspection a month earlier, so we were pretty prepared. Still makes for a stressful morning, but its a great feeling once the inspection is complete.

Last night we took our staff out to see the final night of Jazzfest as a group. It was a lot of fun and a really nice way to say thanks to everybody for putting in the extra hours over the summer. This is our 3rd time doing Jazzfest, and it was the first time we could get out as a group and take it in. And Sharon Jones was phenomenal.

We had a townhall meeting on Monday night to offer up opportunities for our town to benefit from our Oktoberfest celebration. We're encouraging the whole town to get in on the fun and make it really special for our guests, while letting them receive some benefit from all these tourists coming in. It was a good meeting with lots of interest, and I'm hoping we can get a number of satellite events happening this year.

We had a really interesting conversation on Tuesday with a Quebec beer importer. They had tried our beer at Mondail and would like to represent us in La Belle Province (mmm...steamies). It is a difficult process, so don't expect anything happening overnight, but I would really love to be able to sell into the Quebec area.

Canada Day was great. I spent the day with my family, took the girls to the L'orignal park for fun stuff there and then over to the Vankleek Hill celebration where my daughters danced up a storm and then watched the fireworks. (they had Beau's on tap there, too, so life was good).

On Saturday, Vankleek Hill's highschool had its final reunion before the old school is torn down. It made for a memorable night of visiting old friends - although, truth be told, I've kept in touch with many of my highschool friends, so there were only a few of those "Holy crap, I didn't recognize you, its been wayyyy too long" moments.

All in all, another busy, awesome week.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Birthday to Beau's continued...

I almost forgot to put this article up...again, not a Beau's article exactly, but its about the Wellington Gastro pub. They started up about a month after we did and thanks to a little nudge from Vicki Smallman, we were in their opening line up. We've stayed on tap at the Wellington since their day one and every year I get to celebrate their anniversary sort of like our own.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Birthday to Beau's (oh yeah, and Canada, too!)


Beau's turns 4 years old today. Four years ago, Pete from the Black Tomato drove his tractor in from the country and parked it in front of his restaurant to help us celebrate as we passed out samples from our first ever batch of beer. The Manx was closed on Canada Day, so we couldn't go there until the next day, but we did make it out to both Clocktowers for more sampling.

We learned that day that Canada Day is more of a celebrate being Canadian day than a "listen to me tell you about this new beer" day, so ever since we've been pretty low key about celebrating, but a year later Ron Eade made us the feature in his annual Ode to Ale feature and it seems ever since the Citizen has helped us celebrate...I can't find the link to our first Ode to Ale on the Citizen page, but
see year 2

and this year

and this, too (this year's ode is actually about a new brewery in the area, but its nice to see us get a couple mentions, too).

So hooray and thanks to the Ottawa Citizen for once again helping us celebrate our birthday! I'm going to drink a LugTread now.