Monday, August 30, 2010

Last week of summer, next week our production increases (hopefully)

This weekend that just passed proved to be a rather busy one, Dad was pouring at the Muskoka beer festival with Darren and Rob; Jason was keeping the taps flowing at the Capital Pride Festival (our 5th year of involvement) and Nikki and I were rammed at a brand new inter-provincial, local food festival in Lefaivre and Montebello.

With our new brewer Rob in place, we are hopefull that by next week we can start shipping a bit more beer out. My sister (and our sales manager) giggled and pointed out that we're just in time to miss summer completely. Oh well - just think of how ready we'll be for next year!

Speaking of expanding, in finance news, we're meeting with our new BDC rep to sign papers for a pre-approved loan. It is part of a government program designed to spur the economy except that its not a grant and the interest rate is the same as any other loan. That said, it is still very welcome and will go immediately into more equipment to help us keep growing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

10 Good Reasons to Go Organic

Beau's is a National Champion sponsor of Organic Week. They just sent us this list of 10 Good reasons to go organic, so I thought I'd share it with you.

1. YOU CAN TRUST IT Organic products meet strict standards of organic certification, So you can be certain your food is both grown and handled according to organic standards

2. IT’S MONEY WELL SPENT Though organics can cost a little more, prices are based on the true cost of production

3. YOU’LL CUT CHEMICAL USE Organic agriculture reduces the risk from agri-chemicals polluting the air,water and earth sustaining us

4. NATURE IS NOURISHED By not using chemicals and nitrogen that leach into the soil, organic food protects and conserves our water resources and builds richer soils. Organic agriculture enhances biodiversity

5. IT ENCOURAGES INNOVATION Organic farmers have developed farming practices to minimize agriculture’s impact on the environment, It is a green technology

6. IT DEFENDS DIVERSITY Biodiversity, that is. Biodiversity is the variety of species living on our planet, and studies show many organic fields contain more wild plants, species and birds than non-organic farms.

7. IT REACHES OUT RURALLY Organic agriculture supoprts small farms & offers new markets for local farmers

8. THERE’S NO LIMIT Today in every food category, you can find organic alternatives

9. IT’S GOOD FOR THE EARTH Like reforestation, research is showing that organic agriculture could positively impact the global warming crisis

10. YOU’LL FEEL BETTER Organic food is rich with nutrients an disease fighting anti-oxidants

Monday, August 23, 2010

Big Win (...and big bust!)

I was happy to attend the 8th edition of the BarTowel's Golden Tap Awards this weekend. This year it was expanded to a 2-day event, with a beer dinner on Friday and the awards and tasting festival on the Saturday, all at the impressive Beer Bistro in downtown Toronto.

The beer dinner was phenomenal. The pairings were thoughtful, the beer was wonderful and the crowd was enthusiastic. The awards were great, too, and I'm very proud and humbled to say that we took home the awards for best year-round beer and best microbrewery in Ontario again as well as picking up the award for winning last year's best beer of the festival.

I had a particularly interesting conversation at the awards with a fellow named Trevor. It was his bachelor party and he successfully convinced his whole crew of fellows to spend an hour sampling Ontario craft beer before heading off for the rest of their festivities.

I have recently been talking about the possibility of creating a beer revolution in Ontario where Ontarians would drink independent, Ontario-made beer half of the time. Most of my critics insist that the so-called "regular" customer will only ever purchase the cheapest blandest beer available. Here was my counter-position in the flesh - one guy who had been turned on to the awesomeness of Ontario beer, doing missionary work with his buddies, introducing them to what we have to offer.

On my way back from the festivities in Toronto, I got a call from the home front to let me know of some very bizarre and rather bad news. We were very excited to be sponsoring the Ottawa Reggae Festival for the first time this year (I'm a huge ska and roots reggae fan), but apparently this will also be the last year. The headliners all backed out and the police stormed the gates and seized all the money on hand and effectively shut down the festival. We had to send guys down to protect the rest of our beer until we could get it out.

We're still scratching our heads and wondering what our lesson to learn from this is. We've pretty much been a hand-shake type of company and events like this make you question whether we need to be less trusting of new festivals, or just understand that risk is inherent in business and deal with it. Oh well, interesting conversations, at least.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Ready for Oktoberfest

We had a great, if not long, meeting today for our Oktoberfest. This year it is going to be held on October 2nd and 3rd, and its shaping up to be quite an event.

We started talking about holding an Oktoberfest in Vankleek Hill about a year before we actually started brewing beer. In terms of celebrations you could have, I'm hard pressed to think of one that is more fun and we've always liked the idea of bringing people to our little town.

Two years ago we held a mini-Oktoberfest on the front lawn of our brewery. About 200 people showed up for a taste of our (then) new seasonal, Night Marzen, toss a keg and hang out for the day.

Last year, we decided to step it up about 2,000 notches, booked out the fairgrounds, got live oompah bands, made custom dirndles, arranged for homebrewing demonstrations, brought 10 seriously delicious restaurants out and worked out haywagon rides to bring visitors back and forth to the brewery for tours. Things got crazy when our friend and Member of Barleyment (the homebrewers group) founder, Alan McKay got wind that George Wendt would be releasing a book about his relationship with beer and was able to suggest to George's PR firm that our little Oktoberfest would be a great stop on his book promotion tour.

It took a fair bit of convincing, but somehow George agreed to come up and join us. This seemed to be the final gem that made people decide to come up and visit, because on the day of we were completely overrun by happy guests...

We've taken a lot of steps to make sure we're better prepared this year including:

- Lots more tents incase the weather doesn't cooperate (and heaters, too)
- Lots more food (twice as many restaurants)
- Different stage set up and layout so that there is a better view, and more room to dance to the oompah
- lots more beer taps flowing to cut down lines
- no more food tickets - pay each restaurant direct
- lots more portapotties
- lots more tables
- on site camping (rough camping, nothing fancy, but VKH doesn't have a lot of accomodations)
- more haywagons bringing people to more destinations
-more activities
- more beer (extra batches of our seasonals, plus 3 special one-off batches, plus Volo Cask Days, a cask festival featuring beer from several Ontario breweries)
- More beer-centric attractions, including Beer expert Mirella Amato, an Art of Beau's at the Arbor Gallery
- Many more staff on hand to help out

...and a whole lot more. We fully plan on making our Oktoberfest an annual event to mark in your Calendar and think we've raised the bar significantly. George won't be able to make it this year, but we're working hard at bringing out a few familiar faces to add a splash of celebrity to the event, but we can't quite announce anything yet...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What if Ontario held a Beer Revolution

I was asked if I wanted to speak at the Toronto Festival of Beer this year and I said yes, of course (I like to talk), but I didn’t want to just do the regular this-is-the-brewing-process or the my-dad-and-I-started-up-the brewery... kind of talk, I figured after saying it at the booth for a couple days, it might come out a little over-rehearsed. So I decided instead to give a pitch instead for drinking locally brewed beer in general.

As it turns out, the format was interview style and the placement of the speaking corner was in direct line of the main stage so it was impossible to hear and the tent (which was named craft beer corner) wasn’t given any signage that might let people know where to find it. Suffice to say, I didn’t get to give my pitch and there weren’t a lot of folks that would have heard it anyway.
So instead, I figure I might as well throw this on the blog, and see if it can get some traction here...

But a word of note first...I've footnoted my sources used, but I’m sure there are some better pieces of data out there that would refine some of the projections used. Please comment with better sources if you have them. I’ll edit the piece to include better figures as I get them and leave the comments in place to show the progress.

With that here is my pitch...

Thanks for coming, my name is Steve, and my Dad and I started up Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co 4 years ago. We’re a local, organic, family-run, award winning and totally independent brewery. But I’m not going to talk much about my brewery today; instead I’d take this time to throw out a pretty radical thought...What if Ontario had a beer revolution?

What do I mean by a beer revolution? Well revolutions usually involve overthrowing tyrants, and instituting a new form of governance, but my revolution is maybe a little less violent than that, although by no means is it less radical.

Right now in Ontario, 1 out of every 20 beers drunk came from an independent, Ontario brewery.(note 1) By beer revolution, I mean, what would happen if Ontarians chose to drink an Ontario-made independent beer 1 out of every 2 times they drank beer?

I’ll talk about how this revolution might begin and what it would look like a little later, but I think it is important to address why this would be so important first and the best way to do that is describe what Ontario would look like after the revolution, when 1 out of every 2 beers drunk in this province was independently made in the province.

So let’s look into the crystal ball...

Canadians drink about 85 litres of beer every year, which means in Ontario, about 800 million litres of beer are drunk each year.(note 2) That means that after the beer revolution, Ontario brewers will have grown from selling about 40 million litres of beer to 400 million litres.

What is the most important change that would occur after the beer revolution?
Just think of the beer we’d get to drink!

Our 35 independent brewers on average produce about 1 million litres of beer every year, with about an average of 4 brands each (note 3). To get to 400 million litres of beer, we’d need to add 315 new breweries (for a total of 350 breweries) and 1,260 new brands of beer (for a total of 1,400).

One thousand, four hundred brands of beer!!! It would also mean that almost every city and town in the province would have at least one local brewery to check out when you visited.

The Beer Store currently boasts 350 brands from 90 breweries (note 4), the LCBO claims 341 (note 5). Think of how much more choice there would be if Ontario alone had 1,400 brands from 350 brewers – and that was still only half of the beer drunk! Think of what the Toronto Festival of Beer would look like...It would be heaven on Earth.

If this sounds outrageous and unachievable to you, consider that the German state of Bavaria has a population about the same as Ontario’s6 and is home to 629 breweries. (note 7)

After the revolution, with independent breweries holding 50% of the Ontario market share, think of the employment that would create...

Independent Ontario breweries hold less than 5% of the Ontario market share, but they make up 20% (note 8) of the direct employment, or 600 hard working Ontarians – this works out to an average of 17 employees per brewery

The two main reasons – smaller batches mean more people required and imports only have selling functions locally, no production at all!

If independent breweries were producing 50% of the beer drunk in Ontario, they would create 5,400 new direct brewing jobs! The other breweries would lose around 1,136 (most of whom would end up working for a local brewery) for a net increase of almost 4,300 new jobs in Ontario. (Note 9)

But, that is only the tip of the economic iceberg; if independent breweries produced 50% of the Ontario market share, think of the economic spin-off that would create. The creation of 315 new breweries in Ontario would send ripples to so many facets of life in Ontario, it would be unfathomable...

First off Profits would be reinvested in the Province! Ontario is no longer home to any major brewery, so all the profits made by non-independent non-Ontario breweries leave the province for good. This is millions and millions and millions of dollars that leave us every year.

Investment in Ontario would be mindboggling. In a 5 year period from 2002 to 2007, the 30 or so breweries in the OCB invested $20 million. (note 10) 350 breweries would invest somewhere in the neighbourhood of $230million in the same time period.
The tradespeople required to install all this new equipment, the marketing, apparel and promotional companies, the printing houses, box makers, and raw material suppliers. Whole new industries would be created or revived. Did you know Eastern Ontario used to have a thriving hop industry? Equipment manufacturers, raw material suppliers and bottle manufacturing plants would choose to locate in Ontario and a whole manufacturing cluster would be created.

Ontario’s tourism sector would explode. With 350 breweries, Ontario would be a beer connoisseurs dream, a North American Belgium or Germany. The Agritourism sector would come to life as cheesemakers, restaurateurs and other food producers rose to the challenge of pairing these 3,400 brands of beer with just the right nibble to perfectly accentuate it.

Philanthropy would expand in unimaginable ways as local breweries fought to earn the loyalty of almost every conceivable niche market through sponsorships and donations. I don’t have industry statistics, and I believe that my brewery is among the most active sponsors and donors in the brewing industry, but using my breweries stats on giving, we intend on donating or sponsoring over $100,000 this year and expect to produce about 800,000 litres of beer, or $1 for every 8 litres of beer we sell.

If our giving was the norm for small breweries, there would be more the $50 million donated every year by small breweries!

And as one last spin-off effect, remember the 4,300 employees we hired? They pay income tax, property tax, and sales tax. They buy groceries, furniture, and clothes locally. When they travel in the province they buy gas, stay in hotels and visit attractions.

So that’s what the final outcome would look like. A province filled with beer choices, thousands of new (awesome) jobs, entire new industries, a huge influx of tourism, and a better standard of living thanks to the additional tax base and corporate giving.

I know what you are thinking, where do I sign up?

But how would the revolution start and what would it look like?

Maybe it will be an incendiary article written by Josh Rubin. Or maybe some out-of-province brewery will get caught in a corruption scheme, who knows? Or maybe, just maybe it starts today. Maybe it starts with us right here right now...

Truth is, 10 years from now, after the revolution has occurred, it’s more likely that historians would say its already started! Independent beer is growing by leaps and bounds, there already have been incendiary articles about the Ontario beer industry, political candidates in both the governing party and the opposition parties are talking about beer policy as part of their platform and the website is already out there trying to change the Ontario beer landscape while at the same time the new brewing training program at Niagara College will be sending out dozens of aspiring brewers every year.

So what will the revolution look like? Will blood (or beer) flow down the streets? Will there be armed protests? Will families be torn apart?

I don’t think so. This is the most powerful part of this idea; it would actually be pretty easy to do. Laws and regulations wouldn’t be required (although government could help the revolution along if they did change some of the laws that favour foreign breweries). No major change is required, other than a consumer shift based on the understanding that local, independent beer is beneficial to the entire province.

It would look like this – an ordinary couple walk into a restaurant (or, two guys walk into a bar). When the waiter arrives to take the drink order, they ask what beer offered is independent and brewed locally. If the restaurant does not offer an Ontario option, they politely get up and leave for another restaurant.

It looks like this – A regular guy finishes hockey practice and the team decides to go out for a drink. The sportsbar recommended doesn’t have a local option, so this regular guy insists that they go to another spot instead because he knows they have independent Ontario beer on tap.

And it looks like this – when visiting a friend for a dinner party, it becomes customary to bring a different Ontario made beer and an Ontario made wine each time (why not start a wine revolution, too?). A tasting becomes the best way to start a backyard BBQ and people begin to feel embarrassed if they don’t have a local beer to offer their guests.

And it looks like this – you just finished reading this piece and you send the link to your friend. That’s right; Right now, maybe the revolution starts with you.

Thanks for your time.

Sources and math calculations
1) Got this from the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB)
2) So, the first note is that I couldn’t find the total beer consumption in Ontario. This Wikipedia article says that Canada’s per capita consumption is 83.5L so I multiplied by 10 million people and then rounded down to 800 million litres
3) OCB stats say 35 independent brewers hold 5% of market share. 5% of 800 million is 40 million, divided by 35 is 1.14million and again, I rounded down. OCB stats also state 150 brands, which again, I rounded down to 4 brands per brewery
4) Beer Store website
5) LCBO beer flyer I found at my In-laws house on the weekend
6) Wikipedia
7) German beer stats ()
8) OCB stats
9) First, to figure out how many new jobs would be created, I took 600 employees divided by 35 breweries = 17.14 employees per brewery. 17.14 employees x 315 new breweries = 5,400 gross new jobs.
To find out how many jobs would be lost by foreign breweries I figured if 600 jobs is 20% of the total beer jobs in Ontario, then the 80% remaining would be 2,400. 2,400 people divided into 760 million litres (total sales of 800 million less 40 million brewed by the indies) of beer works out to 1 job for every 316,000 litres of beer sold. If foreign brewery sales dropped by 360 million litres, then 360 million divided by 316,000 = 1,136

Net new jobs equals the 5,400 jobs we created less the 1,136 jobs they lost for a total of 4,264. I rounded up this time to 4,300 but was careful to use the word almost.
10) OCB Stats

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Shiny new tanks!

Hooray! 3 of our 5 tanks showed up today (two fermenters and one bright tank). The other two should be arriving on Tuesday next week. The piping arrives on Monday and hopefully by mid-to-late August we'll have the extra brewing help to be brewing into them, thanks to Rob Long our new brewer who starts this Monday, too!

The Great LugTread Shortage (as Sean Cooley from Moonrappin' likes to call it) is nearly over! Thanks for your patience everyone.

On a technical note for startup breweries purchasing your first tanks, clarifying how the tanks will ship is of vital importance. Our preference is that the tanks ship on a dock-level height transport (closed in, not exposed to the elements) and properly cradled (cradle with wheels, please!). We forgot to specify that and our supplier this time forgot to ask, so it took an entire extra day and about $3,000 to get a boom to hoist these 2,500lb monsters off the truck instead of just wheeling them in.