So we’re starting a brewery. Big whoop. We thought we would take this opportunity as future entrepreneurs to try to learn from fellow microbrewers. And so we present to you the first in what will hopefully be a series of interviews with legitimate brewers. Brewers who get PAID to brew.
I realize we’re not known for our long posts here at MNB, but I encourage you to spend the time to read through this sucker. There’s a ton of good stuff here. And so we present, unedited and uncut, the first half of our first interview: Steve from Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
We found out about Steve through his blog, How to Start a Brewery. I won’t prattle on about him, however. I’ll let him introduce himself:
I’m Steve Beauchesne and me and my dad started a brewery and called it Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. We invited the rest of the family and some close friends to join us. We’re located in a tiny farming town in the most Eastern part of Ontario Canada. Our beer is named LugTread after the tire treads on a small tractor and is brewed using certified organic malts and local spring water. We’ve been open just over a year now and so far we’ve won three awards, had a tonne of fun and sold some beer along the way.
Now to the questions!
1) What were the steps that led you up the decision to start a brewery?
Well, firstmost, I’ve been passionate about independant breweries for longer than I’ve been legally allowed to. I grew up in VankleekHill, where my Dad ran a c mpletely unrelated business in the textile industry. Everytime I came home with a case of a craft beer that he didn’t recognize he would say “you know, someone should open a microbrewery in Eastern Ontario” and we’d joke about it for a bit. Well, as I’m sure is the case in the U.S., the entire textile industry in Canada has moved offshore and one by one all of my Dad’s customers went bankrupt. I had moved to the big city and was working as a business plannning manager in the Ontario Government and one day my dad came up to visit. I took him out to a local pub and we were enjoying a pint when he broke the news to me that he was going to have to close his doors because the last of his customers had gone broke.
After a stunned silence, I asked him what he planned on doing, to which he replied “I think we should open a microbrewery in the building”. After a longer stunned silence I replied that I was willing to sell my house, quit my job and move back home to help him. We spent the rest of the night dreaming about the brewery we were going to open.
The next morning we sobered up and started looking into the possiblity seriously. We went on brewery tours, we read books and articles and I started building a business plan. We hired a brewer on as a consultant and started working on recipes and began looking for money to actually start. We contacted the Ontario Craft Brewers Association and they offered a lot of help as well. I quit my job and we started taking in cash and things really started snowballing from there. We hired our consultant on as our brewmaster and eventually we started actually making and selling beer.
2) What is your favorite thing about what you do?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. This job has ridiculously long hours, I’m still making less than half of what I made at my former job (I went 10 months taking no salary at all) and I love almost every second of it. I guess if I had a favorite, it would be at the end of the brew day when Matt ( our brewer) is just finshing cleaning up and we have a beer and talk about plans for the brewery. Its one of those few super calm, reflective moments and it usually feels really good.
3) What has been the most effective marketing tactic for you when first starting up? (If word-of-mouth is the answer, what has been the second most effective tactic?)
Ha, that’s funny…word of mouth is what happens when your marketing is effective, I think. It is by far the best thing a small brewery can have in its favour, but we certainly don’t rely on it, we generate it. In our case, it is generated when we talk one-to-one with our customer, a potential new customer, their mom, etc. When we started off we set an advertising budget of $0 and a beer promotional budget of $70,000. We didn’t think anyone would switch beer just because they saw our logo in a newspaper, so we were at every special event we could get into, handing out samples and talking about our beer. every new account was offered a sampling night for their customers, we’ve offered seminars for our accounts staff, etc. Anything we can do to get a glass of our beer into a customers hand and explain what makes ours special. Keep in mind, that this really only works because we have a kick-ass beer. From our ingredients to our aging time to the care we put into making sure its fresh, so we’re pretty confident that if our customer has taste buds, they are going to really, REALLY like our beer.
Keep posted for the rest of the interview. We broke it up because of length… and because it’s THAT GOOD. (Thanks Steve!)