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Interview with a Brewer (Part II)

We now present Part II of our 2-part interview with Steve Beauchesne of Beau’s All Natural Brewing. Steve started a brewery in Ontario with his father (see picture at left). For those who have not yet read Part I, it is well worth it. And for those who have no idea what is going on, MNB has begun to seek interviews from other homebrewers turned brewers.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to enter commercial brewing while committing as few mistakes as possible. We pick up with Steve with a question on something we hold near and dear, blogging:

4) Why the decision to blog? How has blogging been helpful?

I think that part of what makes beer interesting to beer drinkers is the story behind it. Learning about the trappist monks making Chimay or the origin of Pilsner Urquell or the trials that Dogfish Head went through is a part of the whole experience. To me, blogging was a very easy and very honest way to start to craft the story behind Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. It is helpful, but like most of the marketing we do, it doesn’t have specific results I can point to. I can’t say sales are up x% because I blog, but when I talk to people for the first time, quite often they’ll ask me a question about something I’ve written about on the blog. That’s kinda cool.

5) What is one thing about the brewing industry that you wish you had anticipated going in?

We did a really good job of estimating costs and a horrible job of estimating how long things took. Our installation went on for something like 7 months, while we pulled our hair out trying to get it done.

6) How do recipes translate when moving from something like a 5 gallon batch to a 5BBL batch?

Not very well. We went from a homebrewed pilot recipe to a 20BBL batch and it definitely took a few batches to get it where we wanted it. Even moving from one system to another of the same size can create very different results we’ve found. We were honest about it to our customers and explained that these first few batches would have absolutely no consistency, as we tried to nail what we wanted it finally end up as. Most people understood this and were actually excited to try each batch to see how the taste evolved. A small minority felt that we should not sell our beer until it was exactly how we wanted it, but I figure there’s no point in trying to please absolutely everybody…we promised that we would make interesting and tasty beer but we never promised that the very first batch would be exactly what we intended.

7) When constructing a brewery, what decisions were the most important? If you had to build another brewery (and you probably will if you keep winning awards), what would you do differently?

The most important one that we made was that we weren’t going to comprimise anything when it came to the quality of the beer. The more difficult decisions were the ones that supported the first…I don’t know how many bars told us initially that there was no way they were going to pay extra for a beer they had never even heard of before and the pressure to price it lower was enormous. If we had buckled, it would have put us in a tail spin (less revenue means spend less on the beer which means the beer inevitably isnt as good).

The second decision was to take challenge of being ridiculously small and turn it into a virtue. When someone asks me my title, I never say I’m Vice President…I say I don’t have a title, cause we’re way too small for that. My business card reads “How’s it going, I’m Steve Beauchense. I help my dad run a great brewery.” The reason it works is because it’s honest. People are so used to marketing spin that when, instead of saying “let me check with my office manager,” I say “let me check with my mom” they are absolutely stunned.

If I could do it again, I’d have more money to start with. Small cash flow has slowed our potential growth (as it stands we’re growing at 30%/month, so I shouldn’t complain I suppose) and made many projects happen slower than they could have. I wouldn’t change much else though. We’ve made some goofy mistakes along the way, but nothing too serious…I remember we made a dispensing unit when we just started out and bought a $150 cooler, then cheaped out on the cooling coil and the stupid thing looked awesome and foamed all the way through our special events….but we learned, now we spend $25 on a cheap cooler and buy the most expensive cooling coil and the thing can pour non-stop in an August heat wave without a problem.

8) Do all of your friends and family expect free beer now? Yeah, I thought so…

Yeah, but I owe most of them more than they’ve received. I’ve been truly blessed with the most kick-ass friends (especially my wife) on the planet and they have come through time and time again for me and the brewery. I owe many, many people many, many beers to even the score.

We would like to thank Steve one last time for enlightening us. I don’t know how realistic it is to expect his beers down in Georgia in the next few years, but if you’re ever up North (I don’t know why anyone would be, but just in case), throw back a Lugtread for me.

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