Beau’s All Natural Brewing: Crafting beer. Inspiring community.
This month we are excited to feature an interest piece on a great Canadian family business. Beau’s organic beer leads the way in sustainability, from both an environmental and community perspective. Beau’s brewery HQ is situated in country Ontario, Canada. It’s where they make their delicious organic beer, and hold an annual ‘Oktoberfest’ beer and music festival. I was lucky enough to speak with Jennifer Beauchesne and learn more about how the beer, with the sweetest label designs in the biz, has become so popular.
Beau’s has a very unique aesthetic as breweries go—can you tell us a little about the company’s origin, and how it grew to become what it is today?
The plan to start up Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company was conceived over a few pints of beer. Father and son Tim and Steve Beauchesne talked for hours on a sunny summer patio about plans for the new brewery they had dreamed up. The next day they sobered up and it still seemed like a good idea, so two years later on July 1, 2006 the first pint of Beau’s flagship Lug Tread Lagered Ale was poured in Eastern Ontario, Canada.
Since then Tim and Steve have hired all their immediate family to work at the brewery, as well as various cousins, in-laws and of course, all of their ‘unemployable friends’. We now have a team of more than 100 employees, have won a total of 67 awards, and produce three million litres of beer a year. In addition to goofy pranks and sibling rivalry, our company culture is one of camaraderie, strong leadership, ethics, innovation, passion, and genuine enthusiasm for what we do.
Beau’s is famous for quality product, as well as innovative, creative branding, who is the artist behind your famous labels?
We started with the idea that the beer’s packaging should be compelling and cool enough to get someone to try the beer for the first time, then the beer jumps in to meet the high standards set by the packaging. Enter Jordan Bamforth, Beau’s Creative Director, who started with the company from day one, doing brand development in exchange for shares in the company.
Jordan now heads up a creative department of three designers (including himself) who work in tandem to create cohesive but always evolving design. Beau’s has won a total of 20 national and international packaging and design awards in the eight years we’ve been making beer.
The brewing process seems really open and creative at Beau’s too – how often do you guys experiment with the recipe?
Our process is very collaborative, and most of the brew team people are closet foodies, which helps! We play around with potential ingredients first by making teas with them, testing their potency and blending different proportions. We like to say we brew using equal parts art and science.
With our seasonals and year-round brands we have the ability to tweak the recipe for future batches if we think it’s needed, but for one-off batches what’s brewed is what gets bottled. We used to joke that we had the biggest test-batch system of any brewery, since we just went ahead and brewed on the big system. The backup plan if a beer concept didn’t work out was to just drink it ourselves, but it never happened. Having the super-talented Matt O’Hara as Brewmaster leading our team is pretty reassuring—Matt’s been with us since day one too.
Sustainability seems to be an important part of Beau’s philosophy, the beer is organic—please tell us about the sustainable elements of Beau’s at large.
We are proud to be Canada’s first certified Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) brewery, a designation that means we consider the impact to local communities and the environment in every business decision we make. A few examples of our award-winning and cool sustainability initiatives—our spent organic brewing grains get shared out to local organic farmers through a co-operative. We have a purchasing policy that strongly prefers local, to lessen environmental impact. Our ‘leave your car at home’ incentive for employees will reimburse their purchase of a skateboard instead, so long as they ride it to work whenever able.
Our entire line-up of beers is certified organic and free of cheap corn syrups and adjuncts. We have even helped some of our ingredient suppliers get certified organic too! From our 100% post-consumer posters, brochures, and coasters to our innovative enviro-friendly packaging, we approach each decision with mindfulness of its environmental impact.
Beer and music—a perfect match, can you tell us about Beau’s annual Oktoberfest, how it began, why it is so damn popular?
Beau’s presents Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest every fall, a two-day Bavarian-themed festival that is the brewery’s signature fundraising event, and an amazingly good time! Beau’s brews up new beers by the barrel-load especially for the festival, and we invite twenty-five of our favourite restaurants out to serve Bavarian and seasonally inspired cuisine. Games, competitions and entertainment for all ages take place throughout the day, then the scene is set with a talent-packed line-up of Canadian indie music each night.
Beau’s Oktoberfest attracts 12,000 festival-goers each year, and was a finalist in 2011 for the Best Ontario Culinary Tourism Experience Award. If you’ve never seen a sea of little green hats with a huge smile under each one, then you’ve got to come out to Vankleek Hill Oktoberfest! And because this festival has already raised $242,000 for various charities, you’ll discover our little secret: beer tastes better when you feel good about drinking it. This year’s fest is October 3-4.
I’ll be over to visit in a month, gimme a taste of what will be flowing from the keg.
No way, we love visitors! Our brewery is open 7 days a week, from 10 am to 6 pm for tours and tastings. We offer free tours of the Beau’s brewery, and free 2 oz. samples of all our current beers.
Our flagship Lugtread Lagered Ale is available year-round, as is our milk stout The Tom Green Beer and Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale. We just released a new saison made with rhubarb and sea buckthorn berries that’s super tart and fruity, like a berry and rhubarb pie. We’re also ramping up for Oktoberfest with a bunch of German styles: this year we’ll have a rauch (smoked beer), a strong dark lager, a zwickel, and a pilsner. Basically, any time you walk into the brewery we’ve got at least a dozen beers for you to sample!
Interview by Aurora Jane
Photographs of beer packaging by Sean Sprague
Check out Beau’s website here: www.beaus.ca