Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company: Keeping It in the Family
After 32 years of working in the leather finishing industry, 55-year-old entrepreneur Tim Beauchesne was ready to make a bold career change. He wanted to transform 10 Terry Fox Drive in Vankleek Hill, Canada, into a brewery. Then a self-proclaimed “beer consumer, not connoisseur,” Beauchesne thought that starting a brewery sounded like a fun business. Over beers he asked his son, Steve Beauchesne, to help him launch this new enterprise. It didn’t take long for Steve to pack his bags and leave Toronto. He never looked back.
The rest of the Beauchesne family also returned to their hometown, and in 2006 the five-employee, family-run Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company began making beer. After hiring Matthew O’Hara as a brewing consultant (now Beau’s master brewer), the company has grown to approximately 160 employees—about 40 percent of whom have a friend or family connection. Steve, now the CEO, jokes that Beau’s “made nepotism a company value.” In this unique environment, he says, it’s “not just the Beauchesne family—all families become a part of the Beau’s family.”
The retro tractor in the Beau’s logo is reminiscent of its community’s farming and agricultural history. Located in eastern Ontario, Vankleek Hill “is a small town of 1,800 people and 2,000 cows,” says Steve Beauchesne with a chuckle. While the local population may be small, there are over 5 million people within an hour’s drive of the brewery, and Beau’s attracts beer drinkers from Ottawa and Montreal as a destination brewery. Recognizing that Vankleek Hill is “in the middle of nowhere,” Steve appreciates that customers go out of their way to stop here. The rapport between the longtime customers and staff, free tastings and tours, and lively conversations at the tasting area, contribute to a warm feeling of Canadian hospitality at Beau’s.
“When people ask where Vankleek Hill is, now we all say, ‘It’s the home of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company,’” says Louise Sproule, publisher of the town’s community newspaper, The Review. “Everyone seems to know about Beau’s, so in a way, Beau’s has put Vankleek Hill on the map. Having Canada’s top craft brewer in Vankleek Hill has added a lot of verve and community pride to our small town.”
Since rolling out Lug Tread Lagered Ale—a top-fermented, cold-aged Golden Ale that accounts for 70 percent of its beer sales—Beau’s has continued to innovate with projects such as the B-Side Brewing Label series, beers that use a record label business model for brewing by signing on brewer “artists” from different countries to develop and create recipes. Kissmeyer Nordic Pale Ale, the first B-Side beer, was brewed with Anders Kissmeyer of Denmark’s Kissmeyer Beer & Brewing, a one-man gypsy brewery. A Pale Ale style with a Scandinavian touch, this beer incorporates ingredients such as yarrow, sweet gale, and dried heather flowers. The second collaboration beer, Gigantic: La Formidable, made with Gigantic Brewing Company of Portland, Ore., is an American-Belgo IPA that represents Gigantic’s penchant of turning traditional styles on their head.
The collaborations don’t stop there, however. When comedian Tom Green, an Ottawa native and craft beer aficionado who grew up watching his dad homebrew, wanted to see if it was possible to cooperate on a beer with Beau’s he was introduced to Steve Beauchesne through a mutual friend. The Tom Green Beer! Milk Stout, a robust beer with a silky mouthfeel, made its debut in 2013. “There’s an element of Canadian pride, Ottawa, civic pride […] it’s pretty cool to bring my own piece of Ottawa with me,” says Green. Like Beau’s, Green says he enjoys “doing things that are independent and outside the mainstream.” Similarly, Steve Beauchesne adds that the collaboration beer has “a very DIY spirit to it that really matches Tom’s ethics.”
Today, all of Beau’s beers are made with organic hops, malts, and local spring water, and are Certified Organic in the US and Canada. But this creative brewery doesn’t limit itself to traditional brewing ingredients. Bog Water, Beau’s first Gruit, which is now part of its Gruit Series, draws on the flora of Northern Ontario and Quebec, where bog myrtle grows abundantly. A deciduous shrub, it’s dried and hand-harvested by a First Nations forager who then delivers the ingredient to the brewery. Beau’s puts out at least four Gruits a year; released around the dates of the equinoxes and solstices. In 2013, Beau’s also organized the first annual International Gruit Day on February 1. To celebrate, Beau’s brews a Gruit recipe and raises a glass along with other breweries from the US, Canada, and worldwide.
As Beau’s has grown (the company plans to distribute nationally in Canada this year), it hasn’t forgotten the foundation of the brewery’s success. Three years ago, Beau’s became the first Benefit Corporation (B-Corp) brewery in Canada (now one out of 10 worldwide). B-Corps meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. In addition, Beau’s has raised more than $1 million for charities, the community, and the arts. And this May, the company extended ownership of the brewery to its employees with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). On Beau’s 10th anniversary, July 1, 2016, it began the transition of brewery ownership to its employees.
“The ESOP is an incredible opportunity for all of us at Beau’s,” says Alex McKinnon, Beau’s QA/QC lab manager. “The ESOP has given us a chance to bet on our future success as a company and as a group of individuals. It has cemented the company culture of us being more than just coworkers, but rather an extended brewery family. Your mentality and attitude changes when you know that the people working beside you or in the other departments have a stake in the company with you. You can’t help but address problems and challenges in a collaborative light.”
With continuing projects, popular yearly events like a St. Patrick’s Party and an even bigger Oktoberfest, and its overall commitment to its customers, collaborators, and employees, Beau’s is moving at light speed. In the midst of changes and growth, though, the team hasn’t forgotten its roots. Just ask any member of the Beau’s family, and they’ll tell you: There’s no place like home.
1 60-barrel brewhouse, 1 15-barrel brewhouse, and 1 2-barrel pilot brewhouse
6 360-barrel fermentors
6 300-barrel fermentors
6 240-barrel fermentors
17 60-barrel fermentors
1 30-barrel fermentor
9 15-barrel fermentors
3 2-barrel fermentors
Lug-Tread Lagered Ale: Beau’s flagship Kölsch-style Golden Ale, with notes of graham cracker, hay, and light fruit is brewed with barley and wheat malts and Perle and Hersbrucker hops. 5.2% ABV
The Tom Green Beer! Milk Stout: A collaboration with the Canadian comedian of the same name, this Stout derives its roasty, creamy, and luscious character from oats, lactose, and six specialty malts. 5.0% ABV
St. Luke’s Verse Lavender Gruit: Brewed with thyme and rosemary in addition to its namesake shrub, St. Luke’s Verse is part of Beau’s Gruit Series and has notes of intense lavender and potpourri. 5.7% ABV
Farm Table: Märzen Oktoberfest Lager: Part of the Farm Table Series, this lager is biscuity, malty, and clean with a blend of Munich, Pilsner, Vienna, and Caramunich malts. 5.5% ABV
Wag the Wolf Hopfenweisse: A hop-forward Weissbier with big, juicy New Zealand hop character from Motueka, Rakau, and Nelson Sauvin varieties. 6.8% ABV ■