This weekend past, Vankleek Hill darling Beau’s Brewery announced they would be closing the brewery for an all-staff meeting on Monday, May 16th. Hardly exciting news. But by Monday’s end, they had sent the Twitterverse a-flutter with a simple tweet that read: Beau’s to Make Important Announcement Tomorrow (Tuesday) Morning at 8AM. The internet, as it does, got all conspiracy-theory on this. Predictions ranged from the independent brewery selling out to a larger corporation to an expansion announcement to a new collaboration beer with a Canadian celebrity (A friend suggested: Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pint).
The prompt announcement hit the inter-waves at 8AM. Beau’s announces the news of its imminent sale under an Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP). This is the beginning of a process that will sell the brewery to its ~150 employees in recognition of their 10th birthday on July 1st. Classic Beau’s!
Steve Beauchesne, the ever-positive and energetic company co-founder, was kind enough to take some time in his busy interview schedule to chat with us.
The genesis of the sale was made up of many factors, but specifically the 10th anniversary had Steve thinking more about the future legacy of this business and how it could keep moving forward another 10 or another 100 years. By having the ESOP mechanism in place, there is no threat of a lack of succession planning forcing an unwanted sale, to a larger corporation or an unwanted investor. The independence of the brewery and the business is now secure. Steve was quick to clarify that he has no current plans to step aside, “I’m not stepping anywhere but forward!” His father, Tim, has no plans to change his role, either. They come to work because they enjoy it and will continue to do so.
The news was told to the employees first, hence the closed meeting on Monday, and was very well received with a few teary-eyes and a lot of cheersing. When a brewery sells out, it often assures its consumer-base that “Nothing will change”. The Beau’s employees were told “This changes everything.” The employees are now the stewards of the company. Steve indicated there was already a palpable energy in the brewery this morning and the enthusiastic business will kick it up a notch.
The business model is a reward to those who invested in the brewery early on and a recognition to the employees that have been those for years, as well as those who have come aboard during the company’s period of rapid growth (over 500% growth in the past 5 years!). There are comparable models here in Canada including Steam Whistle Brewing and Together We’re Bitter co-op as well as other ESOP examples in the US, such as Harpoon Brewery and New Belgium Brewing. Steve’s goal is to demonstrate that independence is a viable business model.
Beau’s wants to show its fans and customers that they will stay true to their ethos. This will help the company move forward with new legacy projects, especially leading up to the 10th bday. The plan is simple, make better beer; make the world a better place. And, if you’re curious, Steve toasted the announcement with the beer that started it all – Lug-Tread.