Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


4 Comments

30 minutes with Scott Simmons, the new President of the Ontario Craft Brewers

Back in August, the Ontario Craft Brewers announced the appointment of a new association president.

The former CEO of Golf Canada, Scott Simmons was also Vice President, marketing and business development for The Beer Store, and he led that organization’s development of a long range strategic plan.

The OCB currently boasts 82 members and is the only organization representing the interests of small brewers in the province. Accordingly, the role of president is one that could conceivably be pivotal in shaping the future of craft beer in Ontario. I reached out to Simmons and managed to catch him during a free half hour when he was literally driving to Queen’s Park to chat beer with provincial politicians and we discussed what he’s been up to in his first 12 weeks on the job, what we can expect next for beer in Ontario, and, importantly, what a newly-craft-converted and self-described “blue collar” guy from Brantford (who went to high school with Gretzky no less) likes to drink. What follows is an edited transcript of the things Simmons was willing to go on the record about (also worth noting: I knew we only had 30 minutes, so I tried to cut to the chase).

 

Ben’s Beer Blog: “Ok, you probably saw this one coming, so lets start with it. Craft brewers in Ontario are still “the little guys,” and to my mind, there are a few big guys they have to do battle with and one of them is The Beer Store. You come from The Beer Store. How do you reconcile that? I’ve talked to some OCB members and, the consensus is generally “who better to help us in that system,” but there are also a lot of guys that want to blow up that system. In March 2015, I watched Darren Smith, the owner of Lake of Bays Brewery and the Vice Chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers, give an impassioned speech directly to provincial politicians, basically saying “Let us have our own stores.” I still think that’s the best possible scenario here: Let craft brewers open their own stores. But given your Beer Store background, does this signify that the OCB is content to work within that system, or are stores still a goal?”

Scott Simmons: “I think it’s still a goal for sure. But as you know from your work in the industry, every thing is political. Everything is a negotiation. I think that, my personal opinion, the craft brewers kind of lost the battle for their own stores—for the time being at least—when the grocery store plan got announced.”

BBB: “I agree.”

SS: “I think when they announced grocery, cross-selling and individual stores fell off the table for the time-being but it’s certainly something that I’m going to keep advocating for. And to your point about the little guys and the big competition with Molson and Labatt—for sure, but I try not to think of it as so contentious. They’re not evil and all this. You know, they’re good people.”  Continue reading


2 Comments

Amsterdam’s Iain McOustra on what to expect from the brewery’s new Barrel House

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 3.31.30 PM

“We have sourced a small 3 hL brewhouse from a manufacturer located in Cambridge, Ontario. Our focus at the Barrelhouse will be on farmhouse ales and barrel-aging.

We have been working with barrels and brettanomyces since 2010 but it is difficult to do so in a working production brewery. Our new location will be a safe space to experiment with different Brett strains as well as aging with bacteria cultures. Our goal is to continue developing our house wild yeast strain while using the space to test different brewing techniques and raw ingredients. It’s essentially a lab, separate from the production brewery, that we can use to focus on making farmhouse ales that we love to drink.

It’s going to be a lot of fun and each of our brewers will have a chance to rotate through and learn about brewing with wild yeast and bacteria.

The majority of our barrels will continue to be stored at the Esandar Brewery (around the corner from the Barrel House). We don’t have enough room to store the entire program onsite at the Barrel House.”

~Iain McOustra, Brewmaster for Amsterdam Brewery, on the company’s forthcoming third location, which will open at the end of September. For a couple more details, check out my brief post in Toronto Life yesterday, here


3 Comments

Anheuser-Busch springs into action canning drinking water, branding it, and drafting press release about it to support hurricane Harvey relief efforts

ST LOUIS, MO. (August 30, 2017) – Anheuser-Busch is delivering three truckloads – over 155,000 cans – of emergency drinking water to help communities in the Gulf Coast area in response to Hurricane Harvey. The company also brought in three interns and two marketing supervisors just to oversee promotion of this selfless gesture.

An initial truckload of water was sent from Anheuser-Busch’s Cartersville brewery in Georgia and delivered to the American Red Cross in Baton Rouge on Monday, August 28. Drafting of a press release about this generous help started around roughly the same time and interns worked around the clock to generate media lists and track down contact info for local newspapers, as well as national and web-based media outlets.

The Cartersville brewery halts production periodically throughout the year to prepare canned drinking water so as to be ready to help American communities in times of need.  Accordingly, the brewing giant already has surplus of cans designed specifically for water and emblazoned with a massive Anheuser-Busch “A” logo with its distinctive eagle so nobody mistakes the water for a philanthropic effort by a lesser brewery.

“Putting our production and logistics strengths to work by providing safe, clean drinking water is the best way we can help in these situations” said Brad Billy, Anheuser-Busch’s Vice President for Outreach, “and rolling out a full-press PR effort to make sure everyone knows we did this ensures that shutting down beer production to can water isn’t just a big money-sucking waste of god damn time.”

Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast early Saturday with winds over 100 mph and devastating floods in some areas. The American Red Cross prepared over 50 shelters to support thousands of potentially displaced people. Anheuser-Busch and its world-class brewmasters have carried on a legacy of brewing America’s most popular beers for or more than 160 years and never miss an opportunity for good press.

“It’s crucial, even in times of crisis, not to lose focus on the importance of constantly position our brand,” Billy added. “Being a soulless, cash-hungry marketing machine means you can’t take a break during exceptional circumstances. Even in tragic situations, there’s an opportunity to market our tasteless, foreign-owned, industrial lager to dim-witted Americans. And you can bet your ass we’re going to jump all over it.”

ABOUT ANHEUSER-BUSCH
Anheuser-Busch Companies is a wholly owned subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev, who bought the company via hostile takeover in 2008. At the time, the company laid off 1,400 employees and 415 contractors, and introduced zero-based budgeting. They also axed all company contributions to the salaried employee pension plan, cut company-provided life insurance to retirees, stopped tuition reimbursement, and canceled severance packages. The company also cut all employee perks like free tickets to St. Louis Cardinals baseball games and tickets to Busch Gardens. Anheuser-Busch had nothing to do with this fake press release that is clearly satire.


2 Comments

Side Launch Brewing Company announces termination of CEO Garnet Prat Siddall

The board of directors of Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Company has announced the termination of the brewery’s President and CEO, Garnet Pratt Siddall.

In an announcement to staff and stakeholders of the company, Andy Wilder, Chairman of the Board of Directors, said the board “has decided that Side Launch would be best served with a new leader and the search for a new CEO will commence immediately.”

The statement includes assurances to staff the company will “continue to prosper and grow” and lauds the brewery’s “strong balance sheet.” As the reason for termination, Wilder indicated that “[i]t is normal that as an organization grows, the skills and processes needed to manage the organization change.”

A source tells me, however, that the board parted company with Pratt Siddall over “fundamental disagreements over how to run the business.”

That Side Launch has chosen to part ways with Pratt Siddall, who served as President and CEO since the company’s founding three years ago and inarguably helped the brewery rise to its current prominence, is a puzzling decision to say the least. Pratt Siddall brought experience in corporate finance and mergers and acquisitions to Side Launch, the company was named the 2016 Brewery of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards, and Pratt Siddall was recently elected by her peers to serve as chair of the board of directors for the Ontario Craft Brewers association. The first woman ever elected to that position.

I reached out to Pratt Siddall for comment but she indicated she was not prepared to discuss the situation.

Per the recent announcement, Side Launch Brewery’s interim CEO will be Al Stuart. Stuart is a Managing Partner of The Pilot in Toronto, former Vice President of Operations at Stuart Energy Systems Corporation, and is currently a director of the Bloor Yorkville BIA and sits on JAZZFM‘s board of directors.


Leave a comment

Silver Stacks Brewery and new adventure park announced for East London development

London’s east end is having something of a moment.

No longer associated derogatorily with being East of Adelaide (or EOA if you’re in the know) the east end is now home to what is arguably becoming London’s most vibrant neighbourhood, the Old East Village (aka OEV if you’re into the whole acronym thing).

An area that’s—let’s be honest—still a bit sketchy in some places, OEV is a pocket of affordable real estate that has, as of late, become something of a hot bed for interesting and independent  entrepreneurs (if you’re a Toronto reader, think The Junction, just with out all the stuff yet).

Aided by awesome spots for a coffee like 10Eighteen Coffee Bar (because everything starts with coffee), a seriously decent cheese store in All ‘Bout Cheese, and the mandatory weekly Farmer’s Market at the Western Fair Grounds, OEV is threatening to become an honest-to-goodness hipster hotspot. There’s even Urban Oven, a place to get gluten free bread to make your own bread at home, and the obligatory over-priced clothing store tucked in among a few vintage shops.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the area also has beer. Continue reading


3 Comments

A conversation with Richard Sigesmund of Gleemer Imports

If you’re a fan of craft beer in Ontario and have spent any amount of time participating in the conversation about the scene online, it’s likely you’ve run into Richard Sigesmund.

A perennial critic of the province’s beer scene, Sigesmund generally isn’t afraid to tell anyone how he really feels about a certain beer, brewery, or trend and, on occasion, the conversation has been known to get a little heated. As of this post, for example, he has unfriended me on Facebook (though we still trade barbs on twitter and we chatted via email for this post).

To call him a fan of Belgian beer would likely be putting it lightly. Sigesmund travels to the region at least once a year and interned as a brewer there. He’s also an avid home brewer and has collaborated on a few brews with Toronto’s Muddy York brewing. And while he’s fairly quick to share his thoughts on the superior beer scene in other regions, unlike most Ontario beer-critiquing twitteratti or self-righteous beer bloggers (ahem), Sigesmund is poised to put his money where his mouth is later this year when he officially launchers Gleemer Imports, his very own Ontario beer agency “importing liquid happiness from Belgium and beyond.”

I chatted with the fledgling agency owner to see what we might be able to expect from Ontario’s newest beer importer. Continue reading


5 Comments

New Ontario brewery press release

With so many new breweries opening in Ontario these days, and given how busy these fledgling small business owners can get in the run-up to actually opening their doors, I thought I’d help out and create a press release template these brewers might use to announce their arrival. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
YOURTOWN  ON – Date

Insert Name Brewing Co. is proud to announce we are now brewing beer at our newly renovated facility at (address) and we are open for tastings.

Founded by long time friends (your names), Insert Name Brewing Co. is the culmination of our shared dream to one day make our own beer and share it with the world.

“We’re all (circle one: bored engineers / on the same hockey team / very new home brewers) and one day over a few beers we hatched an idea,” says (name of most coherent co-founder), “and Insert Name Brewing Co. was born.” Continue reading