Ottawa

Steam Whistle buys Beau's Brewing Co.

Toronto-based Steam Whistle Brewing has purchased Beau's Brewing Co., though the brewer says it will maintain a presence in eastern Ontario.

Beau's, hurt by pandemic, to continue to operate in Vankleek Hill, Ont.

Father-and-son team from left to right, Steve and Tim Beauchesne founded Beau's All Natural Brewing Company in 2006. (Beau's All Natural Brewery)

Beau's Brewing Co. has been purchased by Toronto-based Steam Whistle Brewing, though the brewery says it will maintain a presence in eastern Ontario.

In 2006, Steve Beauchesne and his father Tim co-founded the brewery with the well-known vintage green tractor logo and its award-winning "Lug Tread Lagered Ale."

On Monday, 129 shareholders — a mixture of original investors and employees who, five years ago, gained the power to invest in the brewery where they worked — voted to accept an offer for share purchase. The details of the offer are confidential.

Steve Beauchesne said the pandemic "dramatically" impacted the business, erasing about half of the brewery's revenue "overnight."

"Rather than just struggling through and trying to find a way to survive, this will allow us to survive," said Beauchesne.

The deal will allow Beau's to continue to brew beer at its main location in Vankleek Hill, Ont., he said, but the new ownership will likely bring some changes.

"We're still trying to figure out exactly what we're going to do," Beauchesne admitted.

Co-founder Tim Beauchesne to retire

Founded in 2006 by Steve and his father Tim, about 60 people currently work for Beau's.

Steve will continue to play an active role in eastern Ontario operations after the deal goes through, but it allows his father to retire at age 71.

A news release said the father and son endorsed the takeover by Steam Whistle, a brewery that has also touted its use of organic and natural ingredients in the brewing process.

"I've enjoyed collaboratively competing with them over the past 15 to 16 years or so," said Beauchesne.

It's not the first time the two craft brewers have worked together.

In November, the two companies announced an alliance to sell and distribute their pooled portfolios in Ontario.

Shareholders of Beau’s Brewing Co. voted to accept an offer for share purchase from fellow independent craft brewery Steam Whistle. (Denis Babin/CBC)

Beau's hurt by pandemic's effect on beer industry

The purchase did not surprise Stephen Beaumont, a brewing industry expert and co-author of The World Atlas of Beer.

He said the pandemic had "focused beer drinkers' energies" in support of brews from the smallest, hyper-local crafter breweries.

The "drink local" ethos has been hard on import and national brands, as well as medium-sized, regional craft brewers like Beau's.

"Probably at one time they would have ranked as among Canada's most innovative breweries," said Beaumont.

But he also said Beau's slowness to get on board the "can craze" and to capitalize on the surging popularity of India Pale Ale beers "caught them on the back foot."

Finally, he said because Beau's brewery was not located close to Canada's largest beer markets in southern Ontario, a company with national aspirations was at a disadvantage.

The sale of Beau's to Steam Whistle likely wouldn't turn off dedicated drinkers of its beer, he said, or see them accuse Beau's of "selling out."

"I think, increasingly, craft beer drinkers are becoming immune to these takeovers," he said.

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