Organic Craft Brewing: The Right Thing, For the Right Reasons

By Steve Beauchesne, CEO and co-founder, Beau’s Brewing Co.

This piece was composed for the PEN on the request of  a community partner, TJ Turenne, Deputy Director at Maison Tucker House. It was intended to go in the Winter 2019 Edition of the PEN, but was cut due to space constraints.

Smiling man in black t-shirt with beer company logo holding a beer up to the camera. Beer is out of focus.
Beau’s co-founder Steve Beauchesne wants his local brewery to be both best in the world, and best for the world. Photo: Beau’s All Natural

We decided to make sustainability a core value at Beau’s from the get-go. Our first big decision in living this out was to choose certified organic malts and hops to brew our then-brand-new flagship lagered ale, Lug Tread. We had brewed several test batches of organic and non-organic, and it was conclusive to us, and 76 of our closest friends we poured samples for, that the organic ingredients had made the best tasting beer. And we knew that organic farming meant that our ingredients would be grown using agricultural methods that minimize the impact on the natural environment. It was the right thing to do, for the right reasons.

But we had naysayers telling us that we were doomed if we went the organics route with our nascent brewery; we were told that our customers would not care about our ethics, they just wanted a pint of cold beer. We knew that we would have to explain to each bar and restaurant owner why we thought organic beer was better, and why their customers would too.

And there were other challenges beyond what the consumer thought of our beer. Brewing organic beer meant that ingredients would cost up to twice as much as conventional. We didn’t start the brewery with deep pockets. Brewing organic would mean we would be much more limited in the suppliers we could buy from and limited in the selection of hops that were available organically. We understood that we might have

Beau’s All Natural logo.

to sacrifice buying from local suppliers, another value that was important to us, in order to brew organic beer.

We took a big chance and launched Ontario’s first brewery dedicated to making organic craft beer. We hoped that we would be rewarded by like-minded people who saw that brewing organic beer meant that we could be both best in the world, and best for the world. The right thing, for the right reasons. We took a big chance.

And what happened? Well, today Beau’s Brewing Company is Canada’s largest certified organic craft brewery.

The path forward

We have always looked at sustainability as a journey we are on, not a destination. Being an organic craft brewery since day one has actually made it easier to add additional facets of sustainability over time. In 2013 we became Canada’s first certified B-Corp brewery – being certified organic helped boost our score, and also meant that we already had much of the traceability and record-keeping in place that being a B-Corp requires.

You also attract like-minded organizations along the way, and together you can have a greater impact than acting alone. Here’s a great example – over three years we ran a members-only beer club called Greener Futures, which was intended to raise money to install solar panels on the roof of our brewery. When that project hit roadblocks that made it a no-go, we looked to other sustainability initiatives, and connected with Bullfrog Power. Through talking to Bullfrog we learned of an Ottawa-based project that sublet out small plots of farmland to community groups and advocates for sustainable agriculture. We pooled our resources with Bullfrog and installed the solar array at that farm instead. We also chose 100% green electricity and 100% green natural gas for our brewing through an ongoing partnership with Bullfrog Power.

The right things, for the right reasons. For Beau’s, being certified organic is really a philosophy around not just doing things right for the environment but making great beer and making the world a better place doing it.

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