A new organization, called The Ontario Brewers League has been created by Sebastian Lesch, John and Jimmy Peat, who are also the intrepid founders of the Longslice Brewery. TOBL is exactly what the craft beer industry in this province needs. It’s a cooperative organization that works to the benefit of it’s members. Membership isn’t just restricted to “bricks and mortar” brewing operations; it’s open to contract brewers, sales and promotions companies, licensees and anyone who generates income from the commercial production of beer in Ontario.
It’s greatest strength is the potential it has to bring the entire craft industry together. Starting up a brewery is an expensive and resource intensive undertaking. Bringing both new and established breweries together isn’t just wide-eyed idealism, it’s actually pretty smart and something that can benefit the industry as a whole.
Working together helps the industry grow and that is beneficial in so many ways. It promotes job growth and adds more money to the provincial economy. It achieves this by sharing knowledge and expertise as well as resources. When you combine all of these things, not only does it benefit the craft brewing industry but all the individuals involved prosper as well. It has worked very well for the Ontario Wine industry and it worked for Craft Brewers in Oregon. The Craft industry in Oregon accounts for nearly half of all beer sales in that state, compared to around 6% here in Ontario. Competition shouldn’t be with other breweries, it should be other alcoholic beverages like wine and spirits. The way TOBL is organized it’s in a position to do this because it’s all about inclusiveness and collaboration.
TOBL is starting off with pooled deliveries and plan to expand the resource sharing to other areas. The recent changes to beer distribution legislation have made it possible for breweries to share delivery trucks and services. This is huge considering many new start up breweries are contracting at other facilities and many of them happen to be brewing in the same places. Having shared delivery makes sense economically and environmentally.
They also plan to share legal services, so that together, they can navigate the new regulations and make the most of the legislation. Looking for loopholes can be tricky and once discovered will be shared with everyone. Again this benefits the entire industry. They are leaving the lobbying and promotional efforts to the OCB (Ontario Craft Brewers), but hopefully one day they can form some kind of strategic partnership and really make a huge difference.
Another very interesting thing they plan to offer is group health benefits to it’s members, which also makes sense. Small businesses can’t really afford to do that and having a larger group ensures that rates are lower and much more affordable. It also allows all of these small breweries to attract talented people and give them rewards they wouldn’t normally be able to offer.
TOBL is also interested in beer education, for both employees of the breweries and the licensees they sell to. Having bars and restaurants who know how to properly pour and serve a beer, not to mention learning the importance of cleaning draft lines, can only improve the overall experience for consumers and their enjoyment of beer. All of these things contribute to selling more craft beer.
There really is an amazing number of things that can be achieved with this organization. Kudos to the guys for starting it up and taking on this task. Overall if they can keep it a transparent and collaborative organization, it can only mean great things for craft beer in Ontario.