Beau’s weighs prospect of legalized marijuana on beer industry

With legislation legalizing marijuana expected in the spring, Eastern Ontario’s largest craft brewery is considering what the changes will mean to the brewing industry, its chief executive said.

Beau’s CEO Steve Beauchesne made the remarks in response to an audience member’s question asking him if he's consider entering the marijuana sector following a wide-ranging presentation to members of Ottawa’s business community about the brewery's history and new initiatives Wednesday evening.

Making cannabis-infused beer is not something that Beau's is actively pursuing at the moment, but Mr. Beauchesne said he isn't ruling anything out.

“I don’t want to say categorically no and I don’t want to say categorically yes,” Mr. Beauchesne said. “If there is a way to do it in a way that’s responsible and fun – because for us, if it’s not fun, we just don’t bother – then maybe.”

He added that Beau's, like many breweries and distilleries, doesn't know what impact legalized marijuana will have on alcohol sales.

"I can envision a world in which it increases them. And I can imagine a world where it decreases them," Mr. Beauchesne.

He added that the company has spoken to officials from Tweed, a Smiths Falls marijuana producer that currently supplies pot to licensed medical patients but plans to “aggressively” pursue the recreational market once the plant is legalized.

Mr. Beauchesne said Tweed is led by “awesome people” and said he personally favoured “freedom of choice.” However, he said he also had social responsibility concerns about the prospect of expanding into marijuana.

“(I) don’t think Beau’s wants to be standing at the forefront going, ‘Hey, we’ve got a bunch of weed in our beer,’” he said.

Anniversary

Beau’s is based in Vankleek Hill east of Ottawa and was started in 2006 by Mr. Beauchesne and his father, Tim. It’s grown to become the region’s largest craft brewery, according to OBJ’s Book of Lists. It turns out some five million litres annually, and sells its products in seven provinces as well as New York state, according to the company’s website.

The company’s beer is brewed with organic ingredients and Beau’s itself is a certified B-Corp, a designation for firms that meet standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

“If we do the right things for the right reasons, growth will be the symptom,” Mr. Beauchesne, a past Forty Under 40 award recipient, said.

The help mark the company’s 10-year anniversary, Beau’s started to sell shares in the business to its employees earlier this year. The move is intended to allow the company to keep expanding while preserving its independence.

Beau’s is the official beer partner of the Ottawa 2017 celebrations and, last month, said it was helping a Rwandan entrepreneur open a craft brewery in her home country.

Josephine “Fina” Uwineza was in Ottawa Wednesday evening and said Rwanda has a favourable investment environment, particularly for businesses interested in producing goods within the African country.