B Corp,  employee-owned company,  Succession planning

Beau’s Brewery Implements ESOP

Updated Dec 2022

On its 10th anniversary, the owners of Canada’s largest organic brewery, Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company, announced it will be selling the company to employees through an Employee Share Ownership Plan (ESOP).‎

The owners, a father-and-son team, said selling to employees ensures the Vankleek Hill, Ont., brewery that has  approximately 150 employees stays independent, an important factor for the founders.

While overall beer sales have been declining in recent years, sales of craft beer have risen, according to the Globe and Mail. And that has large brewers looking to make acquisitions.‎

In October, Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery was purchased by Labatt Breweries, part of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer-maker. That was followed by the November purchase of Turning Point Brewery, part of a deal that also saw Labatt acquire Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Okanagan Cider.

Beau's Brewery announces an Employee Share Ownership Plan
The 150 employees of Beau’s All Natural Brewery have the opportunity to become co-owners in the business.

“We are fighting against commoditization, but more importantly we are fighting for camaraderie, we are fighting for innovation, we are fighting for community involvement and we’re fighting for a better way to do business,” says Steve Beauchesne, Beau’s CEO, when announcing the sale of the company to employees.

At ESOP Builders, we applaud Beau’s for knowing their values, and finding a succession plan that matches their values.

Not only is an ESOP a flexible succession plan for the owners (Steve is only 40 and has no plans of leaving the company in the near future), it also makes good business sense. In our experience, backed by decades of research, ESOPs help companies attract and retain employees, boost engagement and productivity, and company longevity.

The sale of the company to employees is also in line with Beau’s B Corp Certification. B Corps have a commitment to achieve social and environmental goals, and companies who have employee ownership can receive additional points in the certification process.

Beau’s is not alone in choosing the ESOP model in the craft beer industry. A number of well-known US craft breweries in the US have ESOPs including New Belgium (the fourth largest craft brewery in the United States), Harpoon, Odell, and Left Hand.

According to a CBC article posted in March 2022, Beau’s has officially been acquired by Steam Whistle Brewing in Toronto. The articles further describes that 129 shareholders, which includes employee-owners, voted to accept the offer. They will continue to brew at the main location.

Stephen Beaumont, a brewing industry expert and co-author of The World Atlas of Beer said that the sale likely wouldn’t turn off dedicated drinkers of its beer, or see them accuse Beau’s of “selling out.”

Watch the videos below and follow the links for more news on Beau’s ESOP announcement:

Beau’s brewery to remain independent by selling ownership to employees

Beau’s Brewery owner selling sudsy business… to employees

When you should let your employees own your company

By Camille Jensen, vice-president of ESOP Builders Inc.