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Beau’s founder and CEO Steve Beauchesne (Beau’s Brewery/Brendan Coutts)
Beau’s founder and CEO Steve Beauchesne (Beau’s Brewery/Brendan Coutts)

Beau’s brewery helping bring craft beer to Rwanda to mark 10th birthday Add to ...

Companies mark their anniversaries in different ways – a glitzy party, a new product launch or an anniversary sale. In 2012, Nabisco, for instance, marked Oreo’s 100th birthday by releasing birthday-cake flavoured cookies.

But Ontario’s Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. had a different aim in mind when deciding how to celebrate its 10th birthday this year. “We were looking to leave a legacy,” says Steve Beauchesne, who co-founded the brewery with his father, Tim, in their hometown of Vankleek Hill, an hour outside of Ottawa.

At the same time, Nancy Coldham, partner in Markham, Ont.-based consultancy firm CG Group, was mentoring female entrepreneurs in Rwanda. In Kigali, she met Fina Uwineza, a seasoned restaurateur, who was interested in starting a new business. So Coldham suggested a craft brewery, and approached Beau’s last year to see if they could help.

Uwineza’s vision is to build a downtown brewpub – all female-owned and –operated, sourcing ingredients locally to boost female growers in surrounding villages. It sounded like the perfect fit to Beauchesne – and the idea of helping to build the first craft brewery in Rwanda has inspired Canadians from across the country to pitch in.

The biggest cost is the brewhouse, so Beau’s asked Abbotsford, B.C.-based Newlands Systems, a brew house manufacturer, if it could offer a discount. The company went a step further – donating a custom $300,000 brewhouse – and its employees agreed to contribute some of their labour for free.

Next up is buying a bottling line: a $95,000 item that Beau’s is currently raising funds for via a Kickstarter campaign that closes on Nov. 18 (as of Nov. 14, it was still just over $14,000 short of reaching its goal). The campaign has sparked grassroots efforts such as Canadian breweries holding guided tastings and beer lovers throwing potluck parties to raise funds.

While beer is beloved by Rwandans, the country’s bars only offer beers from multinational giants. So when its first “craft brewery” opens next spring, the beers will offer a new flavour to many Rwandans. “When Nancy mentioned ‘craft beer,’ I had to Google it,” Fina Uwineza joked when announcing the project at Beau’s brewery this September. “I thought craft was about baskets.”

While Beau’s will be helping Uwinzea to get the brewpub doors open, it won’t take any ownership or profit. What it will have built is a legacy and a feel-good factor that goes a lot deeper than a birthday cake-flavoured beer.

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