In the past few years, the popularity of microbreweries has been growing. A combination of consumers’ growing interests in buying locally-made beer and brewers’ longing to put a label on their product has pushed smaller breweries into competition with the big brewing companies.
Bob “Bobby” Crecouzos was ahead of the curve in 1997.
Fifteen years ago, Crecouzos, founder and CEO of Cool Beer Brewing Company in Etobicoke, had a vision to brew a quality all-natural beer. He opened a small brewery in Brampton and brought his vision to life. Focusing on the brewing process, he started with his flagship brand, Cool Lager, and has since began brewing Millennium Buzz Hemp Beer and Stonewall Light, creating a successful small brewing company in a world of big brands with big marketing.
“From the beginning, Cool didn’t focus on the marketing and promotions; Bobby’s main focus was brewing a great tasting beer at an affordable price for the customers,” says Andrew Costa, marketer for Cool Beer Brewing Company. “He relied more on word-of-mouth than anything. The product and the brewing process was his main objective.”
Word-of-mouth worked. Cool Beer started out exclusively kegging their beer and distributing it to restaurants in Brampton, Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Soon, they started up a bottling line and began bottling Cool Lager and selling it in LCBOs and Beer Stores across Southern Ontario.
In 2003, Crecouzos expanded his brand with the creation of Millennium Buzz Hemp Beer, a red lager brewed with British Columbia hemp, to complement his original North American-style lager. Two years later, Cool Beer Brewing Company outgrew its original tiny home in Brampton and moved to its current 28,000 square foot home in Etobicoke.
“The facility that was here before was a box factory, so you can imagine how big it is.” says Costa. The current facility has enough room for administrative offices in the front, a banquet hall and a brew house with all the copper kettles and aging tanks required to brew about 25,000 hectolitres of beer annually.
After four years in the new brew house, Cool Beer Brewing Company launched its newest beer, Stonewall Light to complete its current repertoire with a light lager.
With three high quality cold-filtered brews available for retail, Crecouzos has not changed his philosophy when it comes to marketing.
“Being a microbrewery, we’re limited in advertising,” says Costa. “Advertising is huge, but it is also expensive.”
With the cost of marketing in mind, Cool Beer Brewing Company still relies heavily on word-of-mouth advertising from its consumers. By keeping advertising costs down, the brewing company has managed to keep price points low to appeal to customers.
Cool Beer Brewing Company has moved away from the standard beer packaging of six packs and offers something different – a four pack at a reasonable price. The unique packaging offers four Cool Lagers for $5 plus deposit or four Buzz Millennium Beers for $5.50 plus deposit.
The price point isn’t the only thing the company attributes to its success. Crecouzos began his brewing company with his focus on the production of high quality beer and in his 15 years of beer production, Cool Beer Brewing Company has won 17 awards, split between Ontario and Canadian Brewing Awards.
The brewery proudly displays 11 gold medals, five silver medals and one bronze medal from the two associations on its website. Each beer has won its share of medals from both the Ontario and Canadian Brewing Awards, with Millennium Buzz Hemp Beer winning the majority, including a gold medal from each this year.
“Even since its launch in 2003, (Millennium Buzz Hemp Beer) is still getting recognized for its unique smooth taste and choice of ingredients most recently winning a gold medal at both the 2012 Ontario Brewing Awards and 2012 Canadian Brewing Awards” says Costa.
Stonewall Light has also “raised a couple of eyebrows” according to Costa, with a gold medal from the Ontario Brewing Awards this year.
With its beer being distributed at over 350 Beer Stores, more than 380 LCBOs and approximately 500 licensees (clubs, pubs and small restaurants), Cool Beer Brewing Company still wanted to make its products more accessible to consumers. Bearing that in mind, the company began a home delivery service.
Available exclusively through its website, the brewery will deliver its beer throughout southern Ontario, the GTA and going as far north as Barrie. The delivery service, available on orders placed at least 24 hours in advance, costs $15 for orders under $100 and is free for orders over $100.
In all its successes, Cool Beer Brewing Company has its eyes on growth by the end of this year looking to expand from its distribution of exclusively bottles and kegs.
By the new year, the brewery foresees the release of a canning line with 355 mL slim cans. The company also has its eye on the mini-keg market. Similar to Heineken’s product, the Bubba, Cool Beer Brewing Company will be releasing their own 3.1 litre mini-keg into LCBOs, making the equivalent of 9 pints accessible to consumers at a reasonable price. “Great for playing Beer Pong”, says Costa
Crecouzo has maintained a steady philosophy on simplicity in beer which can be attributed to his 15 years of success.
“Bobby’s main objective is to keep it as simple as possible,” says Costa. “He brews his beer very simply, he grows his company very simply.”
For more information on Cool Beer Brewing Company, visit its website at www.coolbeer.com, follow it on Twitter at @CoolBeerBrewCo and like it on Facebook (Cool Beer Brewing Co).