LWOL Recap: Brett Ireland on Jan 30, 2019

February 02, 2019 11:01 By Aaron

Know Your Customer and Give Them What They Want

On January 30th, we heard from Brett Ireland from Bear Hill Brewing Company. Unfortunately, Brett didn't bring anty samples but he did bring a great story with some excellent advice for emerging entrepreneurs. 

Brett Ireland is co-owner of Bearhill Brewing which consists of four brewpubs: Jasper Brewing in Jasper, Alberta (Canada’s first brewpub inside a national park); Banff Avenue Brewing in Banff, Alberta; Wood Buffalo Brewing in Fort McMurray, Alberta; and Calgary’s Last Best Brewing and Distillery. Prior to his foray into the craft beer industry, Ireland received his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta.

Brett grew up in Jasper before coming to Edmonton to get his engineering degree at the U of A. Jasper, being a small town with a mostly tourism-based economy, doesn't provide many options for employment. With some friends, Brett bought a micro-brewing system that they were lucky to find available second-hand. They managed to open a brewery in Jasper, where they "made many mistakes" and learned a lot. As locals, Brett and his partners got a lot of support from the community. When the 2008 crash hit, Banff was hit pretty hard (Jasper not so much) and Brett and his partners took advantage of the opportunity to get a cost-effective lease and opened Banff Avenue Brewing. It was during this time that Brett learned to take himself out of the day-to-day of brewing, bartending, etc. and start to look at the business in a bigger way. Around this time, the Province changed the regulation which prevented small batch breweries from selling their beer outside their establishments, which opened new opportunities for Bear Hill Brewing. They started to sell their beer to restuarants who constantly told them they would be taking them off taps eventually, but none did.

In every new city that Bear Hill opened a brewpub, they strived to ensure that the restaurant was distinct from each other. Each should reflect the local culture, and has its own locally brewed, unique beers. This unique approach is making its way to Edmonton soon - they recently signed a lease to take over the old Characters restaurant location.

Join us next week to hear from Ashif Mawji, Partner of venture firm Rising Tide.

Ashif is a serial social entrepreneur and investor who has built & sold several enterprises and is heavily engaged in the community. He presently serves as a Venture Partner at Rising Tide (a San Francisco Bay Area Venture Capital firm).

Ashif was awarded the 2002 Ernst & Young Prairies Entrepreneur of the Year award and in 2005 was named as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 and in 2007 named BDC’s Entrepreneur of the Year (Alberta) and has received Canada’s 50 Best Managed companies award three years in a row. Ashif received NAIT's Alumni of Distinction Award and was also recognized as one of the Top 50 Graduates in 50 years. In 2017, Ashif was named an Honorary Col for the 20th Field Artillery Regiment (Canadian Army) in addition to receiving the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals as well as the Alberta Centennial Medal. In 2017, Ashif received an Honorary Degree (Bachelor of Business Administration) from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

Ashif has serves/served on several boards, including Edmonton Police Foundation (Chair), Sarah McLachlan School of Music, Young Presidents Organization Alberta (Chair), Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, Kids Kottage, Alberta’s Promise, Economic Development Edmonton, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Corent Technology, University Hospital Foundation, Citadel, Edmonton Opera and others. Ashif has also been a Prairies and National judge for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program.

Ashif was named a Henry Crown Fellow in the class of 2015 (only one of four Canadians ever to be selected to this group, since 1996). The Henry Crown Fellowship is a part of the globally renowned Aspen Institute. Ashif is happily married and has two boys.