One of the problems in producing, marketing and selling a beer aimed at golfers is the limited window occupied by what is, for most customers, a summer sport.
That was the headache facing Geoff Tait, the founder of Triple Bogey Brewing & Golf Co., after the first full season distributing his signature blonde lager to roughly 130 golf clubs across Ontario. That’s 30 more than he predicted he would have in the spring, and in addition to the 30 to 40 pubs and 120 liquor-store outlets that also carry the product.
But he stumbled upon another sport in which socializing is taken almost as seriously as the game itself. And it is played almost exclusively in golf’s off-season, to boot.
“We’ve actually done really well with curling clubs, because a lot of the curlers are golfers and golfers are curlers,” says Mr. Tait, who now counts 25 curling clubs among his customers. “This is how we keep the lights on for the winter.”
Curlers will help keep his trucks on the road after a strong summer. Business was so good he ended up turning down the chance to sell at both the men’s and women’s U.S. Open, one of the major tournaments on both circuits, at Pinehurst, N.C., back in June.
“I just couldn’t do it on time,” he says now. “It was about three weeks before the Open and I had to figure out how to get 20 kegs down there across the border, and I didn’t want to shoot myself in the foot, either.”
Keeping up with demand was one of the concerns Mr. Tait had when The Globe and Mail originally profiled Triple Bogey Brewing & Golf Co. back in April for its Small Business Challenge column. In the interim, Mr. Tait decided to slow the growth of his company to a manageable pace, rejecting inquiries from as far away as Alberta and B.C. For now, he is focused on Ontario.
With about $500,000 in annual revenue, the 35-year-old is looking to buy another delivery truck or two. He expects business to double or even triple next year. Every one of the 130-odd golf courses that were his customers in 2014 will return for another season in 2015, he says. He is also in discussions with Clublink, which operates a membership scheme at golf courses across 45 locations in Ontario, Quebec and Florida.
“With the big boys you want to get ahead of the game and start talking to them early,” Mr. Tait says. “[Getting into Clublink] would be another $200,000, $300,000, $400,000 of business.”
One factor that works in his favour is customer service: Mr. Tait delivers much of his beer himself.
“Other guys aren’t doing that,” he says. “I’ve had so many golf clubs or curling clubs say Molson used to do this, or Labatt used to do this. … Luckily for me, now I’m the one standing there with my fold-out bar giving out a little sample, and it goes a long way.”
Mr. Tait has also expanded to traditional pubs and bars. Triple Bogey is now carried in Real Sports Bar & Grill in downtown Toronto, which offers exposure to the hundreds of hockey and basketball fans who congregate in the place before attending games at the neighbouring Air Canada Centre.
The beer is brewed on contract by Great Lakes Brewing in Toronto, and while Mr. Tait says that the company has been accommodating, he would like to own and operate his own brewery.
“It would alleviate the headache of not having enough beer,” he says. “It would probably be two or three years before we would ever consider doing it on our own because it’s way easier using somebody else’s facility.”
Mr. Tait also has a vision of opening an establishment that would combine his two passions of golf and beer.
“I’d love to turn it into a full concept across the country as a cool little brew pub in every major city,” he says. “You’d have a couple of golf simulators in the back and a bunch of Arnold Palmer stuff on the walls and golf reruns playing all the time and really making it a man cave hangout.”
The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Dec. 17 2014, 5:00 AM EST
Last updated Wednesday, Dec. 17 2014, 8:07 AM EST