Customer Interview: Lagabière's Growth Journey
This episode was originally posted as a podcast by Baron Magazine in French.
Leonardo (L): Welcome to Les Affaires Brassicoles. Your podcast on brewing entrepreneurship in Quebec with Leonardo Calcagno from Baron Mag.
Today we are at Lagabière and talking with Martin Audet, the production manager at the brewery. How are you? And What are we drinking now?
Martin Audet (MA): We're drinking Imperial Stout Pastry Stout cake with raspberry.
Leonardo (L): Very impressive! Thank you again for your time. It’s been a while since we haven’t talked. Last time it was when you were moving to the new brewery.
Martin Audet (MA) True. It was a crazy time.
Leonardo (L): How are you now? How was the move? How are the team and staff? How are you all doing?
Martin Audet (MA): Good, thanks. It's been a big year for the brewery. We had to plan for beer and new products.
Also, a lot of research and development. We set up a quality control laboratory and obtained our certification. It means we respect industry standards and control what we do. So, it's great.
Leonardo (L): How has your role in the new facility changed? What can you tell us about the new brewery?
Martin Audet (MA): Lagabière has grown a lot, and the old factory, we were at total capacity, and we couldn't get any more juice out of it. So we came here to increase the production capacity. But at the same time, we have new machines at the cutting edge of technology, like a centrifuge, a canning line that makes the can spin at 6,000 cans an hour. We also added a quality control manager to help us better control what we do. As I said, it's completely new, so there is inevitably some trial and error. But you know, we hired people with experience in the industry, who also worked, who studied in related fields such as biochemistry or food microbiology, which makes it come and come to help me in my daily tasks too.
My role as a head brewery is to keep everything flowing with all our brewing needs. Same as always, but now I have more people and new equipment.
Leonardo (L): You successfully introduced your seltzer lineup and non-alcoholic beer last summer. I remember going to beer festivals, and the lines-up were impressive. Did the new equipment help the launch and keep the product contestant?
Martin Audet (MA): Yes. We managed to keep the product contestant. Our new equipment and know-how have helped us.
Leonardo (L): How was the development of the alcohol-free? As you mentioned, theirs a lot of bad products in that category. Many brewing companies are not taking time to ensure stability, and retailers are getting pissed with sloppy products.
Martin Audet (MA): Well, it was good. As you say, you must take your time and ensure it's perfect. There are a lot of unknowns when you start in that category.
I started by asking questions, talking with brewers, reading a lot, and talking with suppliers to get their input and taste different beers.
It is then purchasing adequate equipment. You saw the machine, I showed earlier, it does that, it comes to help then but when you have to make alcohol-free products.
You need to deconstruct your beer. It was trial and error. Our first brew was not great, but we adjusted. Then you have to taste a lot of tasting.
Leonardo (L): The reception from retailers is great
Martin Audet (MA): Yes, the reception is super good.
We also checked our social media to check with consumers and received a good reception. That means we know we're in the right place, that means that we have to be there, the challenge, it's going to be standardization, then come out with the same thing. This is our challenge.
We launched batch number two of each of our three non-alcoholic beers. We have a blonde, a white, then our Ta Meilleure (NEIPA), and we're satisfied.
Then for January, we will release our Tiki Sour range. That makes us our lineup on. We will be releasing an alcohol-free raspberry sour in January .
Leonardo (L): Theirs a lot of watery non-alcoholic beer, but you managed to give it a full body.
Martin Audet (MA): Thanks.That the other complexity is to give non-alcoholic beer a full body. It will never have an identical body because it is alcohol-free. But we are as close as possible to that.
Leonardo (L): Many fans were worried when the non-alcoholic Ta Meilleure (NEIPA), your bestseller, came out.
Martin Audet (MA): That makes it a good challenge for us to launch Ta Meilleure.
Leonardo (L): Besides the new equipment and numerous beer tanks, you are using PLAATO.
A plug-and-play technology from Norway that has been helping you keep track
of your fermentation processes. I had the chance to meet them and talk with them. How do you use Plaato in your brewery?
Martin Audet (MA): As you mention, it's plug-and-play, and it really helps me and my team. It is very intense when you brew in a big brewery; there are so many details you need to follow to make sure that everything goes as planned.
We have added PLAATO Pro Sensor in 24 of our tanks and can follow our fermentations at all times. I can monitor the fermentation densities and temperature on my phone or laptop, and I can follow the data from home during the weekend when there is no production staff on site.
For example, I can set the alarms if we ever have a problem with a glycol valve on a fermenter or when the temperature drops; I know it in real-time and can take action immediately. I don’t have to wait until Monday when we are back at the breweries because we get a beautiful graph with curves of the fermentation data.
You can also enter your recipes into the system so that each beer goes as planned while I follow the fermentation process in real time.
It saves time because you don't have to take the densities every day. Systematically we still take spot checks because they are machines, so we want to be sure we are within the parameters. So we take the density manually at the beginning and then at the end. We follow it on the application and can make changes if needed.
Leonardo (L): So you finally have your weekend?
Martin Audet (MA): [laughs] I now have weekends with my family and loved ones instead of taking a daily sample from each beer tank.
Leonardo (L): With a lack of staff, it must help a lot.
Martin Audet (MA): Yes.
Leonardo (L): What equipment are you getting as you grow and more products come your way?
Martin Audet (MA): As I mentioned, we have new beer tanks, labs, and canning machines, but we are also getting equipment to help our staff be more productive and healthy.
For example, we are getting a machine that can automatically package cases of 24. Currently, it is the staff who do it manually. It can be a long repetitive movement that can be damaging with the workforce shortage and challenges of recruiting staff, plus the time to interview people we want to ensure that we can be effective in our daily operations.
If machines do repetitive movements and increase our productivity, we can have the staff do something more efficient with their time. One of the significant challenges for all production businesses will be a mix of humans and machines.
Leonardo (L): Thank you again for your time and the beer.
Martin Audet (MA): Thanks to you.