May 12th, 2020 4 min |


this article


Transform a local brewery into a distributor of food, beer ... and disinfectant

The before

As one of the earliest bars to settle into the Villeray neighbourhood 7 years ago, EtOH has steadily drawn in a loyal following of beer lovers and regulars with its in-house microbrews and local produce. Though they may have had long-term plans to bottle and distribute, those plans were drastically fast-tracked when COVID-19 shut down the whole industry overnight.

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Employee insights


Everything we brew, we serve here – the only place we can sell it is on location. So if you shut us down, you shut down everything. (...) But we moved quickly. I think you have to make decisions, you have to move forward, and the faster you can make decisions, the better you’ll manage to differentiate yourself and get through the crisis.

François Bélanger

President. EtOH


The transition

Huddled around their equipment, the EtOH team began spit-balling ideas and solutions. Beyond needing to find a way to distribute their beer and take care of their staff, they also felt a responsibility to do their part.

"We questioned ourselves not only on what we could do, but what we had to do, ethically, to support efforts to contain the spread of the virus."

Within days, they’d gotten ingredients they needed to start creating and selling hand sanitizer. Within weeks, they’d found the equipment they needed to start bottling their beers. And throughout it all, they formed partnerships with local producers and businesses to prepare fresh and healthy sous-vide takeaway meals for the community.

The after

Today, EtOH is finding a new cruising speed within expanding new markets. But of course, says François, they’re far from being in the clear.

"We’re fighting like hell. But really, problems will arise on their own – there isn’t much point in trying to anticipate them. It’s possible we’ll have to brew more beer than before because the bar’s capacity isn’t our limit anymore – it’s our ability to get bottles out. It’s hard context, it’s frustrating, it’s stressful, but we’re proud of what we’re managing to do."

The takeaway

Though the bar’s quick pivot and nimble adjustments are truly impressive, it’s the leadership’s trust in their customers, their community and their team that stands out to us most. “You have to trust the public to react positively if you genuinely have something to offer, says François, even if that something is beer and sandwiches.” Proof that staying customer-centric throughout uncertainty pays off and provide a guiding North star whether you’re making beer, or software.

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