Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is generally published every second Thursday at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on Twitter @tpersaud.
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. launched Lug•Tread on Canada Day, seven years ago. We sat down with co-owner Steve Beauchesne to talk about the brewery’s first seven years, for a relatively straightforward “Top Seven Beau’s Moments” type of story. What transpired, however, was a two-hour chat that touched on everything from the brewery’s earliest days, the influence of music on Beau’s, their new B-Side label, and so much more. Instead of chopping Steve’s 5,000-plus enthusiastic words into bite-sized quotes, we present his side of our entertaining conversation as a quasi Oral History of Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. So grab a couple bottles of Lug•Tread or Festivale and enjoy!
Oral History of Beau’s: Pre-brewery Steve
I moved to Toronto in 1995 to open a record label. I went to business school and by 2001 Go! Go! Go! Records was up and running pretty well. We were very illegally renting out this diner that would be empty at night. From Thursday to Saturday we’d be in there and put on shows, buy our own booze, and all the guys in the bands would volunteer to run the bar so all the money would go directly to the bands and label. The Flatliners and Maximum RnR were two bands on the label that are still going. It almost took off, but one thing after another happened and it just didn’t last.
One of the jokes at the brewery is that we’re just running a record label for beer. All the things I learned from playing indie music I translated to the brewery — like you need a good t-shirt because that’s what’s going to get you home, you’re not going to make any money at the door!
I would say 50 percent of the people at the brewery are former musicians or currently in a band. The two industries are so closely related: 90 percent of the music industry is controlled by a couple of companies, but the smaller guys are doing really interesting stuff. It’s the same way with craft beer.
The first year, when I moved back from Toronto, I lived with my parents, which was a big transition for everyone. I finally moved into my own apartment, but had no money to pay for heating. There was a barn out back and I would steal barn board to heat the house through the winter. “It’s either that or we don’t eat!” The amount of sacrifice was crazy.
Oral History of Beau’s: Getting Funded
Getting money to start was by far the most difficult thing we’ve had to do. The branch manager at the bank approved the first loan, and he said it had to go through the audit division, but in 10 years he’s never seen anything overturned. Two weeks later I get this phone call, “Hey guys, there’s this problem…”
I hate to make it sound this ridiculous, but one of the guys in the division was burnt by [one of the older Ottawa breweries] and decided that beer in Ottawa would never work. It floored us that one guy had that kind of power.
We had this great business plan and were just told, “No, it’s not going to work.”
“Well, how can we prove to you that it will work?”
“Hire one of our guys to do a feasibility study and rewrite the plan the way we think it should be…”
They expected their guy would do the study and show that we’re idiots. The guy spent four months analyzing everything and came back and said, “This is actually a really good idea.” Now they’re like, “Oh shoot…” They didn’t want to loan us the money
By that time we had samples of Lug•Tread that we could give them. We’d go talk to them and could bring them samples of the beer. And we had prototypes of what became Night•Märzen and Festivale. They were like, “Oh shit, this is actually good.” The whole time it didn’t make sense to them because my dad and me weren’t accomplished brewers, so how could we know what we’re talking about? But they tried and it we won them over.
We had to change our business plan on a dime, but they cut down the amount of funding; they gave us a portion to start with and would give us more when we got past certain stages. The amount they gave us to start with wasn’t enough to buy a brew house. We were screwed.
Oral History of Beau’s: Brewing at Church-Key
Luckily we had become friends with John Graham who runs Church-Key Brewing [in Campbellford, ON]. We came up with this idea and presented it to him: “We have enough money to buy a couple fermenting tanks, what if we install them at your place and rent out your brewery a few days a month?”
He said sure. He knew Matt [O’Hara], our masterbrewer, and trusted him. That was just enough to get started. We had enough money for three months of operation until we were totally bankrupt — we had signed the papers on March 7, 2006 and had enough money to last until the end of July.
The beer launched July 1 and we were desperate for cash. We were able to get some funding from family, and had enough to last until we got the next portion of money from the bank. We found a bunch of used brewing equipment and snagged it with that money.
Oral History of Beau’s: Contract Brewing and Restaurant Business
It was a point of pride to brew our own beer. It took some finagling, but we got a manufacturing license for the same location as Church-Key.
Normally in a contract situation you hand the recipe over to the company and they brew and filter it for you. For us it was important that Matt was brewing. John makes wonderful beer — Church-Key is one of my favourite brands — but it had to be us doing it. Otherwise, we’re just a contract brewer. That was a cool win for us. We were going straight to restaurants at this time, no bottling whatsoever.
Seven restaurants were carrying our beer: The Manx, Black Tomato, Windsor Tavern, The St. Eugene Tavern, The Hawkesbury Golf and Curling Club, and the two Clocktower locations.
Then we did the Ottawa Wine and Food show, and that’s where a lot of people tried us for the first time. We didn’t have money for a booth, but we had this great idea to build a bar out of hay bails. So we bought 12 bails for $20, screwed together four planks of barn board, and put a tower on top. To this day it’s one of the coolest things we’ve done for that kind of event; you walked into the room and you just smelled hay. It smelled so good. We made such a friggin’ mess, they must have hated us!
That got people trying the beer and talking about us. We closed eight accounts that weekend. We’d land one place on Elgin Street, and then all the other spots on Elgin wanted to get it. We actually got calls from all the spots on Elgin: “People are going to the other restaurants to get your beer, we need it!”
Oral History of Beau’s: Bathtub Beer to the Rescue
There was a malfunction in the glycol system with the first batch of beer we brewed. We ended up freezing a third of the beer, which super concentrated the rest of it. Lug•Tread is supposed to be crisp and subtle; there’s a lot of flavour, but it’s not supposed to kick you in the teeth. What came out of that first batch was such a powerhouse beer. We were guessing it was around 8 percent ABV. And it was significantly hoppier and bitter.
It was a wonderful creation, but absolutely nothing like what we were telling people it was. A lot of people were publically upset about that. The first reviews were horrible. All we have is our reputation and we’re getting slammed. A couple of guys were just really vocal and anti-Beau’s. It’s fair to say it was a misrepresentation of what we said it would be, but it was tasty as hell. People just wanted to hate it because it was obvious something screwed up.
There was one keg of that first batch that was shipped to Ottawa by mistake. We didn’t know what to do with it and didn’t have any cold space in Vankleek Hill. We were scared to sell it because it wasn’t kept perfectly cold; we had it in a bathtub and kept filling it with ice.
Then the Golden Taps Festival that’s held at the Beer Bistro in Toronto invited us to bring a keg; that was in August of 2006. “Well what if we brought the bath tub beer and lived or died by it?” we asked ourselves. I believed it was a really good beer. I sat at the front door of the festival explaining that we kind of screwed up, but the beer was tasty. “Try it with an open mind,” I told everyone
We ended up winning the best beer at the festival with that bathtub keg. If you look at the award they called it a Kolsh Bock. Suddenly we had all this cred. At the time that festival had the most authority amongst the beer crowd.
That has been a part of who we are. That story has changed decisions we’ve made: Three or four years later we just started experimenting with wheat beers. We’re not sure if the yeast manufacturer put the label on the wrong jar, or we did something wrong, but Lug•Tread got pitched with wheat beer yeast.
Back in those days we didn’t have much lab equipment, so we’d try beers as they came out of the system. When you use live yeast you re-pitch from one batch to the next. So the wheat beer yeast was re-pitched three or four times. We recognized this as it was being kegged.
“Hey guys, we have a problem here…” We kept reinvesting back into the brewery and couldn’t keep up. Do we tell [restaurants] that we don’t have beer for them? Relationships are involved. It was actually really tasty, so there was no reason to hold it back; but we couldn’t sell it as Lug•Tread.
“What if we call it WTF Wheat Fermented Lug•Tread?” So that’s what we did. And we had this on-the-spot survey, so when someone ordered Lug•Tread it would explain, “Hey, this has been fermented with wheat yeast. Do you like it better than regular Lug•Tread, worse, or the same?” About 40 percent said they like the wheat the same or better.
If we hadn’t made that decision with the bathtub beer, we wouldn’t have made this decision and would’ve tried to make it through those few weeks. Beau’s would probably look very different right now.
Those are two extreme examples, but they’re our TSN Turning Points.
Oral History of Beau’s: Moving to Vankleek Hill
We moved our operations to Vankleek Hill in December of 2006, and that’s when we opened our retail shop. All we had were growlers. We had a homebrewer’s tool called the blichmann beer gun. It looks like a gun, and it has two different triggers: one trigger pushes out CO2 and the other pushes out beer.
We had it rigged to kegs, sanitized the bottles by hand, picked them up one at a time, filled it with CO2 and beer, and capped it by hand. That’s how we bottled for a few months. Then we upgraded to this two-head filler. We thought it was a piece of crap when we bought it; turns out we just didn’t know what we were doing! It’s actually the most reliable piece of equipment we have at the brewery to this day.
That’s when we got the ceramic bottles. With those bottles, though, there’s no way to see how much is inside. So we bought scales and started filling them on an angle and then placed it on the scale — but we couldn’t put any pressure on the bottle because it would throw off the scale. So we’d have the gun floating in there, as we were watching the weight rise. When we got to 750 g it was full, but we gave it a few extra shots because no one’s going to complain about an overfill. We’d go to about 800 g, but we’d have to stop at the right point otherwise it would come gushing out the top!
But most of the beer we lost was due to it being so tedious, that we all had a beer on the go as we filled. We probably downed a keg for every keg we filled into bottles. We’d do it every night until 4 a.m. It never felt like that bad of a deal, though. The santizer would eat out your fingers, and you’d be sore and tired, but every bottle it’s like, “Someone’s going to buy this! They’re going to drink it!” That excitement has never left.
We got LCBO approval around the end of 2007. That was huge. We filled 88,000 ceramic bottles in our first year, all by hand. For the first couple years we were just in Eastern Ontario; Kingston was our limit. When we made the leap to Toronto, there were about three months where we still had the ceramic bottles, and then switched to the glass bottles.
Oral History of Beau’s: Almost Quitting
There was only one day where I was like, “I’ve made a huge mistake!”
The first eight months was a real feeling out process. My dad was used to me being his son; I was doing business planning for the government and I felt I knew what I wanted to do. There was one day in those first few months where I was just hammering my dad about something. He got fed up and said, “Steve, we’re out of milk. Go get me some milk!” And he gave me five bucks to get milk for his coffee. I got out of the brewery and I wasn’t sure if I was about to go home, pack up, and head back to Toronto. I was so angry! I didn’t. I got the milk and told him we had to talk about this.
But even during those early days when we were almost bankrupt, we were seeing exponential growth. “Wow, we’re selling three times more beer this week than last week, which is three times more than the week before…”
The first year of the business we grew by 30 percent a month. It seemed like this crazy thing where the money pot was shrinking every day, but the sales were growing every day. So we’re just praying the money coming would be enough to ensure the pot didn’t run out.
Oral History of Beau’s: Ottawa Jazz Festival to the Rescue
One of the big things for us was the Ottawa Jazz Festival. They came to us [five years ago] and said, “We’ve been doing this other beer and people don’t really like it. Everyone is telling us we should have a craft beer. Would you be willing to do it?”
“How much do you need to buy?”
“Probably about 100 kegs.”
“Holy…” There was no way in hell we could meet that much beer. I probably said, “Oh yes, that’s totally fine…” in the meeting, but we didn’t have enough kegs, tanks, or money to buy the amount of ingredients to brew that much beer.
We went to the bank with the contract before we signed it. “This is the contract from the festival. We know our ratios are shit. We know everything about what we’re doing makes no sense from your perspective. But here’s a contract. If you lend us the amount to cover this contract, we’ll pay it back two days after they pay us.”
And they lent it to us. We bought the tanks, bought the kegs, and bought the ingredients. We paid off the bank, but all of the sudden we had an extra tank and all these extra kegs; all of a sudden growth was super easy. So we started using festivals to finance the growth of the brewery.
Oral History of Beau’s: Design and Marketing
Chefs like to say that you eat with your eyes. We don’t do a lot of traditional marketing, like advertising. But we put a lot of effort into how our beer looks — how it looks in the glass, in the bottle, and on the shelf. The approach to how we package our beer has been a real key to how we’ve grown.
My good friend Jordan [Bamforth] was doing graphic design around the world. At the time I didn’t realize how accomplished he was as a graphic designer, but he really wanted to help design everything for us. He was willing to do it for free and we were so broke, so that made a huge difference for us.
The so-called experts were telling us, “You need to hire an agency if you want to succeed. No brewery has their friend do their graphics.” On principal we refuse to send something out to someone else. It’s one of the many examples of advice that we’ve ignored. I’m so glad we did — Jordan’s been a huge part of our look and feel. [This year, Mondial actually had to create a new award because of how much they love their designs.]
Having our creative team in-house allows to do a huge campaign for a smaller release. We’re known for really good packaging and really good beer, and that was the thought from the start — if the packaging is really cool people will try it, and if the beer is good they’ll get it again. There’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s what it sort of boils down to.
It’s really fun now. We’ve hit the point where we can spend a little bit on marketing things, and are doing ridiculous stuff with it. We’re not rolling in cash – the first year I didn’t take a salary and I’m finally making as much as I used to make before the brewery, which is nice.
Most of the breweries opening up are just guys who are putting everything on the line because they love their friggin’ beer. I can always smell out the brewery that was started out by that guy who thinks he can market beer better than the next guy; doesn’t drink it, doesn’t care about it.
I know business strategy fairly well; I just choose to ignore the fundamental principals of business, which is to maximize shareholder value. I think that’s a load of crap. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle and dream. I’m in the camp of the goofballs. But my dad ran a business, and I ran the record label and did business planning for the government, so we understand both sides.
Oral History of Beau’s: Philosophy about Quality Beer
We have a philosophy about the quality of beer that’s different from other breweries. For the last 50 years the hallmark of quality has been consistency. If your beer is off one SRM colour, then that was considered poor quality beer; if this batch comes through a little more bitter than the last one, that’s bad quality beer. That mindset makes a lot of breweries actually do things that make each bottle of beer crappier than they could be.
For us, we decided quality is about what’s in your glass right now. It has nothing to do with what was in the last glass. Don’t get me wrong, we spend a ridiculous amount of time to ensure Lug•Tread tastes exactly the same, but with our seasonals we’re tweaking it each year.
Does the beer taste good? That’s more important than asking, “Is it the same?” The analogy I like to use is that of homemade apple pie: sometimes the apples are a bit more tart, and sometimes the crust gets darker or burnt on the edge. But compare that to the generic factory-made pie that’s always the same. No one would ever say the factory pie is better because it’s consistent. Who cares about consistency? That [homemade] pie tastes amazing — the ingredients are better, the way it was made is better, it’s not full of preservatives and colouring agents. I like to think our beer has maintained a homemade quality to it.
That cover band who can play Steve Vai note for note, to me, is so much less entertaining than the three-chord punk rock band who wrote all their own tunes, and they’re singing as hard as they can. Independent music is the perfect analogy for independent beer.
Oral History of Beau’s: Music and the Brewery Part 1
We would just turn on tunes when we were filling bottles. I’m really into punk and ska. The playlist hasn’t changed much in the last seven years. Lots of Rancid, Operation Ivy, and The Specials. And it depends who was in that night. I remember Nerf Herder had a Christmas song called “I’ve Got a Boner for Christmas” that we couldn’t stop listening to. Every five minutes, “Let’s put the Nerf Herder song back on!” I could do a whole hour on the music we listen to.
Indie music and indie beer are part of a scene — and that’s the other big thing, you never say the “craft beer industry,” you say “craft beer scene.” People get into it; they’re not customers, they’re fans. You never hear a band talk about their customers. That’s the same at the brewery, we’ve got fans and we’ve got superfans. That’s a big thing for us.
Oral History of Beau’s: Expanding the Brand
The idea when we launched was to have four brands: Night•Märzen, Festivale, Lug•Tread, and we were on the fence about the fourth one. But for the first three years later we couldn’t keep up with the demand for Lug•Tread.
The beer industry is cyclical, so in January and February you don’t sell nearly as much beer as you do in June and July. For the first three years we were just reinvesting as quickly as we could. When January came that third year we weren’t so far behind in production that we had the chance to brew something else. But there was no way we could come out with a second brand. So we thought, “What if we just do a seasonal? One batch, and when it’s gone so be it.”
So it was Valentine’s Day, 2008, when we released Bog•Water. It went really well. Everyone got excited about it. That was the same year we talked with Ottawa Jazz Festival, and they wanted more than one brand of beer. So when we bought the new fermenter we made one batch of Festivale in the summer.
In 2009 we did a few more batches of Bog•Water, skipped the spring, did Festivale in the summer, and Night•Märzen in the fall. The next year we added Beaver•River as our spring seasonal.
We didn’t want to be a one-beer brewery, but with limited resources we had to focus on Lug•Tread. Because of that, we have this unique business model:
We have our four seasonals, but then more room opened up in the tanks the next January. We discussed taking a seasonal and making it a year-round brand, then introducing a new seasonal in its place. But that doesn’t seem nearly as fun as creating a one-off. I think the first one we did was Matt’s Sleepy Time. “But let’s just do one batch, because who knows when we’ll have room to do it again.”
It means we can experiment and we don’t have to develop something for four years before we launch it. It goes back to the bathtub beer — as long as it’s clean and tasty, we’ll release it. What’s come out of that is a really wild business model where in any given year we’ll release 20 different brands, but only one of them is available year-round. Every month we have something new that keeps people interested; we have the seasonals that people know and like, and you can get them for a long period of time; then there’s Lug•Tread at the centre, which most people associate with us.
Oral History of Beau’s: The Flagship Beer
A lot of breweries are in an unfortunate position where the beer they sell the most of is a beer they don’t particularly like. They feel they had to create that beer to meet some kind of demand they believed was there.
Lug•Tread is my favourite beer. I’d bet that it’s Matt’s favourite beer. For most of us at the brewery, Lug•Tread is our favourite. It’s that go-to drink; having the flagship being the one you always go back to is a wonderful thing. So when a new release comes out I’ll have a bunch of those, but at the end of the night I always go back to Lug•Tread. When we first started I wanted Night•Märzen to be our flagship. But halfway through the fall season I find myself going to the Lug•Tread tap more than the Night•Märzen tap.
Matt does a good job of making the beer sessionable, even the more challenging beers. That’s part of the Beau’s character. Any style, no matter how extreme, the intent in brewing it is that you’ll actually want to drink it. There are a lot of extreme beers out there that’s all about having something you never tried before; it’s not about asking, “Do you want to have four of it?”
Our extreme beers don’t cannibalize Lug•Tread sales. People get the Wild Oats beer to start the night, and then they drink Lug•Tread after that really unique, wonderful thing. Lug•Tread is a great beer to have over a conversation because you don’t have to sit there and contemplate every sip; but when you want to, there’s enough going on with it that you can.
Oral History of Beau’s: Pride and Politics
I am very humble, we are very proud. Like any good Canadian I have a tough time focusing on me. But as a company, I couldn’t be prouder.
We also have an internal focus. Based on my business training I’m supposed to really care about what other breweries are doing, and do sneaky research on them. I’m always excited when someone comes out with a great idea, but from a business standpoint I could care less. For me we’re not competing against other breweries, we’re competing against what we did last year. Changing what we’re doing based on what someone else is doing is a really bad idea. When I talk to the so-called experts they keep looking at what we do and say, “You know when you get big that’s not going to keep working.” Inside I’m laughing because this has been working for us since day one. I don’t care if the way we do business will be self-limiting at some point because we’re keeping the lights on, and we’re having a lot of fun.
There’s been a few times when someone’s shown up with a dump truck full of money. “I want to invest in you guys, and I’m going to take you to the next level!” The first few years we took it seriously, we didn’t know what we were doing (and we still don’t know!). They have $3 million for us, but they would want to create a board of directors, and have a veto on decisions…I was just like, “that sounds horrible!”
Someone told me, “At a certain point you can’t have fun with your business anymore.” That was the end of that discussion. “If I can’t have fun with it, but I can have fun with what I am doing, what the hell do I need your million dollars for?” I didn’t start a brewery to become rich; I started a brewery because I love beer. Giving that up is the dumbest idea in the world.
For me the brewery is legacy stuff. I really do want to make things better, both in the world of beer and the community I live in. To me, I have more influence on society running this business then I would as a politician. Politicians have to listen to their constituents. My constituents are my staff, the people that drink my beer, and my own conscience.
A politician could never do something like our home delivery service we have with unemployed youth. So many people got up in arms, because of the thought of alcohol and troubled youth. Any politician would have heard those outcries and stopped it. We kept it going — even after it got shut down by the government, and then reinstated when they changed the laws to allow for us to do it — and we get to see these youth save enough money to go back to university, or to go on and get a full-time job; these are real results. There’s a social good, the personal good for the youth involved, and it’s great for us. A politician would never be able to do that.
Oral History of Beau’s: Selling the Brewery
The Members of Barleyment is this really active homebrewing club, and one day I got a message to check out the board because someone said we sold the brewery to Molson [Coors]. Sure enough, I go on and see over 40 emails about it.
What was really nice was that people were trying to come to terms with how it didn’t really suck to death. They liked Beau’s enough that even if we got sold, they’d try not to hate the brewery. “Good for those Beauschenes, they’re hard-working people,” someone had said. On one hand I’m thinking, “No, you guys should be pissed off! If you thought we got sold, then dammit we lied to you! But, thank you! That’s really touching.”
It was really fun to say, “No, we’re not sold. We’re not for sale. I’m not going to sell.”
Oral History of Beau’s: B-Side; Music and the Brewery Part 2
B-Side is like a record label for breweries. The idea is to work with breweries from around the world. They’ll create a beer that we produce and distribute in Ontario. The first brewery is Kissmeyer from Denmark, and the beer is a Nordic Pale Ale.
The idea is that it’s not a Beau’s beer, it’s a Kissmeyer beer: it’s under [Anders Kissmeyer’s] direction. We’re there to physically produce it and run it through our distribution. It has similarities to contract brewing, but the main difference is that like with music when you get in to [a certain band], the first thing you do is look at every other album on that record label. You know if that’s a good record, then you’ll probably like that other band because it’s from likeminded people. To make the distinction, the beer will come out on the B-Side label; it’s another label putting out the beer, but it’s about their brewery.
Typically contract breweries are just about the contract; it’s a financial agreement and let’s just pretend like it didn’t actually get made there. B-Side, however, is us courting artist breweries, getting them on board and creating their beer for them. So we’re like the record label — the distributer for their beer — but it’s all about picking breweries and brands that we share an affinity with.
Kissmeyer is the first one. The idea is that this will be a year-round B-Side brand. There will be Beau’s beer that will fall under B-Side as well. It’s not any different than record labels like Fat Wreck, or Epitaph, or Dischord. You know the band started it and the band is running the label, but the label is separate. The Fugazi album has the Dischord logo it, but they’re also running the record label.
I think it’s going to be the first example of this in the world. We want to give six to 12 months with Kissmeyer before really pitching this to other breweries. We’ve got really good relationships with dozen of breweries around the world. Once we can show them an example of how this works, I think they’ll take us up on it. Ideally we want five to 10 brands. The beer will be the same 600 mL bottle [as Beau’s] but with the B-Side logo.
And this is a way to bring beer from around the world into Ontario. Kissmeyer has occasionally been brought in by the LCBO, but when it happens it’s in limited quantities; it can be expensive, you’re getting beer that isn’t at its freshest, and if you really like it chances are you won’t get it again for a while. B-Side is a way to get really good beer to Ontario, have it produced locally, and while we don’t make cheap beer, it will be at a fair price compared to the import version. For every new brewery we get on the label, it’s like getting a new brewery in the province.
Oral History of Beau’s: Expanding the Brewery
I need to free up some time to work on this. We are looking to export into the U.S., and I’d like to move our old system to Quebec, but Quebec is still a mystery to us. I think that will be big for us; there are people [in Quebec] who want our beer and we can’t get it to them. It makes the most sense to open a facility there. I’m not ruling out New York as well; I think our brand and beer is world-class. I’m not saying it’s better, but I think our beer can hold its own.
What I like right now is the idea of keeping things contained and close to home. When I’m in Florida I’d much rather drink a Cigar City Beer than a Beau’s beer. If I’m in Delaware I want to have Dogfish. If I’m in Colorado you have Left Hand and New Belgium.
I don’t need to sell beer around the world. Just growing for the sake of growing kind of sullies it. The idea of keeping things contained within a days drive of the brewery is a cool idea. What I haven’t decided is does that mean that’s all I ever want to do? What if I open another brewery two days away, and then you have that brewery and the Vankleek one. Does that still hold the same “local” ideal? Or is it different somehow? I’m willing to admit that I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what I’m going to do. We have some cool options, though!