Capital Pint by Travis Persaud is published regularly at OttawaMagazine.com. Follow Travis on twitter @tpersaud.
Brad Campeau composes adventure. The 33-year-old entrepreneur opens Brew Donkey — a liquor delivery service (LDS) with a focus on local craft breweries — later this month.
The idea is simple: You give him money and he will bring you beer from Ottawa-area breweries, including Ashton and Cassel Brewery, both of which usually require forethought before visiting. But there’s one local brewery he won’t be partnering with — that’s Beau’s. “I will direct people to Beau’s BYBO and let people know about Operation Come Home,” he says. “I love what they’re doing and I’m not going to step on that. (Ed. note: Yeah, he’s kind of a sweet guy.) But we’ll deliver from every other brewery in the area.”
While Brew Donkey will make deliveries from the LCBO, this is primarily a preventative measure to ensure the business isn’t seen as having an arrangement with specific breweries. Campeau’s main focus is delivering beer direct from the manufacturer to your doorstep.
For you, the customer, Brew Donkey is fairly straightforward:
• A delivery will cost $12 for up to nine growlers, or the equivalent amount of beer in other formats, with a $6 overage charge tacked on for anything above and beyond. (A growler is 1.89 litres, pick up a calculator and do the math if you need to, Einstein.)
• A LCBO pick-up will cost you an extra $1.50. (Again, Campeau emphasizes that this simply covers his legal bases. If he weren’t being so sweet and diplomatic he would probably say, “Go get your own damn vodka from the LCBO.” He never, ever said that, though. Really. Order some vodka from his site. He’ll be happy to get it for you.)
• Brew Donkey can only deliver to your residence. Don’t type in your work address, thinking you found a clever way to booze at your desk. Growlers are big; there’s no stealth mode when drinking straight out of one.
• Deliveries will take place between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, and you get to pick a window of time for Brew Donkey to come by. Orders should be placed about 48 hours in advance. Choosing a time when you’ll be home makes for a happy Brew Donkey.
• You can pay online in advance, or at the door. Brew Donkey will also collect your empties, and, if you wish, you can donate your cash deposits to Brew Donkey’s charity of choice, The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.
If Brew Donkey sounds ambitious — and a logistical minefield — you’re right. Campeau will have to integrate brewery and LCBO offerings on his website, make daily pick-ups, deal with missed deliveries, and so much more. But this isn’t his first business. It isn’t even his first vehicle-based business. And it certainly isn’t his first adventure. A decade ago he hitchhiked to Ottawa from his hometown of Windsor, Ontario. It took 26 hours by way of 28 rides — including one from a police officer who Campeau won over with his inventive fairytale that spoke ill of his imaginary friend who kicked him out of his vehicle.
He came seeking a bakery job, a business he planned on opening one day, and landed a gig with Harvest Loaf. Four years later, on July 1, 2007, he had B Goods Bakery up and running. Out of a truck.
“I didn’t initially want a mobile business,” he says, “but I had limited money and getting a truck outfitted was a lot more doable.”
He parked on Dalhousie Street by St. Patrick Street for four months, until winter hit. “My feet froze,” he says. “I realized that street side cookie and coffee selling isn’t glamourous and it wasn’t even profitable. So I switched to wholesale, and up until December 2012 I was selling to about 20 places around town.”
The business was doing well and he was becoming a familiar face at the major festivals in the city, but a lack of joy (and carpal tunnel syndrome) caused Campeau to reconsider his business.
“I wasn’t enjoying baking anymore,” he says. “I wanted a change. And I was in a good position and didn’t have any debts.” So he shut down the wholesale side of B Goods (he still plans to sell at festivals) and in entered Brew Donkey.
“Everyone in college knows that guy who will deliver alcohol to your dorm room at 4 a.m.,” he says. “Those aren’t legal delivery services that are licensed. Brew Donkey is legal, licensed, and focusing on craft beer.”
There are other LDS companies in Ottawa— in fact, one company tried to hire Campeau when he was researching the market — but their focus is much wider than Brew Donkey’s. “As far as I know, none of the other LDS companies deliver from a manufacturer’s retail store. Their business is really delivering people that case of Sleeman or a 26-er of vodka —no one else is doing what I’m doing.”
Brew Donkey also runs monthly tasting tours where you can visit breweries, brew pubs, and craft beer bars that make up the Ottawa beer scene. I think we’ll be hearing lots more about Brad and Brew Donkey in the future.