10 Questions with Beau’s buyer Jenna Bamforth
words: taylor campbell | photos: marc doucette
Beau’s has recently released the Summer Mix: a purple grab-and-go box containing four beers made with certified organic ingredients from around the world: we’re talking California orange peels, limes from Mexico and Moro blood orange juice from Italy, in addition to European and North American hops varietals, and even San Francisco ale yeast.
When it comes to bringing international inspiration to beer brewed in Vankleek Hill, Ontario, amidst the inner workings of the brewery lies an unlikely hero – a key player in bringing this sort of project to fruition. Jenna Bamforth, buyer, is responsible for sourcing the organic ingredients you enjoy in Beau’s beer. Glamourous work? Depends on the day, according to Jenna, who procures everything “from pens to brewing equipment” for the brewery, in addition to the daily malts and hops.
When asked if her role is crucial in bringing the brewing team’s vision to life, Jenna laughs: “It comes down to how much credit I’m willing to take.” We sat down with Jenna ahead of the Summer Mix pack’s release to chat about her work, her background and of course, the tasty ingredients that make the Summer Mix special.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
It’s different every day. I do have my daily tasks, such as checking inventory levels on brewing ingredients and packaging materials. But then my time could be spent sourcing ingredients for brewing, or working with the creative team on new packaging, or working with the maintenance team on ordering parts.
What’s your school/job background and how did it prepare you for being a buyer?
I actually have a diploma in public relations, and after school I worked in marketing in the Toronto area, plus I did some retail work. When I was talking to Jordan (Beau’s creative director, and Jenna’s brother) over the holidays a few years ago, he told me that Beau’s was looking for someone to work in the retail store, and he recommended that I apply for the position. I did and got the job, moved to Vankleek Hill, and worked in the Beau’s retail store for a couple of years. Part of the role was to monitor the store’s inventory and work with the creative team on new merchandise, so when the buyer position was posted, I applied and got to work closely with Jeff McCauley, then purchasing manager. If you would have asked me six years ago if this was something I could see myself doing, I would have said no. To go from marketing to purchasing … two complete opposites! This has been a great experience, though, and I couldn’t be happier that this is the career path I’ve taken.
Let’s talk about Beau’s Summer Mix! It includes the citrus-and-sea salt ale Buenos Dias, a blood orange Belgian-style witbier called Blood Simple, and a California-style “Cali Common” amber lager. How tough was it tracking ingredients down? Were there any speed bumps?
We use local ingredients whenever we can, but being in Canada there are some ingredients that just don’t grow locally. There was actually shortage of both blood orange juice and orange peel this year because of unpredictable weather conditions they can experience in the places where these ingredients grow. And we did need a very large amount of orange juice to brew Blood Simple for a wide-scale release in Ontario and Québec this year. Fortunately, we were able to get everything we needed.
What goes into searching for the best ingredients?
We’re not only looking for the best quality, but we’re also looking for what’s going to work best for our brewing team. We’re able to brew a pilot batch for new recipes and decide early on if any changes in ingredient sourcing or quality need to be made. We put a lot of effort into making sure we’ve found the best ingredients, and it’s something you can notice when you drink the beer. For instance, the lime peels used in Buenos Dias this year are the most fragrant we’ve even found.
We’ve noticed that fruit in beer seems to be trending these days. Jenna, if you were a fruit beer, what fruit beer would you be?
I think a watermelon because they are so cheerful, bright and colourful. People seem to love watermelon themed things, and there are so many watermelon beers out there right now.
Have you been out to visit any of our suppliers? Tell us about a cool visit where you learned something you didn’t know before.
I once went to visit our local glassware supplier and discovered that the silkscreen tractors on the bottom of our pint glasses are applied by hand. Everybody there was so proud of the work they were doing, and it was really a moving experience.
You and your brother Jordan both work at Beau’s, and your parents have volunteered at Oktoberfest… so, do you have any other family members we can sweet talk into joining us?
Funny enough, my sister and her boyfriend live in England, and he works for a craft beer distributor. He’s also working towards possibly becoming a brewer. So maybe when they decide to come back to this side of the world we could find something for them to do!
The Beau’s inventory room can smell like a heavenly mishmash of spices – everything from lavender to sage. Do you ever find yourself smelling the inventory just for fun?
I do find myself smelling the coffee. I’m a coffee lover, so when we order our coffee from Bridgehead for the Tom Green Summer Stout, these big boxes of coffee will show up, and I get pretty excited.
What’s the toughest thing you’ve ever been asked to source? Did you find it?
That’s a good question. I feel like we always manage to find everything. When Beau’s was first getting started a decade ago I don’t think as many organic options would have been available to us. It’s really a testament to the amount of certified organic options that are available today. Also, there’s a supplier from Quebec who helps us source uncommon ingredients because he has contacts from all over the world. That’s a big help, especially when we’re looking for, say, large amounts of blood orange juice!
What beer are you most looking forward to in the Beau’s Summer Mix?
Buenos Dias is one of my all-time favourite Beau’s beers, but I’m also really excited about Cali Common… I think that people are really going to like it. It might even become a new fan favourite. Three really good beers, and of course Lug Tread, make this a great mix to pick up!
The Beau’s Summer Mix is now available in Ontario at LCBO locations, while single bottles of Buenos Dias and Blood Simple are available in Québec. You can also find those beers on tap at select craft friendly pubs and restaurants in both provinces.