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Put SAFE Work into action. Every day. Torque Brewing co-owners Matt Wolff (left) and John Heim say steady, organic growth has been one of the keys to the craft brewery's success. Photos by Darcy Finley S M A L L B U S I N E S S M O N T H - S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S - T H U R S D A Y , O C T O B E R 1 8 , 2 0 1 8 SMALL BUSINESS MONTH OCTOBER 2018 View online at By Jim Timlick for the Free Press I t's been a little more than two years since Torque Brewing produced its first batch of beer and the Winnipeg- based craft brewery has enjoyed steady growth ever since. Its beers are now available in cans at nearly 50 Manitoba Liquor Marts across the province and on tap at dozens of restaurants. Its King Edward Street plant has already undergone several expansions and the company can now boast of top-line revenues in the millions of dollars. Still, as gratifying as that success has been for the company and its owners, it hasn't changed their approach to business. In fact, company president and co-founder John Heim says he and his partners still very much consider themselves to be small business owners. "We work on weekends, we're always on call. It's not uncommon for me to be mopping bathrooms here or (co-owner) Matt (Wolff) to be making a delivery or tapping a cask at a restaurant," Heim says. "There's a bit of fear in our bellies, which is not a bad thing. It doesn't lead to complacency. If you go into it every day thinking you are a small business and about what your customers are looking for from you you're going to be successful." By most accounts, Torque has been a brewed-in-Manitoba small business success story. It's grown from just four full-time staff when it started, including Heim and Wolff, to 17 employees. Its revenues have grown each year and it now sells in the neighbourhood of 400,000 litres of suds a year. One of the keys to that success, Wolff says, has been the company's founders sticking to their business plan that called for steady, continuous growth. "One of the things that John had always outlined or emphasized was organic growth," says Wolff, who also doubles as Torque's operations manager. "We didn't want to get into a situation where growth was by leaps and bounds to the point where it would be too much stress on the brewery and cause instability. The growth continues to be organic and its steady." Another key to Torque's growth has been the company's willingness to try different things. It started with four core pours – What the Helles lager, Witty Belgian wheat beer, Diesel Fitter stout and Red Line IPA – and has since added dozens of seasonal and small batch offerings since. Its beers have picked up several Canadian Brewing Awards along the way. "As far as our customers were concerned, what they were expecting and hoping for… was good beer and a variety," Heim says. "If you don't like our Belgian beer, you may like our lager or our IPA. We've got lots to choose from. In fact, there's been over a hundred styles of beers we've brewed since we opened." Naturally, it was a love of beer that brought the company's founding partners together. Heim was running his own ad agency and doing work for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries when he met Wolff, who was the brew master for a local craft brewery at the time, Fort Garry Brewing. The two would regularly get together for a couple of cold ones and the conversation would invariably turn to their favourite brews. It was during one of those get- togethers they crafted the idea of starting up their own brewery and a short time later called up friends Phil Bernardin, Adam Olson and Gilles Pinette, all of whom were involved in the brew business, to join the group and draft a business plan. "In Manitoba in 2016 craft beer made up about 3.5 per cent of the market. We saw the potential growth and the fact the province was about 10 years behind the rest of Canada," Heim says. "It wasn't just blind enthusiasm. We felt if we did it right and stuck to our guns and put a good team together we could be successful." The team signed a lease on their 12,000-square-foot King Edward Street warehouse in January of 2016 and began canning their suds in August of that year. A 4,000-square- foot taproom was added that December. Torque recently expanded into the Saskatchewan market where it signed a deal to have SLGA liquor stores carry its products. It's also looking to expand elsewhere, but Heim says the company has no intention of deviating from its plan to focus on steady, continuous growth. "We can't take our eye off the bottom line. (But) we're actively looking at what's happening in the market and what its needs are," he says. ❚ "There's a bit of fear in our bellies, which is not a bad thing. It doesn't lead to complacency. If you go into it every day thinking you are a small business and about what your customers are looking for from you you're going to be successful." - John Heim, Co-owner of Torque Brewing For advertising information, call: 204-697-7389 A BREWED-IN-MANITOBA SUCCESS STORY Torque Brewing's King Edward Street plant now brews an estimated 1.5 million litres of suds each year.

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