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Graham Sherman and his Craft Brews

August 3, 2018 by Speakers' Spotlight

How Graham Sherman Disrupted the Alberta Craft Beer Industry

Six years ago, Graham Sherman quit his well-paying stable government job to jump head-first into the craft brewing industry. He quickly learned though that his new-found vocation was actually illegal in his home province of Alberta and had to change his game plan from simply brewing craft beer to disrupting the industry.

Today, Tool Shed Brewing Company craft beer is sold in more than 1,000 locations across Western Canada with its 15,000 square foot headquarters located in Calgary. But when Graham, with his co-owner Jeff Orr, first applied for a brewing license they were told that to be eligible they would have to brew 500,000 litres of beer a year. That’s a lot of beer!

So, they decided that if they couldn’t brew beer following the rules, then they needed to change them.

Making Noise

They ripped up their business plan and started again. If they couldn’t become brewers of beer, they would become what was legal in Alberta at the time — importers of beer. Graham was going to brew Tool Shed beer outside of the province and then import it back in. Their plan was to create a story so insane that it would embarrass the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Corporation (AGLC) into changing their policies.

For a year, Graham had to ship 2800 kilos of Calgary-grown barley to Vancouver and then drive to Vancouver to brew the beer and package it, and then pay to have it shipped back to Calgary so he could sell his own beer as an importer. During this journey, he put 500,000 kilometres on his brand-new car!

Graham’s insanity did exactly what he hoped. Coupled with his research into the many economic benefits a strong beer industry would bring to Alberta, his story caught the attention of news outlets, it blew up on social media, and it rallied his community around him to join his quest for change. It wasn’t just about Graham anymore, this was about creating a better Alberta.

Making Change

One year after Graham and Jeff’s journey began, the AGLC changed their legislation. They announced that there would be no more minimum brewing requirement and added a congratulations to Tool Shed Brewing Company for paving the way.

A true disrupter, Graham shows us that if you go all in, use the word “no” as a motivator, and learn how to make some noise, you can make the change you want to see happen.

Graham’s passion for entrepreneurship and disruptive behaviours shine through in all of his talks. Interested in learning more about Graham and what he can bring to your next event? Email us at info@speakers.ca.