Bottoms Up: Three Innovative Craft Beer and Cider Businesses

Summertime brings warm weather and an opportunity to enjoy a frosty beverage (or two). To celebrate the many ways people use — and love — Square, we’re saying cheers to three sellers who are helping Canadians enjoy sunshine in a glass. (We’re also celebrating with a contest that has a $1,000 grand prize! Click here for details.)

Toronto Cider Festival in Toronto, Ontario

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Professor Ijaz Jamal teaches events management at Toronto’s George Brown College and has been in the events industry for 15 years. So, last year, when he and his former student Chris Palivan decided to celebrate one of North America’s fastest-growing beverages with Toronto’s first cider festival, he knew they had a pretty good idea on their hands. As professional organizers, Ijaz and Chris thought through every detail, with all the best- and worst-case scenarios accounted for. Square was their backup sales system.

On the day of the festival, Ijaz and Chris ran into problems with their debit machine and had to put plan B into action. “Square saved the event,” remembers Ijaz. “The experience for our customers could have been really bad without it.”

This year’s Toronto Cider Festival will bring an array of music, food and cider to Yonge-Dundas Square on August 27. This time, Square will be the primary payment system. Attendees at the late-summer celebration will likely see an abundance of Square Readers and iPhones as they sample up to 30 different ciders from across Canada and around the world.

Tool Shed Brewing Company in Calgary, Alberta

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Founders Jeff Orr and Graham Sherman met in Afghanistan in 2007 when they were working in IT and satellite communications. The two men shared an interest in craft beer and realized they were practically neighbours back in Calgary. When they returned to Alberta, they set up a five-gallon homebrewing system in Graham’s tool shed. United by an “obsessive love for craft beer and high level of geekery about making it,” they decided to take their passion to the next level and go into the brewing business.

Tool Shed’s small-batch ales come with unusual names: Star Cheek, named after the star-shaped white patch that inexplicably appears on Jeff’s cheek when he has been drinking; Red Rage, named in honour of redhead Graham’s fiery temper; and People Skills, inspired by their friend Joe, who lacks that particular skillset.

Before opening the brewery, the Tool Shed team participated in a lot of beer festivals, and Square allowed them to sell on the spot. Now they love using it as a quick and easy point-of-sale (POS) system that all staff can use to accept credit card payments. They also use Square for invoicing and their online store. Soon Tool Shed Brewing Company will get even better — a new bar and event space at the brewery are being planned.

County Cider Company in Waupoos, Ontario

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Grant Howes grew up on his family’s apple orchard in picturesque Prince Edward County in Southeastern Ontario. After visiting the cideries and fruit wineries on Vancouver Island as an adult, he was inspired to expand the family business. Now County Cider Company is one of the largest producers of European and French cider apples in North America and has multiple lines of crisp, mouth-watering hard ciders crafted from 100% pure apple juice.

Business is going well, and County Cider has found that Square helps them keep things running. They use a Square Reader-iPhone combination when they set up at markets, and Square Dashboard helps them keep track of their top-selling products. And there are a lot of top-selling products. County Cider is planting 5,000 new apple trees to keep up with demand, and a new orchard tasting room and restaurant are in the works.