Eric and Jeff Dornan—brothers and co-owners of All or Nothing Brewhouse, Trafalgar Ales, Meads & Distillery, and Black Creek Historic Brewery—are hoping to revolutionize the craft beer and spirits industry in Ontario. By overcoming challenge after challenge, the brothers have taken their business from its beginnings as an underdog in the industry to a well-established firm.
While recalling the foundations that led to All or Nothing Brewhouse, Eric quotes boxer Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth.” In January 2014, the brothers established Underdog’s Brewhouse Inc; shortly thereafter, they found themselves facing a trademark infringement lawsuit from another unnamed brewery. In order to avoid the high costs associated with litigation, which could have potentially bankrupted their business, both Eric and Jeff decided that a name and branding change was the best solution. As a result, in 2015, Underdog’s Brewhouse Inc. rebranded itself as “All or Nothing Brewhouse.”
Beginning as a contract brewery, All or Nothing used the St. Thomas, Ontario facility of an existing brewery (Railway City Brewing Company) for its production. It soon became clear to the Dornan brothers that additional capacity was required to keep up with growing demand and to control the production process in its entirety to ensure product consistency and quality. In July 2016, All or Nothing Brewhouse (All or Nothing) acquired Trafalgar Ales & Meads, Trafalgar Artisanal Distillery, and Black Creek Historic Brewery. Through the acquisition, All or Nothing gained two production facilities: a 15,000 square feet brewing/distillery production facility in Oakville, and a historically accurate brewery situated in Black Creek Pioneer Village, providing a solution to the company’s capacity and quality control issues.
The acquisition of the Trafalgar companies and Black Creek Historic Brewery was an important step in All or Nothing’s growth as a company. While the acquisition presented an opportunity for All or Nothing to shift away from contract brewing, it also presented new challenges. Since moving into the Oakville facility, Eric, Jeff, and the other All or Nothing employees have spent their time renovating the brewhouse and packaging hall, fixing the mechanical systems, and undertaking many other tasks needed to align the operation with modern standards and improve production flow. Yet Eric does not see All or Nothing staying at its current Oakville facility permanently. In the future, the co-owners hope to move production to the Durham region, and specifically Oshawa. With its proximity to a port, airport, and Highway 401, Oshawa is All or Nothing’s ideal location.
All or Nothing is no longer built on a single product. With 17 unique products—such as Hopfenweisse, Persistence Czech Pilsner, Baked Apple Mead, Mango Moonshine, and Cold Hard Coffee all three breweries and the distillery owned by the company offer end consumers a wide selection of flavours, ranging from the “classics” to less mainstream options.
Eric describes how every detail of the branding was carefully considered; for example, the bright yellow label of All or Nothing Hopfenweisse was chosen because “yellow is an [attention-getting colour]— your eyes are automatically drawn to something yellow.” Further, the imagery on the label, which depicts two men sparring, symbolizes the business’s underdog position when it first started in an industry dominated by large conglomerates: a “David and Goliath” situation.
Given the highly regulated nature of the beer and spirits industry, All or Nothing’s direct customers are the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Beer Store, along with major grocery chains, restaurants, and bars. With combined annual sales of $2.5–3 million, Jeff, Eric, and their staff work tirelessly to maintain a competitive edge in an oversaturated market through excellent customer service and efficient operations. This efficiency is accomplished by forecasting sales as accurately as possible and ensuring that the firm always has enough inventory on hand at any given time to fulfill potential last-minute orders (which happens surprisingly frequently).
Currently, All or Nothing exports to the United States, and also began exporting to Japan in July 2017; export sales account for approximately 5 per cent of the combined sales figure. In fiscal year 2016, the business experienced overall growth of 150 per cent on combined top-line sales. Going forward, the co-owners predict that this growth will stabilize at 50-60 percent year-over-year as the company continues to self-finance.
Between the three breweries and the distillery that comprise All or Nothing, the company has seven full-time staff and five part-time staff. Both co-owners are constantly working at the production brewery, and are heavily involved in its day-to-day operations. There is a high degree of variance in terms of the level of education and skills necessary to work at the business. In the past, the Dornan brothers have hired new Canadians and individuals with engineering, marketing, and business administration degrees and diplomas. Arguably, the primary characteristic that the firm looks for in potential candidates is an open mind and innovative thinking. In the past, All or Nothing has partnered with educational institutions, such as Durham College’s Bistro ’67 (a student-run restaurant) to make a custom beer that is grown in the school garden plot. At times, the company also works closely with Sheridan College to help familiarize the school’s technical students with the operations and machinery of a brewing facility.
Despite finding success shortly after moving into its new facility, All or Nothing faces a number of challenges. Brewing and distilling are both capital-intensive activities; as the company continues to grow, finding access to capital expenditure financing will remain an obstacle. Additionally, brewers and distillers often face overtaxation and subsequent small profit margins due to the highly regulated nature of the industry. Reducing the taxation burden on small manufacturers of alcohol would stimulate local economies and create job growth. Many people may not realize that although craft beer accounts for 30 per cent of the jobs in the beer industry, it only accounts for 6 per cent market share of that same industry.
Going forward, Eric, Jeff, and their staff plan to continue following a lean, cost-effective business model focused on efficiency. In 2017/2018, the company will be releasing unique new “ready-to-drink” products in both the Canadian and American markets. There is far less grassroots-level competition in this industry compared to brewing, so All or Nothing are putting a strong, long-term focus on developing their artisanal distillery from 2018 to 2020. Check out the company’s website at http://allornothing.beer/
All or Nothing Brewhouse is dedicated to becoming Canada’s #1 craft beverage producer. The company refuses to be defined by archaic Bavarian laws and settle for the status quo on what beer or alcoholic beverages can be. Staff comes to work every day to share their passion for the craft, and of course that means brewing delicious and innovative craft beverages!
Corporate Headquarters: 1156 Speers Rd., Oakville, ON
Executives: Co-Owners: Jeff & Eric Dornan
Year established: 2014 (All or Nothing), 2016 (acquired Trafalgar)
Number of employees: 7 full-time, 5 part-time
Revenues: $2.5 – $3 million
Line of business
312120 – Breweries. This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in brewing beer, ale, malt liquors and non-alcoholic beer
312140 – Distilleries. This industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in one or more of the following: Distilling potable liquors (except brandies);
- All or Nothing Hopfenweisse 473mL can
- All or Nothing Persistence Czech Pilsner 296mL can
- Black Creek Canada 150 Best Bitter 473mL can
- Black Creek Rifleman’s Ration Brown Ale 473mL can
- Black Creek Pumpkin Ale 473mL can
- Brewer’s Cold Hard Coffee 296mL can
- Trafalgar Baked Apple Mead 375mL bottle
- Trafalgar Peach Mead Braggot 296mL can
- Trafalgar Masala Chai Mead Braggot 296mL can
- Trafalgar Mead Braggot 375mL bottle
- Trafalgar Summer Ale 473mL can
- Trafalgar Blackberry Moonshine 750mL bottle
- Trafalgar Mango Moonshine 750mL bottle
- Trafalgar Toffee Hammer Shine 750mL bottle
- Trafalgar Hot Chili Shine 750mL bottle
- Trafalgar Pumpkin Shine 200mL bottle
- Trafalgar Barrel Aged Whiskey 750mL bottle
- Beer Store;
- Major national grocery chains; and
- independent and chain style restaurants/bars
Exports: United States, Japan (as of last year)
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Skills: mechanical engineers, computer engineers, technicians, machinists, welders
Education: University of Waterloo, Western, Conestoga College, high schools
R&D: creating ATV for the moon – different materials b/c of fluctuating temperatures; roboticizing the ARGO
Brothers Jeff & Eric Dornan founded All or Nothing Brewhouse in January 2014 as Underdog’s Brewhouse Inc. Due to a trademark dispute they changed their formal business name to All or Nothing Brewhouse in November 2015 and have been known as such ever since. Initially All or Nothing Brewhouse started out as a contract brewery which meant they did not have their own physical brick and mortar brewery. Very quickly it was clear that they needed to have their own production facility where we could control the entire manufacturing process and ensure the highest quality standards possible for our products. In July 2016, All or Nothing Brewhouse purchased Trafalgar Ales & Meads, Trafalgar Artisanal Distillery and Black Creek Historic Brewery. This acquisition gave All or Nothing two new facilities to brew at with a 15,000 sq. foot production brewery/distillery in Oakville Ontario and a historically accurate brewery setup in Pioneer Village in Toronto Ontario.
- Large breweries
- Other micro-breweries
Partner with Durham College: collaborate with Durham College’s Bistro 67’ student run restaurant to make a custom beer that uses ingredients grow in their school garden.
Partner with Sheridan College: have technical students through their brewing facility to provide them with “real world” exposure to Ontario manufacturing
- The Ontario government in December 2016 allowed for sale of beer and cider in grocery stores. This opened up a brand new sales channel for Ontario beer producers and gave us all an alternative to sell to other than the LCBO and Beer Store which were our only other options at the time. This has made the market more competitive and consumer friendly. There is plenty of room for improvement in regards to reducing the taxation on alcohol as a whole. The consistent tax increases just result in more expensive beer to the end consumer.
- Low cost business model
- Co-owners have past experience in retail industries and dealing with regulators
- Developed effective production methods to ensure the quality consistency of their products
- Significantly smaller marketing budget relative to large breweries
- Greater support from government/regulators for craft brewers
- Oversaturation of the craft beer market
- Same standards/ governmental expectations for small and larger breweries