B R E W E RY P R O F I L E
After 99 years of operation, the Sleeman family business
Growing up, Sleeman says his family’s infamous involvement
in the beer industry wasn’t talked about. In fact, he had
no idea about the legacy when he got into the business as a
“Back in the 1970s and ’80s, I began and operated a company
that imported and distributed draft beer from Europe, the
U.S., and Australia, primarily for bars and restaurants,” he said.
“I was increasingly aware of consumers wanting more variety.
Whether it was imported beers like Guinness, Heineken or
Pabst Blue Ribbon, people were excited to try brews from larger
multinational brewing companies. It wasn’t necessarily better,
they just wanted to have a choice.”
Finding success with that business, he began to dream
about opening his own brewing company. In 1988, his aunt
Florian Sleeman Wall gave him a gift that would change his life.
“She had held onto a recipe book and a Sleeman bottle from the
1800s in case anyone in our family would be crazy enough to get
back into the business after the 50-year penalty was up,” said
Sleeman. “It seemed I was being given all the ingredients to get
this company going.”
He sold the importing business and began experimenting
with recipes from his great-grandfather’s book in Guelph, where
the original brewery had stood, using the same clean water.
“I wanted to rebuild the business and I wanted it to be as
authentic as possible. The water is still very good in Guelph,
coming from underground aquifers.”
In addition to the fortuitous family legacy and the recipe
book, Sleeman was blessed with the right market conditions for
this new venture. “People were interested in supporting small
ventures and slightly different products. There was nothing
wrong with Molson Canadian and Labatt Blue, the No. 1 and 2
brands in Canada at the time, but consumers were also looking
for something different,” he said.
The rise of Sleeman Breweries
Since opening in 1988, Sleeman Breweries has grown to become
the third largest brewer in Canada. With a head office in
Guelph, today they boast:
•• 1.73 million hectolitres per year in domestic sales
•• 7.9 per cent domestic market share and growing
•• 1,100 employees
•• Four Canadian breweries:
•• Guelph; Vernon, B.C.; Chambly, Que.; Wild Rose, Alta.
•• One American brewery:
•• San Francisco, Calif.
While Sleeman was inspired by his ancestors, he took a different
tactic when operating his own brewery.
“My plan was never to just be a small craft brewer operating
out of a garage in Guelph. I wanted to be professional, have
a national brewing company, perhaps No. 3 or 4 in the country
6 § POURED CANADA § www.poured.ca