Small biz: A new wholesome brew goes for it

Jon Cadoux turned his hobby for brewing organic beer into a business, and plans to use his business to promote organic farming.

By Jessica Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- When Jon Cadoux started brewing beer at home during college it was more of a hobby than a professional pursuit, but when it became his obsession he knew that it would have to be a career.

Cadoux, 29, discovered he was on to something special when he began experimenting with organic ingredients. "I ordered organic barley, organic hops and made a couple batches - it tasted better than anything out in the market," he said.

Jon Cadoux

That's when he decided his brew could be big. Cadoux went on to business school to hone his beer business and launched Peak Organic Brewing Company in 2005, soon after graduating with an MBA from Harvard.

The concept behind Peak started with an idea that beer is shared with friends at peak moments. And the company's Web site hosts photos sent in from viewers that aim to capture those times.

Customers can add their own peak moment to the mix, such as their wedding day or just a good sunset, or rate one of the other pictures on the site. Some photos even make it right on to the label on the beer.

"It's kind of a cop out," Cadoux admits of the marketing concept, even though customers seem to have embraced the idea.

"We're not the best marketers, we're just beer brewers," he said.

Not another Bud

The beer, which is brewed in Portland, Maine, is currently sold in New England, New York City, Washington DC and southern California.

"The plan, for now, is to focus on the geographies around the U.S. where organic products are embraced, then the long-term plan is to expand in other markets," Cadoux said.

Meanwhile, the organic beer market is growing at a rapid pace. Sales of organic beers totaled $19 million in 2005, up 40 percent from 2004, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Even the nation's largest beer company, Anheuser-Busch (Charts), is now producing two organic beers: Wild Hop lager and Stone Mill pale ale, which are being sold in several test markets in the U.S.

But "we're not trying to be Anheuser Bush," Cadoux said.

The company has seven full-time employees who travel around the country offering samples of their three different brews. Even Cadoux's younger brother Mike recently quit his day job to help promote Peak sales.

"I don't think I would advertise traditionally even if I had a ton of cash," Cadoux explained. "We like to go out and meet people."

The end goal, he says, is not to become a giant beer brand, but rather, to continue to support organic farming and eventually to have all barley grown organically in the U.S.

And if the company happens to make some hefty profit along the way, then all the more reason to celebrate with an ice-cold beer.

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