Determination is what Spencer Sgro, Alan Wood and Michael Mavian aim to capture in their new company, Rally Beer Co.
Rally is the newest addition to the Collingwood craft beer scene. They're skipping the fast lane, and opting for the bike lane by designing a beer with the active community in mind.
“We’re going after being that social lubricant after a long ride or run, or really any sort of adventure. Just encouraging that group post-session celebration and sharing a beer,” said Sgro, COO and co-founder of the new company.
Rally’s mission is to encourage people to go on a bigger adventure than ever before.
“If you are already a hardcore biker, top it. Go faster or further,” said Wood, fellow co-founder and CEO. “But also, if you are someone who hasn’t put on your running shoes in years, or you just bought a bike for the first time, go check out a local trail or join a group.”
“Get out, even if you’re new. Go on an adventure. A bigger adventure than before,” added Sgro.
Both men have put the motto into practice undertaking this new business endeavour.
Rally itself was founded somewhat on a whim, but the idea had always been on the back burner.
Wood and Sgro became close while attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Post-graduation, Wood took a position apprenticing under a brewmaster in Oakville, where he began to learn the ins and outs of the brewing industry. Wood has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and went on to work with start-up businesses ranging from consumer goods, supply chain technology and telemedicine.
Sgro spent the last decade in London, England, pursuing his passion for the food and beverage industry. He moved to Thornbury in 2017 to open a restaurant of his own, which is where the first inklings of Rally really set in.
Over the course of their friendship, Wood and Sgro were constantly tossing around different ideas while on outdoor adventures of their own — always holding out hope to start a business together someday.
Then, in 2019, Wood embarked on the Butter Tart 700 — a 760-kilometre cycling route through southern Ontario — which passes right by Sgro’s place in Thornbury. Although very athletic, gravel biking was the first real endurance sport Wood ever tackled. He started learning about functional ingredients in gels and bars and appreciating the importance of electrolytes. Always the entrepreneur, Wood started brainstorming while biking hundreds of kilometres alone each day.
“I needed to fuel my body, but I still wanted a beer at the end of the day,” said Wood. “I was wondering why no one ever put electrolytes in beer.”
Since leaving the brewery several years prior, Wood always wanted to come back to beer. Somewhere between Southampton and Thornbury, he had the idea of mixing all the things he loved by making a functional beer that still tastes great, but wouldn’t leave him feeling worse.
When he arrived in Thornbury that evening, Wood told Sgro about it immediately.
“Mentally, I was all in,” said Wood. “It’s all felt pretty natural since.”
They brought Mavian on board as creative director and the third co-founder, and incorporated the company in November 2019. And Rally Beer Co. was born.
Wood re-bought homebrew equipment and started experimenting with different recipes and flavour profiles. The initial plan was to make a delicious beer and then add electrolytes in after.
“He was sitting at his mom's house adding in all this powder to different beers and seeing what would happen. Like a science experiment,” laughed Sgro.
As it turns out, that’s illegal. So they started brewing with unique and natural ingredients for a similar effect and a product that is legally sellable in Canada.
Rally’s flagship Golden Ale is crafted with bio-available electrolytes, using blackcurrant and artisanal salts — sourced straight from Newfoundland and Labrador. The result is an unfiltered ale with the same amount of potassium as a banana.
“So instead of adding water or a banana to smoothies, just throw a Rally into it,” laughed Sgro.
Since the beginning, Rally’s marketing strategy has been very guerilla — or “a-la-Clif Bar.” The idea was to sponsor every tiny, grassroots event there was, from bike races and trail runs to windsurfing competitions and everything in between.
They managed to secure a purchase order from the LCBO almost immediately, so leading up to the launch, the team looked to these communities as their ideal clientele.
“We sought out these activities with people who are passionate about that certain sport,” said Sgro. “They are not here trying to tick something off their bucket list, they are engaged. These are their friends, this is their community.”
They launched on social media on Canada Day, and made their first delivery of Rally’s flagship Golden Ale to the LCBO on July 22, 2020.
“Slowly, bike ride by bike ride, run by run, we started meeting more and more people in the community,” said Sgro. “Really driving home that message of getting outside, getting active.”
“And we’ve gotten lucky with our community wanting to help,” he added.
Jody Wilson, an avid cycler and active member of Collingwood’s adventurous community, discovered Rally on social media last summer.
“From the onset, one of the things that really intrigued me was their passion for the outdoors and willingness to be involved at a grassroots level with different clubs, even when COVID was trying to drive us all down,” said Wilson.
Along with creating a new kind of beer, they wanted to make Rally better for the world, so they introduced Rally for Good — the "philanthropic heartbeat" of their organization.
Rally for Good focuses on three main pillars: environmental conservation, health and wellness, and inclusion and diversity in sport. Through aligned sponsorships, volunteering, trail clean-ups and ethical business practices, Rally’s goal is to serve its communities with the same level of passion they brew their beer.
From day one, Rally has also been a part of One Percent for the Planet (an organization that requires all members to donate one per cent of annual sales to environmental causes).
“We want it to be inclusive, the brand. Anybody can get in. Come in, there’s a place for everyone,” said Wood.
With that in mind, Rally is in the process of producing a non-alcoholic offering as well. They are also developing their second beer, a low-calorie, sessionable IPA. Both are set to start brewing in March.
The ultimate dream is to drive Rally nationwide. They also have plans to set up roots locally someday, with potential for collaborations and other experimental brews.
“Collective Arts expanded through North America following the artist communities around. Like them, we want to follow the active communities,” said Sgro.