By TIM BAINES
Geoff Tait was sitting on his porch in Toronto’s Beaches area when the idea came to him – beer and golf … combine the two.
That was the launching point for Triple Bogey beer, which was soon being brewed. And as soon as golfers got a taste of the blond lager, sales began to skyrocket.
“I love drinking beer, I have beers on the golf course all the time,” said Tait, who was a co-founder of Quagmire Golf, a clothing company which knuckled under in 2012. “I saw the niche. We’ve been going with the pedal down and we can barely keep up. We’ve gone from golf courses ordering five cases a week to ordering 25.”
For Tait, it’s a natural.
“I’ve always had a passion for brewing beer and drinking beer,” he said. “I went to a couple of breweries and found one, Great Lakes. We got together, found a recipe and fell in love with each other. The beer is not hoppy, it’s a lager with more body than most. The whole point was to find something you can drink on a 25-degree day and be refreshed.”
Triple Bogey already has an Ontario Brewery award – a gold medal. Other companies, said Tait, “don’t have the owner coming to men’s night and giving them a sample of beer.”
Not long ago, while running Quagmire, Tait was partying with Kanye West, Jay Z and John Legend, hanging out with Arnold Palmer and playing some of the best-known golf courses in North America, places like Bay Hill, Sawgrass and Doral. That’s in the rear-view mirror. He’s moved on.
“I lost a business, I was heartbroken and sick,” said Tait. “You get Quagmire up to a $3-$4 million company, you’re driving a BMW, life is good. All of a sudden, you’re on unemployment and you feel like shit. Then (Triple Bogey) popped into my head. The name, Triple Bogey, it’s not how many birdies or eagles you make, I bet you make bogies, that’s the whole premise. It’s something that resonates with most golfers.”
Tait is working 16 hours a day, but he’s found happiness in beer.
Said Tait: “Who gets to go to Arnold Palmer’s house and go through his closet? Who gets to sit with Arnold and Jack Nicklaus, drink vodka and listen to their stories? But it doesn’t get any better than where I am and what I’m doing now. It’s neat to be able to sit on a patio and drink your own beer. I get to talk to the cart girls and high five everybody in the pro shop. I don’t call it work.”
Now 36, Tait grew up working at the St. Thomas Golf and Country Club, where he worked for Dan Campbell from the age of 12. He later went through the Humber College golf management program, went to the University of Western Sydney in Australia, worked on cruise ships, he was a teacher in Venezuela, then taught golf at a junior camp with kids in Florida. Then came Quagmire, which he co-founded in 2005. Quagmire was ahead of its time, “going after a younger generation, not the stodgy stuff your grandfather wore.”
“It kind of fell apart from 2010-12,” said Tait, who had a deal to make a hipper style with swagger for Arnold Palmer’s Arnie Wear. “Basically we had some issues with one of the partners and he didn’t want to go down without a fight. Sales were in decline and we were going around in circles.
“I had some big orders sitting on my desk. But we couldn’t come to an agreement. I just said, ‘I’m out of here, guys.’ We all still own the brand, but the truth is, no one wants to touch it. I spent six months wondering what was going to happen next. I was offered a couple of jobs, but I wasn’t ready to work for anybody else. Triple Bogey was born and I’ll never look back.”
His wife Megan works alongside her husband. She packs a Nissan Sentra full of cases of beer and delivers, along with plenty of other responsibilities. Tait’s mom Bonnie, dad Paul, father-in-law Wayne and mother-in-law Jeannine also help out. He has two drivers, Charlie and Patrick, on the road and a graphic design guy, Paul Rezar, who’s been with him since the Quagmire days.
Tait isn’t a stuffy, old-school guy. He looks at a round of golf as a time to unwind and relax. No need for golf shoes, he wears moccasins or his Converse shoes.
“If I could wear a T-shirt and boardshorts, I would,” he said. “I always say golf is too serious and life is too short. I’m allowed to wear my beer T-shirt now. I’m going into all these fancy golf courses and wearing what I want to wear. I’m proud to be breaking down barriers.”
A second beer, Hurry Hard, an amber lager, will hit the market in late August or early September.
Triple Bogey began shipping 14 months or so ago when Tait had to order 65,000 cans to get the company rolling. It’s been full speed ahead ever since. The company is a beer sensation, with demand to push east and west. The beer is available in Toronto, Niagara, Windsor, Kingston, Muskoka, London and everywhere in between. Ottawa is one market which will see the beer in the near future.
“We shipped more beer in May than we did in the summer months last year,” said Tait. “We’re working our asses off. Days start at 6 a.m. And on some days, I’m still delivering at 10 p.m. If I’m lucky, I sneak in a day off here and there. We’re going like crazy, it’s overwhelming. But it’s fun. I’ve never worked this hard, but I’ve never been happier.”