The Minhas family has taken over the Dragons’ Den green room. Manjit Minhas’s mom, dad, husband and two young daughters are arrayed on couches around a large TV, watching her decide the fate of the day’s batch of hopeful entrepreneurs. The 34-year-old beer baroness from Calgary is one of three new dragons joining the hit CBC show this year, and her kin have turned out in force. The previous week, her younger brother and business partner, Ravinder, was by her side; her dad even accompanied her to the screen test in mid-March.

Photo: Raina + Wilson

It’s not just clan loyalty—this is a family of entrepreneurs that has followed the show with star-struck excitement for years. While Manjit and Ravinder run Minhas Breweries and Distillery, Manjit’s dad, Moni, owns oil wells; her husband, Harvey, operates a construction company. They have hardly missed an episode and proudly flaunt behind-the-scenes trivia to prove it. When someone asks how CBC crews get big props into their downtown studio, mom offers that those pitches always happen early in the morning so the gear loading doesn’t block traffic.

Halfway through the filming of Season 10, the dynamics in the new den are starting to emerge. Joe Mimran is the mentor, generous with advice. Mike Wekerle is the clown. Jim Treliving, the retail veteran, drills down into the business models, while tech entrepreneur Michele Romanow is the creative sparkplug, quick with impromptu ideas.

MORE WEKERLE: Inside the Brilliantly Weird Mind of CBC’s Newest Dragon »

Then there is Manjit, the woman in red (a dress carefully chosen, as she has to wear it the entire season). Poised and regal, she plays the straight woman to Wekerle: When his mugging around with a pair of sunglasses starts to hold up taping, she shoots him a scolding look like a mother to a naughty child. (“I sometimes have to tell him to be appropriate and calm down,” she says lightly.) As the tapings progress, a consensus emerges that she’s the tough one, in the vein of sharp-tongued Kevin O’Leary. Her verdicts can be blunt: “You need to get control of your expenses,” she tells a couple pitching an upscale health food store. “I can’t see how or when I’d get my money back.”

Ruthlessly controlling expenses is something Manjit Minhas knows well. Her company, which started out selling deeply discounted spirits to Calgary-area bars and restaurants, now has two breweries and a distillery producing 160 varieties of beer and 90 spirits, as well as subsidiaries in everything from TV production to trucking, bringing in a total of $155 million in revenues. But even as the Minhas siblings expanded into different categories and markets, they have stuck to the same formula: offering the lowest-cost option. “It could be 10-times-distilled premium vodka, but we’ll be the best priced,” says Manjit.

Minhas is now one of the largest Canadian-owned breweries, but it’s hardly a household name. While the business sells throughout western Canada, Ontario and the U.S., few of its products reference the company moniker. Which means that when viewers tune in to Dragons’ Den to see Manjit school spendthrift CEOs, it will be the first time many will be hearing of her—or her business.

The new visibility could be an important boost at a time when consumers are turning away from beer. Industry growth has flatlined, and the craft beer revolution has shifted sales toward specialty brews, where trends and brand status play a bigger role than the cost of a six-pack. Those aren’t favourable trends for a company whose core business is peddling value-priced lagers and ales. What better way to attract consumers than with a big dose of celebrity?

Loading comments, please wait.