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Craft Brewers Push Back on Corner Store Beer Sales

Brewers say they would rather stick with Ontario's current model for liquor sales, despite its flaws.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/metrix_feet/5748136389/sizes/z/in/photostream/"}Metrix X{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

A recent push to legalize beer and wine sales at convenience stores across the province has received support from thousands of Ontarians, and also from Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative party. But local independent brewers say a move like that could hurt craft beer sales, and that the biggest producers would end up dominating the market even more than they currently do.

The recent campaign to have beer sold in corner stores came in the form of an online petition started by a small-town convenience store owner and promoted by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, mainly through the website FreeOurBeer.ca. The petition has attracted over 100,000 signatures.

But while the allure of buying booze along with smokes and lottery tickets—not to mention a popular distaste for monopolistic alcohol selling practices—might have some people crying for change, craft brewers in the province prefer the system the way it is.

Ken Woods, the president of Etobicoke’s Black Oak Brewing, says the convenience-store model would lend itself well to large companies with aggressive marketing strategies and the money to pay for premium positioning in corner-store fridges. Smaller brewers, he fears, would be left out.

“Have you ever taken a look in a convenience store and seen any artisanal products, like artisanal potato chips?” he asks. “What convenience stores are great at doing is mass produced products that are very generic, very similar, and have got their distribution set.”

Woods estimates a move toward selling beer in convenience stores would hurt the market share of small, local brewers, and possibly put some out of business almost immediately.

On the other hand, he says the current competition between the LCBO and The Beer Store to offer customers a better tactile shopping experience—exemplified in LCBO product-sampling counters and The Beer Store’s new Beer Boutique locations—steers increasingly discerning customers toward craft beer.

Michael Arnold was involved in a push for booze in corner stores over a decade ago. Now, as the president of Trafalgar Brewery in Oakville, he says he initially tried to help convince the province that the move would benefit craft brewers. But he soon realized it wasn’t his brands the convenience stores ultimately wanted.

“You could just see, they saw us as a lever to get in to talk to the government,” he says. “But what they really wanted was to sell shelf space to Labatt and Molson. They knew nothing about craft beers.”

Like Woods, Arnold says that while the current system could be improved, he would rather work with it. The relatively low distribution fee the LCBO charges helps keep the prices of his beers down. The relatively small amount of shelf space in the average convenience store, meanwhile, would probably drive prices up. Smaller brewers, Arnold thinks, would end up “paying a premium for the bottom right-hand corner.”

A representative from the Canadian Convenience Stores Association could not be reached for comment.

While proponents of beer in Ontario’s corner stores like to bring up the success of smaller breweries in Quebec and New York, where convenience store alcohol sales are commonplace, Cameron’s Brewing president Bill Coleman says brewers in those places have benefited from strong local craft-beer cultures. He doesn’t think Ontario’s craft beer scene is quite that developed.

Still, if it came down to convenience stores selling beer in Ontario, Coleman thinks his brand would fare relatively well. “It would be competitive, but the good micros will survive.”

Comments

  • Anonymous

    ““Have you ever taken a look in a convenience store and seen any artisanal products, like artisanal potato chips?””

    Yes, I have actually. What I read in all of this, is that these craft brewers need some major help in retails sales. I don’t see how a convenience store would balk at their products, but if they aren’t going in and talking to them (and relying on the LCBO/Beer store so they don’t have to hire sales people) then I’m not sure what the complaint is about. You created a capitalist business, but you only want to run it as long as it stays socialist?

    • Jordan St.John

      Many craft brewers are too small to employ a full time sales person. Talking to individual convenience stores would be a logistical nightmare. Really big brewing companies have the resources and volume to hammer out deals with a chain of stores. You’re not wrong that both are capitalist enterprises, but there is the condition that this has never been a free market, at least since ’27.

      • Winkee

        What does free even mean? Is a market that has 3 companies controlling over 80% of the product free? I wouldn’t think so…

      • Anonymous

        I get that. They start a business without the resources needed to run that business. Hey we all want to be our own boss, reality is…

        Basically they are catering to a different market. A market that they can’t afford to “market” to or “sell” to because they lack the general resources to do so (read: Small business).

        How that is the hinge that to this debate though is beyond me. As a consumer, it’s not my business to care about yours.

    • Chris

      A couple things:

      1) If you opened it not just to convenience stores, but also to other food retailers, wouldn’t craft brewers be able to sell their products in Loblaws, Metro, Whole Foods, etc? Wouldn’t that increase their market share?

      2) This is one anecdotal example, so I don’t expect it to stand up to peer review, but I was working in NYC for a few months last year, and my local bodega (New Yorker for convenience store) had a better selection of craft beers than my current local LCBO. Yes, admittedly this was in hipster-ass Bushwick, but still, that’s proof that convenience store beer doesn’t have to mean a choice between Bud and Bud Light.

      • Michael DiFrancesco

        To your 1: Increasing the number of distributors only allows for a brewery to increase its market share if it can establish a foothold in convenience stores, grocery stores, etc. before its competitors. Currently, breweries have one retail option in Ontario; one retail outlet to work with: the control board. Once you open the floodgates, you’re talking about having to negotiate dozens of deals: with the Loblaws/Metro/Sobeys chains provincially; with smaller grocery stores regionally; with convenience store chains and individual stores themselves; and the list goes on. For a small brewery, as stated above, that means having to hire on more sales staff. Given that Molson-Coors, Anheuser and InBev have orders of magnitude more money to throw around at these deals, they’re the ones with the most market share to gain from this deal – they can get their product out to chains provincially, much faster and more efficiently than any craft brewer could.

        I’m against the convenience store expansion because I’m just not seeing the upside. From a selection standpoint, there’s no reason to believe selection in Ontario will get much better, and quite a bit of reason to believe that selection will narrow. From a customer standpoint, I’ve little reason to believe that we’d see any sort of significant price drop on the major labels: they know what the market will bear, and even now most of their brands aren’t pricing at the mandated minimums. Finally, from a citizen’s standpoint, I don’t see the benefit of taking liquor sales profits out of the hands of the LCBO and into the hands of Mac’s. I do, however, see the cost of liquor regulation rising (since, like with tabacco, a convenience store doesn’t have the same incentives not to sell to minors, etc. as does a crown corporation).

        • Anonymous

          can establish a foothold in convenience stores, grocery stores, etc. before its competitors

          Why does this need to be done “before its competitors”. From a pure business perspective that’s total b/s. Since when does an existing market share prohibit movement in the market?

          “Once you open the floodgates, you’re talking about having to negotiate dozens of deals: with the Loblaws/Metro/Sobeys chains provincially; with smaller grocery stores regionally; with convenience store chains and individual stores themselves; and the list goes on.”

          There are 5 major chains in the province != dozens.

          “For a small brewery, as stated above, that means having to hire on more sales staff.”

          But they are increasing their market share, therefore increasing their bottom line. See how those things work to help each other?

          “they’re the ones with the most market share to gain from this deal”

          They already have market share. I’m not sure you understand how market share actually works.

          “they can get their product out to chains provincially, much faster and more efficiently than any craft brewer could.”

          How is that different than getting the product to The Beer Store & the LCBO?

        • Jason Kogler

          If you do not see the upside then you have never been to convenience stores in places like Montreal that specialize in carrying international and local craft beers. Ontario sorely lacks access to stores that have a decent selection whereas Montreal has places like this: http://www.spottedbylocals.com/montreal/depanneur-simon-anthony/

  • http://twitter.com/A_McDo Adam McDowell

    I believe Trafalgar Brewery president when he says convenience store owners “knew nothing about craft beers.” Most people don’t. The entire population could use some education on beer.

    I’m not saying it would be easy to make the transition into convenience stores, but it’s a huge opportunity for smaller brewers. I think they’re making a huge mistake with this stance.

    • winkee

      Its a huge opportunity for small brewers to be pushed out the market or swallowed by the big 3 if they have any success. Anyone commenting needs to watch the document Beer Wars first to get a sense of how the beer market actually works. Deregulation is not going to result in a level playing field for small brewers, it will result in the same outcome that is the essence of capitalism, a tendency to monopoly.

      • http://twitter.com/benelling Ben Elling

        This may be, but could it be any WORSE than the current situation? Worst case, we have the same situation, but more convenient availability and at least the possibility of a craft brewer having a chance.

        • winkee

          It could be much worse, did you read the concerns of the brewers in the article? The result would be more convenient availability of Molson-Coors, SAB-Miller, Anheuser-Busch InBev, but little else unless you want to pay a premium for it. Craft brewing has grown by leaps and bounds in Ontario in the last 5 years and is still growing, so I’m not really sure what you are talking about the LCBO not giving craft breweries a chance.

          • Anonymous

            Don’t we already pay a premium for craft beer?

          • Winkee

            2- dollars and change a bottle can hardly be considered a premium, but okay.

          • Anonymous

            At 25%+ more a bottle it can be considered a premium, but okay.

          • Winkee

            Would you like to reference something specific? 25% more than what?

          • Winkee

            For example a 4-Pack of Beau’s lug tread from the brewery (4x600ml Bottles), $15.85, exactly the same price as the LCBO.

          • Anonymous

            So it’s 4.35 cents more and 200ml less than a 6 pack of Budweiser. Sounds like a premium to me, just like import beer.

          • Winkee

            The point I was making is a premium on the current lcbo price, not a premium on the base price of crap beer, keep up will you.

          • Anonymous

            What you’re talking about is the retail cost, not premium pricing. Learn the words you’re trying to use, it helps communicate to those of us that are familiar with the grammar.

          • Winkee

            Read all the posts before you try to talk down to me. You still don’t understand what I am talking about or the context in which it was said. You were the one who changed the discussion to a comparison of two different products.
            What I said about the possibility of retailers charging a premium compared to the LCBO for craft beers (which I explain are different not by virtue of being called “craft” but by the way they are produced) was in the context that the situation could “not get worse than it is now.” I feel the LCBO provides stability in pricing for craft products across the province and the loss of those price controls could result in more expensive craft beers over what we currently pay. My refererence to the big 3 was the fact that I believe that system would provide easier access to those products and even more affordable prices, but I didn’t feel that it would translate to the craft industry as a couple people were implying. You chose to throw out a red herring about bud compared to craft because you misunderstood what I was talking about and how I was comparing it and instead of trying to understand you’d rather insult me and talk down to me.

          • Anonymous

            ;TLDR

          • Winkee

            Would it be true that you are paying a premium on bud compared to buying Old English, no because the quality and production makes them different products. Just like malt liquor is not the same as industrially produced beer, so goes my argument that said single wort stream beer is not the same as small batch, high quality, niche style craft beers. Just because they are similar products (fermented grain beers) does not mean they are the same quality product. Just like Champagne isn’t sparkling wine, neither is bud a craft beer. This is simply a brand it is a technical definition relating to the production and grade of the product. Premium quality as opposed to premium price.

          • Anonymous

            You realize Bud and Old English are in the same price point right?

            “Just like Champagne isn’t sparkling wine”

            Yes it is, it’s just made in Champagne France. There are several brands of sparking wine that are better than Champagne and guess what? You pay MORE for them.

          • Winkee

            Hey Captain semantics listen to what I am saying! Forget the difference in quality, I am not and never was comparing craft to the big 3, you were the one that introduced that.
            I mean in the corner store system proposed the Ontario CRAFT Brewery products would be more expensive than they currently are in the LCBO, hence my use of the word premium describing a higher cost on top of the current premium you can’t seem get over. Because craft brews are still a niche market in Ontario and the novelty of being able to get it at the corner store I feel retailers would charge more than the LCBO, a premium as you are still describing it. If you spent more time listening to my argument instead of your condescending fixation on one word, maybe you would understand what I am getting at.

          • Anonymous

            Oh, so you’r being anecdotal and making up things – gotchya! Thanks for your speculation?

            “If you spent more time listening to my argument instead of your condescending fixation on one word”

            If you spent more time trying to understand the words you’re attempting to use, you wouldn’t waste so much time writing responses. Just a thought.

            And I did listen to your “argument” which is still wrong. We pay a premium for Craft Beer already – which was my initial statement to you. Nothing has changed about that.

          • winkee

            your comparison is faulty, bud and a craft beer are different products as I have told you numerous times. As I said before, for example Beau’s direct from the brewery is the same price as Beau’s in the LCBO, so how are we paying a premium? Saying Beau’s or Amsterdam or any other craft beer is more expensive than bud or miller etc does not mean it’s a premium price, it means it is a premium product. Remember when you sarcastically told me that without actually understanding that yourself?

          • Anonymous

            If it’s more expensive than the average price of beer (regardless of it’s origin or it’s quality) it’s priced premium. I really don’t understand how you’re unable to grasp this very simple business concept.

          • Winkee

            How is it regardless of the quality, that is the reason it is more expensive, because it is higher quality. If you could understand that bud and craft beers are only related by name you would understand the difference.

          • Anonymous

            “the reason it is more expensive, because it is higher quality”

            Umm… you agreeing with me now.

          • Winkee

            premium [ˈpriːmɪəm]n
            1. (Business / Commerce) an amount paid in addition to a standard rate.
            This is how I am employing the word premium.

          • Anonymous

            *facepalm*

          • Winkee

            You are still not listening. Standard rate for craft beer, I am talking about them charging more than that standard rate, still within the definition, you are the one who wants to compare craft beer to non-craft beer.
            “Intersecting 2 things to illustrate the fact that craft beer is priced premium is hardly changing the discussion”
            I think you’re confusing premium (price) with premium (quality). As I said bud to craft beer is apples to oranges. When I am comparing the price of LCBO craft beer to the possibly higher price of corner store craft beer, the term premium still applies. Again you are ignoring my whole argument to chastise me over the use of word that I am using correctly, if you could understand the context I am using it in.

          • Anonymous

            I tell you what. I will agree with anything you say if you can tell me what the “standard rate for craft beer” is.

          • Winkee

            A standard rate in the sense that I am using it is a price based on historic prices for similar products. For example most of the craft beers sold at the lcbo are around 2.75 a bottle. That is a standard established in our market.

          • Anonymous

            No, that is a standard you’re making up. Unless you can provide something other than your anecdotal evidence, there is no standard pricing on beer. However (to my point) craft beers are more expensive than non-craft beers. See how I’m using facts and you’re just grabbing things out of thin air and using words incorrectly?

          • Winkee

            I’m not saying there is a formal standard, but their is an accepted level. I meant to say par value and misspoke.

          • Anonymous

            What you mean to say is “average” price for beer. So let’s take a step back for a minute, k?

            Add up all the prices for “regular” beer and average them
            Add up all the prices for “craft” beer and average them.

            If the second number is higher than the first, than it’s priced at a premium rate.

          • Anonymous

            But you DID say there was a standard. You’re really confused.

          • Anonymous

            Craft beers are the new kid on the block, therefore HISTORICALLY the price is based on “non-craft beers”. If the price of craft beers is “higher” than the HISTORICAL AVERAGE OF ALL BEER – it’s priced premium.

          • Anonymous

            “When I am comparing the price of LCBO craft beer to the possibly higher price of corner store craft beer, the term premium still applies”

            No, the term who cares about your fucking retarded speculation, only applies.

          • Anonymous
          • Winkee

            Premium over the current LCBO price, not a premium compared to an inferior product, BUD never be compared to craft beer.

          • Anonymous

            “an inferior product, BUD never be compared to craft beer.”

            Craft beer isn’t better by virtue of being “craft beer”.

          • Anonymous

            Uhhh… non-craft beers. Try to keep up, k?

          • winkee

            First of all how is a non-craft beer comparable to a craft beer? you are comparing apples and oranges.
            It is naturally more expensive to buy a craft beer than industrial piss like Molson Canadian (2.20 for a 473 ml can) vs say Amsterdam Blonde (2.65 a 473 ml can) for reason. The reason is they are made with better ingredients, in smaller batches instead of the massive wort streams that Molson uses to make its products and then waters down or adds flavouring here or there to make different products ie Molson 67, Canadian etc. That isn’t going to change if beer is sold in a convenience store or not, so is your point that big three garbage is more expensive than small brewers craft beers?

          • Anonymous

            ” so is your point that big three garbage is more expensive than small brewers craft beers?”

            Yes, cause clearly when I said we pay a premium for craft beer, I meant to say that non-craft beer is more expensive – get a grip.

            Premium quality has virtually NOTHING to do with premium price in the context of this conversation. You keep going on about PREMIUM quality, when we’re talking about PREMIUM pricing. I know, they both have PREMIUM in them, but it’s not the same…

            “It is naturally more expensive to buy a craft beer”

            So you agree, that there is a premium on craft beer? Why the F are you arguing with me than?

          • Michael DiFrancesco

            Don’t bother trying to get @torontothegreat to understand. The rest of us get it. They won’t. It’s okay.

          • Anonymous

            It’s okay, I’m used to it. I get paid to worry about business concepts that armchair critics like yourself are too stupid to realize for themselves. Thank god for idiots like you two, it keeps people with more knowledge on this subject employed. So thank you!

          • Michael DiFrancesco

            Don’t bother trying to get @torontothegreat to understand. The rest of us get it. It’s okay.

          • Anonymous

            Is it pure coincidence that the 2 of you are misusing words that have very specific meanings?

        • Anonymous

          A possibility is not the same thing as nor is it desirable as a certainty. If said certainty could actually happen, then I’d say ‘Yeah, go ahead and get rid of the LCBO.’ But since the said certainty will never happen without the result mentioned by the craft beer makers, I’d say that the best thing for the people of Ontario to do is to continue with the system as is rather than risk destroying the system for a ‘posibility’ that would be the worst of both worlds.

  • Anonymous

    I can see where this concern is coming from, particularly when you look at it from the perspective of non-urban centres where there is less literal and figurative room for niche retailing.

    Thing is, I still feel that relying on the current system is simply being risk-averse – if there is a viable market for a product, people will find a way to bring those products to their market.

  • http://twitter.com/benelling Ben Elling

    Growing up in Michigan, I can say that craft brews had no problem getting shelf space. Sure, if you walked into a 7-11 you’d find the big companies, but you also had a boom of speciality stores that catered to craft beer. It’s a thing of beauty walking into a store that stocks a diverse range of local beer, and I miss it so.

    • BeerDude

      I can see this not being an issue…. IF the craft brewer has the distribution channel of the “big boys” – for example – Creemore Springs is still considered a microbrew (same goes for Granville Island) but they are owned by Molson-Coors – and while the beer is not messed with – the taste, ingredients etc. doesn’t change the distribution offered by Molson-Coors is huge. Other Craft Brewers should seek similar partnerships IF they want to get their beer a wider audience/distribution channel

      • Anonymous

        Or they should form their own distribution partnership, separate from Big Beer, thereby helping the entire microbrew industry.

    • Greg Terry

      Michigan is not the same as Ontario though since a brewer from michigan, even if he can only get into one or two specialty stores in each major city in his state can also easily get his products into specialty stores in Ohio, or Pennsylvania or NY or Indiana, which significantly increases the number of stores he can sell in. But if small brewers in Ontario only have access to 1 or 2 specialty stores and only in major cities, that is what maybe 10 stores, and you are competing with every other small brewer for space in those stores, and it is next to impossible to sell your product outside of Ontario.

      • http://twitter.com/benelling Ben Elling

        A fair point.

      • Chris

        That’s an argument to dismantle interprovincial trade barriers. Nothing else.

  • LCBO fan

    I agree with Ken Woods completely. Just look at the crap wine that is available at depanneurs in Montreal. Hey, they even call it Depanneur Wine as in “not bad for a depanneur wine”. I can only imagine what you get in a small town. Convenience stores don’t want to deal with multiple suppliers so they will pick one maybe two and take whatever they suggest. At the LCBO, we can get good beer and wine anywhere – I’m fine with that.

    • Anonymous

      If a depaneur’s regular customers want a particular wine then the dep owners will try to stock it. If a customer wants a bigger selection they can visit the SAQ.

    • Tristou

      No, the reason the wine is crap is because by law, it has to be bottled in Québec and is normally shipped over it huge vats (or even worse is reconstituted stuff). See http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/559293 for more info on why it’s not completely the SAQ’s fault, either.

      Beer is a whole ‘nother matter. There are excellent microbrew beers in dépanneurs throughout the province, and most of them local, although some microbreweries have set up their own distribution network to help get them to other markets — see http://www.distribieres.com/en/distribieres-mission.html

      And in small towns, just like in Ontario where there isn’t demand enough for a full-blown LCBO, the SAQ stocks and sells its wines in their own little section in a grocery store or dépanneur. And you can get any wine shipped to any SAQ and still pay the same price for it. And they also will deliver it to your house and pay half the Canada Post delivery price, before taxes — a case of 12 bottles would cost you $5.50 to be delivered in Montréal, or $8.55 to somewhere in Gaspé, for example.

  • http://twitter.com/City_Mayor Mare Ford

    Hey, wherever is easiest to grab my mickey at lunch is fine by me.

  • http://twitter.com/City_Mayor Mare Ford

    Hey, wherever is easiest to grab my mickey at lunch is fine by me.

  • Anonymous

    This doesn’t quite wash. Is Woods assuming that the ‘competition’ between LCBO and The Beer store would cease if corner stores were brought into the mix? I have not read anywhere that either location would stop selling beer. But perhaps he knows something we do not.

    But either way, people all over the world have managed to beat the majors and find quality product, whether beer or anything else. I find it hard to believe that discerning beer drinkers in Ontario would not be capable of doing the same thing. If that were not the case micros would not be making any money from LCBO.

  • Klaus-in-Toronto

    I think this opposition is short-sighted. Small local retailers know their markets, and will carry the products their customers want. Sure, some retailers will focus on Molson/Labatt/Moosehead, but others won’t. I have seen this elsewhere in Canada (Quebec, Alberta) and also when I lived in Chicago where the local convenience store carried lots of craft beer because it sold really well. Even the Walgreens (Shopper’s) in my neighbourhood carried craft beer. What this needs to really be about is breaking the monopoly so that we get true variety and choice – and not be limited to the whims of what the Beer Store and LCBO choose to sell.

  • Klaus-in-Toronto

    I think this opposition is short-sighted. Small local retailers know their markets, and will carry the products their customers want. Sure, some retailers will focus on Molson/Labatt/Moosehead, but others won’t. I have seen this elsewhere in Canada (Quebec, Alberta) and also when I lived in Chicago where the local convenience store carried lots of craft beer because it sold really well. Even the Walgreens (Shopper’s) in my neighbourhood carried craft beer. What this needs to really be about is breaking the monopoly so that we get true variety and choice – and not be limited to the whims of what the Beer Store and LCBO choose to sell.

  • kidk

    Convenience stores in New York City have some of the best selection of local beer and Belgian beers I’ve ever seen. The big labels are there, too, but don’t dominate. Discerning consumers are going to buy the product they want as long as it’s available. Blaming the ignorance of the consumer is a poor way to grow a business.

  • Anonymous

    So the current system is better because it makes business better for the little guys? My issue here is that businesses leveraging the government for success is something that people complain about ALL the time. Corporate tax cuts, lobbyists, free trade agreements. People hate these things. Granted these are for the big businesses. But is it really the government’s responsibility here to keep a system alive just so that craft brewers can have a chance? I get the opposition to it, but people who like craft beer will find craft beer. If you walk into the LCBO to get some Bud Lite, you’re in all likelihood going to leave with some Bud Lite, and not some fancy west coast IPA or craft wheat beer.

  • meh

    Most LCBOs still carry a crap beer selection. Microbrews are thriving in the US despite convenience store sales.

  • Aeroman380

    My issue with the wine and beer here in ON is that local brew is the same or MORE than imports or “premium.” I should be able to go to a local brewery or winery to SUPPORT my local business and get it cheaper or better price. Just like in England or other places we should be able to support local businesses!

  • Anonymous

    Woods says craft beers do well sold through depaneurs because Québec has a strong craft-brew culture, while Ontario’s is not that developed, and so he argues against convenience. But craft beers emerged and succeeded within Québec’s depaneur sales system, so how can that be an obstacle to their development?

    • Tapsucker

      Actually, the dep system is totally broken for craft beer. There are very few retail outlets for craft beer in Quebec. You can probably buy more Quebec craft beers at the LCBO than you can readily find in Quebec. A big city like Montreal only has a few outlets stocking any craft beer, let alone a wide range. The SAQ doesn’t stock anything. It amazes me that so many brilliant breweries survive at all. Generally people only know them from having their beer on tap at the brewery or have picked up bottles in Vermont, NY or Ontario.
      I would also argue that the ‘culture’ is not all that far ahead. Go to a locovore restaurant in Quebec and ask for a beer. They’ll probably put a Keith’s in front of you. They respect wine, but beer is only something to finish drinking so you can throw the bottle at a hockey riot. ;-)

      • JF

        What exactly do you consider a craft beer in your estimation? Because I couldn’t think of a less accurate statement. Even if you discount Boreal, Belle Guelle, and Tremblay (which count, and would absolutely count in Ontario, but they’re ubiquitous in Montreal), you still have McAuslan everywhere, Brasseurs de Montreal, and Dieu du Ciel in half the convenience stores, most of the grocery stores. Restaurants are no worse in Quebec than in Ontario, while at downtown bars it’s as likely as not that the micro-brew pint is the day’s special. Quebec has a fine beer culture and to say it doesn’t is giving the place a pretty blind glance.

  • Skippy the Magical Racegoat

    The problem is that the campaign to open up competition in beer sales simply doesn’t go far enough. This is primarily the product of a self-serving Canadian Convenience Stores Association.

    Also allowing beer sales by independent boutiques, gourmet stores and grocery stores (have you been to a Whole Foods in California lately?) would undoubtedly give a boost to craft brewers not in Ontario and abroad, and allow much more consumer choice.

    Another option, which is sometimes brought up, is to allow bars and restaurants to offer bottle or growler takeaways. This is the reality in several parts in the U.S. Because our bars are already licensed and highly regulated, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

  • FreeTheBeers

    Apparently some of Ontario’s craft brewers should take the occasional trip across the border to New York State or Michigan…or most any other state. I’ve traveled across the U.S. to all points of the compass and I’ve found local craft beers in corner stores in the most out of the way places. The LCBO has an abysmal selection of Ontario Craft Beers in all but their flagship locations…I make a point of checking LCBO”s and outlet stores across Ontario and rarely find any Ontario craft products unless the brewer is nearby…there’s always plenty of dreck from the Big Beer or cheap Euro imports, though. Ditch the LCBO….it’s time Ontario grew up.

  • http://twitter.com/VinceTripp Vince Tripp

    This makes no sense to me. There are plenty of craft beers available in Buffalo with their open distribution there. It’s not like you can only find beer from the big brewers..

    • http://www.darcykelley.com DarcyK

      100% true. For example, go into Wegmans or Tops and they have 2 times as many unique brews as the best Beer Store or LCBO here.

  • Morgasm

    Do our Ontario brewers have Stockholm Syndrome or something? Open the door to private sellers, then SHOW THEM that there’s a place for craft beer on the shelves. This is a one-hundred-percent no-brainer win for the craft beer industry. I am appalled at how short-sighted these people are. I’m from BC where craft brewing has been flourishing for decades, and beer culture and availability is approximately a decade ahead of where it is here. You guys don’t even know… opening the doors to private retailers and private importers is the way of the future. If you can sell beer in a corner store, that means you can’t very well tell a guy who wants to open a beer store that sells only craft beer that he can’t do it. This is UN-fucking-believable that anybody would be against this, let alone the craft brewers.

    • http://www.darcykelley.com DarcyK

      Yeah, it makes no sense the craft brewers would oppose an increase in distribution channels or outlets. I’ve been to Montreal maybe 30 times and anywhere I’m in the city – north, east, south, west – it’s easy to find Quebec micros from even the smallest of producers. Put this way, those who want Coors Light or Ex will buy that. Those who want micros will buy that. More outlets = more choice and availability. Lastly, I know several depanneur owners personally, and 2 of them said the micros generate higher sales and profit per square foot than many of the big brands. They’re business people; if customer say they want the micros, the owners will carry them.

  • Morgasm

    Also, in the states, understand… again, it’s amazing that this even has to be explained, but anybody who has been to bigger cities in the states, New York, Chicago, Seattle, LA etc knows the deal… you go into a friggin 7-11 and yes, you’ll see Budweiser and Rolling Rock, but next to them, you’ll see at the VERY LEAST a couple of Sierra Nevada brews, and probably other medium-sized craft brewers like (increasingly) Stone, North Coast, Smuttynose etc… I’m ignoring the psuedo-craft guys like Pyramid that are owned by Annheiser-Busch and talking about real craft brews from America. The demand is there! But the old monopolies have to be broken down one step at a time.

  • gamak

    Restricting sales to corner stores is a pointless restriction on freedoms, versus completely opening up the market.

    Why should we continue to ban specialty beer stores, grocers, resto/retail, bar/retail and other types of enterprises that entrepreneurs might dream up!? Even on the big-corporate end of things, I can’t imagine a Loblaws or Whole Foods that would lack a great selection of craft brews provided they were legally allowed to retail them.

    I agree corner stores are likely to only stock big brands, but that’s why I don’t buy bread from 7-11. Thankfully, there is no additional rule that says “you can only buy bread from your local corner store”.

  • http://www.darcykelley.com DarcyK

    Ken of Black Oak is a decent guy, but here, just just dead wrong. Take Montreal. It’s almost too easy to find Unibroue, Trois Mousquetaires, Dieu de Ciel, BdM, and many more tiny tiny micros from Charlevoix. You just got to be willing to spend some time finding out which ones carry good beer. Then, put them into your Goolge Maps. At most, they will be 10 minutes apart – perhaps closer than your nearest LCBO here. In sum, finding craft brewery beers is easy in Montreal. It’s fear mongering by Ken and Mike Arnold that c-stores will shut them out. Nonsense. C-stores will sell what sells, plain and simple. And those living downtown Toronto already trek to LCBO stores for more than Canadian or Blue. Lastly, I boycott Beer Boutique; anyone that sells beer but won’t take the bottles back is a piece of s**t.

  • Anonymous

    I would challenge this article as hype by someone with an interest outside the destroy the monopoly group (nearly all citizens). Visit any supermarket you care to visit in the USA and you will find almost every local craft beer on display. I would argue the opposite of this article.and think the freedom to place craft beers in local stores would be much greater. To increase the sales of craft beers to more outlets would require the same salesmanship and promotion any other product would face trying to expand its market. And yes smaller stores may not carry all the local crafts but bigger stores will absolutely. The track record of places that have free markets for beer prove this article wrong. Stop the paternalistic attitude for Ontario adults, enough.

  • crob000

    It just means small brews must compete instead of gouging for a bottle more than half full of just water. How atrocious to ask for prices equal to market value… greed greed greed that is all that drives these prices now. I think I am done with Booze altogether. Next time I want to buy any, I am considering making a trip to the US. Pay proper prices that still make companies into billionaires and not claim anything coming back since Canada is apparently full of shit heads that want to extort from you any way they can. Welcome to canada… What a fucking shit hole we have become. Armpit of American is bang on. Did you know Australia consistently uses Canada as an example of what not to do EVER….