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Aug 21, 2008 08:16 AM

The Beer Store and selection [split from Ontario]

(This discussion was split from the Ontario board at: -- The Chowhound Team).

Does The Beer Store do anything to promote or encourage Ontario microbrews?

Perhaps if we had wine and beer in corner stores the market would get sorted out.

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  1. not that i'm aware of. i'm not even sure if i've seen the beer store promote anything but twoonie beer specials.

    i'm going to assume they have similar restrictions like lcbo with regards to production amounts before they'll stock it.

    what i'd actually love to see is consignment beer shops. we have it for wine! why can't i get it for beer? at $4 a beer it's much more affordable for a case of wine and will get me testing out new stuff with more beer dinners.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pinstripeprincess

      Not sure about the beer store, but the LCBO definitely promotes local microbrews. At the Summerhill Store anyow there are often special displays highlighting tasting and food matches. I mostly ignore them :), but they are there.

      1. re: pinstripeprincess

        Beer Store ==> owned by Molson's and Labatt's.
        LCBO ==> government interested in messing up the whole system.
        Domestic Microbrews ==> Left out in the cold with unfair legislation, and no budgets to fight them
        Domestic Wineries ==> VQA was the spearhead at achieving what they want...and got it.

        Yes it is a very crooked game. Why you can't get it for beer is because our crooked politicians don't give a flying about that. This thread is a fine example of how people just don't know what's going on with the back-40 in this industry. Our Ontario beer distribution system is foreign owned and has legislation to keep domestic producers from having the ability to sell.

      2. I know the micros have been complaining lately and I think it's a healthy debate to have. But frankly, I can get MANY good local brews at my local Beer Store - Greenwood and Danforth, not a fancy hood or a specialty store. If the store didn't carry Labatts, Molson, etc, and make good money of those high volume sales, I highly doubt they would be open, let alone sell a decent collection of local brews.
        I like Tankhouse, Black Oak Pale Ale, Neustatd 10wD.

        7 Replies
        1. re: julesrules

          Huh. That's my beer store as well and I concur with julesrules. I didn't know the beer store was owned by Molson's and Labatt's though. BeeRich, can your recommend further reading?

            1. re: JamieK

              Actually, InBev, MolsonCoors and Sapporo are the owners.

            2. re: bluedog

              I don't know what you mean about further reading. On a specific topic?

            3. re: julesrules

              Lately? How about for the past 25 years? If you want good beer, there's 2 places to go:

              - Front Street LCBO...always get to know your beer manager

              - LCBO Store 10 (or is it 12?) at Summerhill & Yonge. I used to work there ages ago (served Bruno Gerussi after he lost his job)

              These two stores compete with eachother, so use that to get in more diverse product.

              1. re: julesrules

                This was our local Beer Store before moving away. The problem I have with this style beer store is it easier for everyone to just order a case (24 bottles) of Blue or Canadian because it keeps the line moving. I think the micros would do better with a set up where people could browse. Some beer stores have that now and I wonder if sales of the big breweries go down at those locations, hence why that concept isn't proliferating.

                I've seen a lot of people shoot daggers at some one in front who can't quite make up there mind looking at the myriad of bottles and choices and then having to repeat it, it doesn't condone trying something new.

                1. re: GGS

                  In any case, the owners would research and curtail items that don't meet their needs. Micros have no say at BRI, and we've been told directly that we aren't allowed to start our own distribution system. That's illegal, as it's anti-competitive, but it would have to go through court to get anywhere.

              2. The selection at most Montreal deps is nothing special. In my hood I can totally see the 7-11 and independent variety stores being happy to carry Molson and Labatt and not much more. There might be some great specialty stores but it's unlikely they would be as accessible to my car-free family as the current Beer Stores.

                6 Replies
                1. re: julesrules

                  But that's not the point. The point of selling beer of any quality isn't to provide easy access to cases of beer. It's to provide quality, at any volume, at any price, to any market. It's to provide a healthy system of business behind domestic and foreign producers of product so that everybody wins. The world of food isn't about reducing the time it takes to get through a drive-thru.

                  1. re: BeeRich

                    Actually, selling beer is about making money, period. And having beer in corner stores isn't going to do anything for microbreweries, as they won't be willing to waste cooler space on them when they can just fill them with bud, canadian and blue, any of which (unfortunately) will sell much faster than any micro. You don't see micro-brew soft-drinks in corner stores, why would they carry micro beers?

                    And specialty stores require a lot of overhead, so will end up only being in large markets. At least if a brewery can get into the Beer Store conglomerate, they have the potential of reaching the entire province. The VQA stores might survive, but small wineries have a lot more money behind them than do microbreweries (many of the smaller wineries aren't independent any more, but owned by large megacorps who let them operate as independents but have deep pockets).

                    I used to live in Ontario, now Alberta where though we don't have corner store beer we do have private liquor stores and the selection in most of them is no better, maybe even worse, than the Ontario stores. Sure, we have some that have great selection, but the average store stocks the big sellers and cheap prices. And I have drank lots of beer in lots of countries, and nowhere is it easy to find good selection of microbrews. Distribution channels, cost, etc don't make it conducive for selling outside of a small geographic region.

                    1. re: Dan G

                      Selling beer is about making money, but I think you're very wrong about corner stores being unwilling to "waste" cooler space on micros. I live in Buffalo, and, while I recognize our system is entirely different from that in Ontario, we've got a healthy selection of micros in most corner stores, and better yet, Consumer's Beverage stores located around the region - and we're not really a big market. (Consumer's is a beer store that resembles the Beer Store, except they sell a wide variety of hard-to-find imports, craft brews, and local brews).

                      I can't believe the paltry choices at The Beer Store. If I have to buy beer in Canada, I drive an hour out of my way to a location where I can get something other than Labatt, Molson, or AKeith's. I can't believe how hard it is to find even a Unibroue! So my question is - Why do some Beer Stores have better brews/selection than others?

                      1. re: bflocat

                        I think it partly has to do with availability from the brewer - these are called "microbreweries" for a reason. If they were making enough to supply the whole province (and parts of other provinces possibly), they would end up being just another Sleemans...

                        I actually like the fact that I can get different beers in different places. It makes travelling around the country interesting.

                      2. re: Dan G

                        Only if you just shop at your local corner store for beer. Is that where you buy your food as well? I've had people drive across Southern Ontario, thinking we would have a special beer on tap at a beer event. Boy were they down when it wasn't available. So there you go. Many people will go to a proper place to shop for not only micros, but other imports from all around the world. Oh...wait...Store 10 and Store 12 come to mind, of the LCBO's.

                        Second, the small brewers could also run their own system. Thirdly, small brewers do not want to reach the whole province. BRI doesn't reach the entire province, and LCBO takes up the slack. 20 Bees, a consolidation of wineries, were 20 independents. Recently gone under, bought up by Dan Akroyd. And yes, if there were openings in legislation, there would be lots more money into beer than wine. Lots.

                        Alberta is not beer country. Alberta is not a market to discuss beer in. Your micro presence has been pretty poor, and your palate is quite restricted. And as I said, if you go to 7/11 to buy beer, you know what to expect.

                        Ontario has many things going for it, when it comes to the potential of small domestic brewers, and imported products. That's why there's been unfair legislation in place for so long, so that the crap product from the large brewers can maintain control. It's that simple.

                      3. re: BeeRich

                        I do think it's good the micros are raising awareness and there are no doubt some problems with the system. But I'm just not convinced that a different distribution system would lead to a) BETTER micros being produced in Ontario or b) ANY micros being more available to me, in fact I suspect they would be less available.

                    2. My LCBO will order anything stocked anywhere in its system at no extra charge.

                      I don't think my The Beer Store will, though I may be wrong. Even though we're a distant, small market, there is a large selection of Indie beers - if I buy some, will it still be good?

                      Now another question regards LCBO/Beer Store independent franchises in small centres where no normal outlet exists. These small stores have a deal of independence as to open hours, but what about selection and special orders?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: DockPotato

                        Yes, but it might take months to get, IF you get it. BRI will not take special orders. It used to cost $22,900 to list a single product (per package size) just to LIST the product for BRI. They don't do special orders. They shove Coors' Lite in front of you, and they say "there, that's beer".

                        A lot of people are tired of living in the 70's.

                      2. I was in Toronto almost thirty years ago and can someone refresh my memory. I got a case or two to take back to the US and it seemed that you placed an order and it came out on a conveyor belt or something. Is my memory bad, am I too old, or did I have too many Canadians and Labatt's blue? This was before you could get it in Texas, is this beer the same as sold in the US? I thought I heard that somewhere. Funny how different areas have different laws. I went to a liquor store in Upstate New York and asked for wine and was told you couldn't buy wine because,"this is a liquor store." Oh. I Louisiana you can buy liquor in convienience strores and daquiris in drive thru lanes.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: James Cristinian

                          The Beer Stores still use conveyor belts, and the Canadian and Blue are the same as they are in the US - made in Canada, distributed into US. I just moved back to Upstate NY (where you must buy wine and hard alcohol in the liquor stores but not beer - beer and wine coolers are only sold in grocery stores and specialized "beer stores"), from Louisiana, and it's a big shock. I'll admit I drank the drive-thru daquiris just for the experience of the drive-thru daquiri.

                          1. re: James Cristinian

                            You do remember correctly. I remember as a child being fascinated by the whole process (just as I was by shopping at Consumer's Distributing, but I digress). Not all of the Beer Stores have those conveyors any more. The new, big Beer Stores are self service.

                            1. re: James Cristinian

                              yeah well I remember when you had to fill out a little slip of paper at a counter with a little pencil and hand it over to a guy at another counter at the LCBO store who would then go to the back to get it for me in order to buy a bottle of booze or wine. They didn't have beer then either. I still can't believe that.

                              1. re: JamieK

                                I also seem to remember these stores as being government run. Is this correct?

                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                  They were always the LCBO and it is still government run in that it's a provincial crown corporation. JamieK. I remember my dad having a "liquor licence" and having to renew it each year. It was paper card and had to be produced with each purchase.