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Jul 20, 2010 05:35 AM

Any Dep selling American Microbrews?


Hi all!

I am looking to try some of the more interesting American Microbrews and am having a hard time finding somewhere to buy them. Don't get me wrong, Quebec beer is a truly wonderful thing but I've tried most of them now and I want to branch out a bit.

I am especially looking for Dogfish Head and their 'historical' beers.

If anyone knows where I can find American Microbrews, please let us all know!

So far, I have tried Rahman but no luck.


  1. nope
    my two wishes are for there to be magic hat and steamwhistle in quebec

    4 Replies
    1. re: celfie

      You don't know of any deps selling them OR you're certain that there are none?

      1. re: The Chemist

        Regulations and distribution channels being what they are, I'd be very surprised to see any US microbrews make it here anytime soon.

        1. re: SnackHappy

          If that's the case, I wonder if the SAQ will order something special, like than can do with wine... I will investigate and report back.

          1. re: The Chemist

            You can private-order beer, wine and spirits through the SAQ. The process used to be long, onerous and expensive but they claim to have streamlined it (would be surprised if they've made it any more affordable). See

            Before going that route, though, you should contact the brewer in question to inquire if they have a Quebec agent. A few "wine importers" also carry beers (Rézin used to represent Mad River Brewing Company, La QV currently represents Jolly Pumpkin and Saint Somewhere, etc.) and the brews you're looking for may already be available here on a private-import basis.

    2. I took a look at the Dogfish head distribution map and it is sold in some Ontario LCBOs and also in Fredericton but they show no distributors in Quebec.

      You probably already took a look at it but if not here is that map in case you are travelling anytime soon:

      2 Replies
      1. re: blond_america

        Thanks for the map, I'll have to send my Toronto friends on a mission for me!

        1. re: blond_america

          They probably don't want to translate every label into French! All ethnic products and anything made outside Quebec has to have a French label on it for at least the ingredients.

        2. I usually stock up on US microbrews at the City Market in Burlington. Not exactly a local dep, but considering the likelihood of these beers becoming available in Quebec and the process involved in privately importing them, this might be your easiest option.

          They have a great selection, including a number of Dogfish brews. Not sure about the hostorical beers, but I recently bought 4-packs of their Palo Santo Marron and their Indian Brown Ale. They also have the 60 and 90 minute IPAs in stock on a regular basis. Although their stuff is a little over the top, it's good fun.

          I would also recommend trying some of the Belgian-style brews from Alligash (Maine).

          2 Replies
          1. re: BrentMTL

            Allagash Black is delicious. Man, now I AM longing for some of those American microbrews!

            1. re: BrentMTL

              If you are willing to drive 45 minutes further south for a "historical brew", Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier carries Sah'tea. I would check in Burlington first though. If Hunger Mountain has it, likely City Market does too.

            2. I rather like Magic Hat; I tend to buy a six pack or two when I cross over into Vermont. (Again, Quebec, your beers are fantastic, but sometimes I just want something from the homeland that isn't Anheuser-Busch or any of that water). But the search for American microbrews here in La Belle Province is a lot like my love for small-batch gins/vodkas, etc. Unless it pops on SAQ, it's highly unlikely to be found. When I visit in the in-laws in Ontario, I stock up at the LCBO for things I can't get here. That being said, I write the SAQ to let them know what I am looking for and maybe one day, you guys can stock it?

              *sigh* I already remember the mournful email to Sweetwater Brewery (the microbrewery from Atlanta) asking if there was any way at all I could get them to ship here.

              Anyway, good luck!

              26 Replies
              1. re: Peaches to Poutine

                yeah, quebec is a wasteland for alcohol from elsewhere other than wine. i go to new york frequently so i stock up on bourbon and get some great beers at local bars. it's ridiculous what you can't get here. i hate the saq.

                1. re: Tiny Iota

                  I'm not inclined to blame the SAQ on the beer side of things.

                  Red tape and taxes are obvious barriers, but there are others.

                  There are plenty of good business reasons why most microbreweries shouldn't even bother trying to find distribution here:

                  - competition from Quebec microbreweries (the world's wineries don't have this problem)

                  - shipping costs will drive the price through the roof even before accounting for taxes etc. (beer being about 95% water makes it uneconomical to ship significant distances unless you have vast quantities of cheaply made swill to sell and the marketing budget to convince people to grossly overpay for it, e.g. Heineken)

                  - premium microbrew = small batches = most of it sold close to home, so why bother shipping it to QC? To make a profit, small breweries need to sell as much as possible as close to home as possible. The smaller the brewery, the more true that is.

                  This should tell you something about the quality of most of the European beers at the dep -- with a few exceptions they sell the German, English, Danish, Dutch, Belgian and French answers to Bud and Corona.

                  There's a stronger case against the SAQ on the spirits side of things, but ultimately they're catering to demand, and Quebecers tend to drink less hard stuff than Ontarians, for example.

                  1. re: Mr F

                    That makes a lot of sense. Especially the bit about competition with local micros. It would be almost impossible to come in at even remotely the same price points for a similar quality beer. The only people who would buy are either those who are ignorant to relative beer quality (although, considering how well Molson and Corona do, that might be a very small hurdle), or those looking for novelty.

                    1. re: Mr F

                      yeah, i was referring more to liquor. beer just doesn't make sense but why can't we at least get some good bourbon? would a couple of bottles of wild turkey 101 or wild turkey rye or ancient age of buffalo trace kill them? i know people would buy it if they had it. not a huge amount of stock just a few bottles in each montreal store. i'm sure it's ordered through the same channels as a lot of the other liquor they get. wine's great and everything but it'd be nice to have some balance.

                      1. re: Tiny Iota

                        Agreed. I don't have numbers to back this up, but it seems as though higher end beer and liquor is really catching up to wine in terms of both image and market share. It seems to me that good wine has become too more expensive in the past few years (personally, I blame the 2005 Bordeaux for increasing the prices of good wines, across the board, outside of my meager price range, although I am sure many wineophiles would disagree). In contrast, you can buy some of the world's best beer in a 750 mL format for what? 5 to 15$?

                        I really do wish that the SAQ would take beer and liquor more seriously.

                        1. re: The Chemist

                          I agree! I'm not much of a beer drinker, but I do wish the SAQ got behind high end gin more, myself, like Plymouth and Old Tom. And don't get me started on the pitiful vermouths.

                          1. re: TheSnowpea

                            I hear ya. I really love these small batch gins that are coming out of the US and a few classics from the UK. Only I can't find them here. I am really surprised that SAQ doesn't carry Victoria Gin from B.C. (which is quite lovely, I must add). It's a Canadian product, for crying out loud!

                            1. re: TheSnowpea

                              it is pretty ridiculous. at least in the u.s. you have your choice of liquor stores. as far as i'm concerned the saq is big government at its worst! at least for this part of the world. i did actually happen upon the saq restauration on st. zotique one day and i was flabbergasted. they had evan williams single barrel bourbon! they had EVERY bourbon that the saq carries but of course, us normal folk can't buy any. this store is for liquor license holders only. what a load! they had soju! i can't find that stuff anywhere!

                              1. re: Tiny Iota

                                Your complaints would carry more weight if you did your homework first. Checking the online (real-time) inventories on shows:

                                - Original Soju Jinro Chamjin isulro boisson alcoolisée, Code SAQ 11156887, 6,80 $
                                Available at 25 retail outlets on Montreal island.

                                - Jinro Maehwasu boisson alcoolique à la prune, Code SAQ 11157020, 8,25 $
                                Available at 26 retail outlets on Montreal island.

                                - Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Kentucky Bourbon 1999 , Code SAQ 10288247, 51,25 $
                                Available at seven retail outlets on Montreal island (though it looks like the current shipment is about sold out everywhere).

                                Yeah, it sucks to have to smuggle in bottles of Plymouth gin and Pimm's from Ontario and George Dickel and Punt e Mes from the States. And, yeah, it's hard to disagree that the SAQ could do better (and should do better, since it's a monopoly) in the beer and spirits categories. On the other hand, as Mr F points out, the sales just aren't there for them. Last year, Quebecers drank far more wine (average 21.4 litres per capita vs. 15.9 for Canada including Quebec) and far less spirits (4.1 litres vs. 7.6) than Canadians. In fact, spirits consumption is virtually stagnant in Quebec, accounting for 14.8% of the alcoholic beverages market in 2009-2010 vs. 14.9% in 2008-2009. Volume sales of spirits have grown only 2.8% over the last five years vs. 4.6% for all products sold at the SAQ. The only spirits whose sales have increased significantly in the last five years are rum (6.1%) and vodka (5.7%). Attempts to stock Plymouth have met with a big meh from Quebecers; it's probably why the SAQ dropped it from their catalogue.

                                1. re: carswell

                                  LOL I'm probably the only person in NDG keeping Hendricks, Citadelle and Tanqueray no. 10 sales going at the local SAQs X-D

                                  1. re: carswell

                                    I know you're right; it's just frustrating. Don't me wrong, I like wine, I do, but I like beer even more so in that sense Quebec is great. But when it comes to wanting a really nice small batch liquor for intimate get-togethers or hot summer days on the patio, well, GRRRRRRR.

                                    1. re: carswell

                                      you got me, carswell, i'm super lazy. the fact is, though that if i have to go halfway across town to pick up an even decent bottle of bourbon i'm probably not going to, i'll just wait until next time i head south of the border rather than get one of the four bourbons they carry. not every neighborhood has an saq. here in parc-ex there isn't one and the closest is on st. laurent in little italy. and actually, i have checked the saq's stock online and the stores that carry what i want are few and far between. i can go into any liquor store in the u.s. and they'll have wild turkey, buffalo trace,etc. and it's not like upstate new york is so different quebec that there would be a massive discrepancy. all i ask is that every store carry one or two bottles of the good stuff. they carry scotch, good scotch but what of bourbon or gin? they don't need a huge selection, just know what's really good and carry that. granted, high end liquor is a specialty market but with no other options it's up to them to provide for everyone. if the government would allow liquor retailers this wouldn't be a problem. in the meantime, the saq will have to deal with disgruntled alcoholics like myself.

                                      1. re: Tiny Iota

                                        The dismal Park Ex situation is, in all likelihood, temporary. The neighbourhood had a Classique store before the Gare Jean-Talon outlet opened and it'll probably be getting a replacement before long. It's unthinkable that the SAQ is unaware of the need, not to mention the potential market.

                                        «i can go into any liquor store in the u.s. and they'll have wild turkey, buffalo trace,etc.»
                                        For sure. And you can probably go into any store in Quebec and buy ice cider and Pineau des Charentes. Stores tend to carry what sells, and bourbon -- a quintessentially United Statesian spirit -- isn't a big seller in Quebec, where there's next to no tradition of drinking it (unlike NY). That said, it looks like I can buy a half dozen bourbons, some of them quite decent, within a ten-minute bike radius of my not-too-centrally-located CDN flat and a few more if I was willing to schlep to Rockland or downtown. And if I was really feeling lazy, I could have any of ten U.S. whiskeys, including Wild Turkey, delivered to my door for a small fee.

                                        «with no other options it's up to them to provide for everyone»
                                        Agree absolutely. If the government is going to saddle us with a monopoly, it behooves them to offer a representative range of products even when some of those products are not big money makers. On the other hand, they have made huge strides in recent years and I'd be hard pressed to think of an equivalently sized urban area I'd rather do my wine and spirits shopping in. With the understandable exception of U.S. wines, Montreal is far superior to, say, Dallas (and on the Wine board, SFBA hounds have expressed amazement at some of the wines we're able to get), while Quebec City is light years ahead of, say, Oklahoma City, Raleigh or Albuquerque.

                                        «if the government would allow liquor retailers this wouldn't be a problem.»
                                        First, it's probably not the government that's standing in the way. A few years ago, the neocons at the Montreal Economic Institute came out strongly in favour of privatization and it's a pretty safe bet that our neocon premier shares the same mindset. Back in the 1980s, the PQ government (believe it or not) tried to privatize the Montreal-area SAQ outlets. Two things caused their plans to grind to a halt: opposition from the unions and the fact that they couldn't find buyers for many of the stores, which were considered to have too slim a profit margin. You can be sure that the unions would still be opposed to privatization today.

                                        Second, even if privatization happened, I seriously doubt your ideal of a bourbon in every shop would be achieved. Far more likely that there'd be a few well-stocked specialty shops catering to the well-heeled downtown and in wealthier 'hoods and far less wide-ranging selections in areas like CDN and Park Ex, let alone Baie-St-Paul and Rimouski. We'd also probably lose perks like no-questions-asked returns of defective bottles even years after purchase, inter-store product transfers and the ability to see real-time inventories for every product on sale in the province.

                                        Personally, I'd like to see either a commitment on the SAQ's part to carry deserving but less profitable products (maybe a single store specializing in small-name spirits, artisanal vermouths, wines currently available only on a private-import basis, etc. and offering province-wide delivery) or an opening for private retailers willing to step in and fill the gap (similar to the Manitoba model perhaps).

                                        1. re: carswell

                                          "Personally, I'd like to see either a commitment on the SAQ's part to carry deserving but less profitable products (maybe a single store specializing in small-name spirits, artisanal vermouths, wines currently available only on a private-import basis, etc. and offering province-wide delivery) or an opening for private retailers willing to step in and fill the gap (similar to the Manitoba model perhaps)."

                                          Right on.

                                          I know, it's too much to expect for every SAQ to have good bourbon and that there isn't a huge market for it here, anyway. And we are blessed in other ways, notably wine and beer. I'm just being difficult. For the record I'd actually rather do my liquor shopping in Syracuse, New York or any other even mid-size American city than here. But overall we got things good, I totally agree. I'm not gonna' stop complaining, though! Not until they start carrying my precious Wild Turkey Rare Breed!

                                          1. re: carswell

                                            From what I understand, any specializations or unusual offerings by single stores are going by the wayside, in favour of a greater uniformization in the stores.

                                            My fave SAQ in NDG used to stock small amounts of unusual spirits, etc. I also liked going there because staff would label shelves with very reliable 'staff favourites'.

                                            When I noticed that had stopped (and that the gin selection was shrinking), I talked with the employees. Apparently SAQ administration has told all stores that stocks are to be standard from store to store (like all Express must pretty much have the same thing, and so on), and Staff Picks no longer allowed in order to not compete with the 'pastilles de couleurs' system that the SAQ is deploying. Such is the gossip I hear in the store :-|

                                            1. re: TheSnowpea

                                              «Apparently SAQ administration has told all stores that stocks are to be standard from store to store (like all Express must pretty much have the same thing, and so on), and Staff Picks no longer allowed in order to not compete with the 'pastilles de couleurs' system that the SAQ is deploying. Such is the gossip I hear in the store.»

                                              Odd, I've not heard anything of the sort, Snowpea. In the last month, my local Classique outlet has started carrying a couple of wines at my suggestion. One they ordered from the SAQ warehouse, the other they had transferred from another outlet with lots in stock. In both cases, it was a wine advisor -- not even a management employee -- who took the initiative and submitted the order.

                                              Also, the taste tags system applies only to regular products. There are no taste tags for specialty products. And even if there were, how would a descriptive tag or lack thereof interfere with an employee making a recco?

                                              Will be seeing a wine advisor friend next week and will ask for details. Until then, colour me suspicious.

                                              1. re: carswell

                                                I am curious to find out what you hear. I can only report what the employees told me. Maybe they had a bone to pick?

                                        2. re: carswell

                                          i don't really understand these underwhelming spirits statistics. have you ever gone to the saq on a friday or saturday evening? not much wine being sold. if there were more outlets in more areas with later hours i have no doubt that they would sell more spirits in montreal. the argument that there is no market is ridiculous. this is a major metropolitan center - we arehave more bars per capita than most cities in north america - do you think they serve mostly wine?????? if we didn't have the SAQ, you would see the niche for spirits fill in pretty damn quickly. All the SAQs always have these big cider displays in the center of the store??? Why the heck are they pushing cider???? i rarely ever see anyone buy any of those products. in fact, they frequently discount the iced cider by $20-$30 and still no one buys any. it's a racket. The SAQ does not know or care what montrealers want.

                                          1. re: celfie

                                            yeah, you might be right. i mean, i'm sure it's a racket (why wouldn't the saq be corrupt?). people buy what's available and if you only make wine and cider available that's what people will buy. i'm sure the stats are skewed because of it. but in canada we have a long tradition of pushing inferior local products over better stuff from elsewhere so i guess it only makes sense. not that i'm saying that everything from quebec stinks, we all know that's from the case but being a musician and having done some radio work i know how it can effect overall quality when you're forced to push homegrown stuff. when confronted with the choice of a good cider or jack daniels it's an easy choice.

                                            1. re: Tiny Iota

                                              the price of spirits are also outrageous! 750ml grey goose for $45 is insane - especially if you consider the exchange rate

                                              1. re: celfie

                                                Yeah, the price of booze is ridiculous. I've noticed some wine prices dropping as the dollar gets stronger, but no such luck with spirits.

                                                But I'm not buying the whole conspiracy/racket thing (which is not to claim that there's no corruption at the SAQ... but I see no evidence posted here that there *is*).

                                                The SAQ's main mandate is to make as much money as possible for the government, but does it really come as any surprise that they have a secondary mandate to promote local products? Which despite greater presence still take up a minuscule amount of shelf space in most of the stores I've seen.

                                                I have a vague recollection of local producers clamouring for more respect and exposure from the SAQ not too long ago. Now they're getting it and it's a corrupt plot to push people from gin to ice cider?

                                                Please. The stats are aggregate, and the lack of availability of specialty spirits is surely not what keeps them down. Like fine wine, fine specialty spirits are only of interest to a minority of people, and it's a stretch to think that wider availability of artisanal bourbon or gin or what-have-you would do much to change that.

                                                1. re: Mr F

                                                  let's not forget the SAQ exchange rate kick back scandal...Of course it's a racket - do you think the few big players stocked by the saq want to share their shelf space??? Just as with any government run service, lobbyists run the show. The most threatened by privatization are the few saq suppliers. this saq love fest can only be misdirected national pride. the saq is an embarassment to quebecers as it demonstrates our complacency.

                                                  1. re: celfie

                                                    That scandal involved a couple of senior managers -- bad apples -- who acted on their own and weren't going to derive any personal benefit. They were both fired and controls were put in place to ensure nothing of the sort ever happens again. The company is one of the most transparently run in the province. As a government corporation, its books are audited by internal auditors, external auditing firms and the Quebec auditor general. The figures cited above have been repeatedly verified. Some of them are also obtained from Stats Canada.

                                                    Of course, if the SAQ were privatized, it would have no bad apples. Just like Enron, AIG, Hollinger International and BP...

                                                    Shelf space and, to a large degree, product selection is determined through a transparent public tender process. Big players get more shelf space because they pay more for it (increasing government revenues in the process), which they can do because the demand for their products is high. Lobbyists -- as opposed to pitch men (i.e. Quebec-based agents) -- play no role in the process.

                                                    Prices are set using a formula. The base price is set by the supplier and the agent, not the SAQ. The SAQ's markup is fixed. If anyone is to blame for pricey Grey Goose, it's the government, which sets the duties, taxes and indirectly the markup, and the agent/supplier, which determines what it charges. Factors like exchange rates, the currency the contract is drawn up in, volume discounts, date of purchase and date of delivery also influence price.

                                                    The SAQ views spirits as a potential growth area. They've recently launched a spirits website -- -- and have begun introducing espacecocktail sections in their outlets. Current plans call for them to be one of the first things customers will see on entering the stores.

                                                    The "few SAQ suppliers" are actually in excess of 2,500.

                                                    The SAQ is hardly an embarrassment. It enjoys over-90% customer satisfaction ratings, including among ethnic (i.e. non-nationalist) customer segments. It's also generally well-regarded by suppliers and other retailers. In fact, to make up for the looming demographic-driven decline in product sales, the company has begun marketing its expertise abroad and, tellingly, is finding buyers.

                                                    While there's nothing wrong with knocking the SAQ and advocating privatization, the amount of misinformation on display in this thread is simply stunning.

                                                    1. re: carswell

                                                      carswell, can you direct me to the SAQ outlet which carries spirits from 2500 different suppliers?

                                                      1. re: celfie

                                                        No, and you probably can't direct me to one that does so elsewhere in North America.

                                                        The 2500+ suppliers are of all products (you didn't specify you were talking only about spirits suppliers). I've not seen the breakdowns by product category. I do know that there are plenty besides Diageo and the other big names. And I do know that you can easily find which stores carry a given product by searching

                                                      2. re: carswell

                                                        Oh carswell, stop trying to confuse us with your "facts"!

                            2. We've had to remove a number of angry responses from this thread, and the discussion as a whole is increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock this topic now.