Quoted: Veteran brewer Michael Hancock on purchased draft lines

Michael Hancock

“I would like to see an end to the illegal under-the-table dealings of most major and some craft breweries.

When dealing with licensees this activity completely distorts the true reasons for doing business which is surely to buy or make a product that is good and truly popular and then sell it for a fair markup with no further influences.

In order for this to happen the AGCO will have to enforce the rules that exist instead of slapping the hands of major corporations every few years with a fine that is so relatively small that it is seen to be merely the cost of doing business.”

Michael Hancock is veteran of Ontario’s beer scene, having worked in the industry for nearly 40 years. He was one of the founders of Denison’s Brew Pub where he developed his world class Denison’s Weissbier and since 2010 has been a partner in Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Co. He delivered the remarks above as part of a “Pioneers Panel” at the Ontario Craft Brewer’s Conference on October 16, 2014, when he was asked what he would like to see change in the brewing industry in the next few years.

Hancock’s comments come following mini-uproar in the United States started when Dann Paquette, co-founder and brewer of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, went on a late night twitter rant about the practice of larger breweries purchasing draft lines and the difficulties small brewers have getting into bars as a result. A handful of larger media outlets have since picked up Paquette’s story and, as a result, Massachusetts lawmakers are now looking into the practice.

As Hancock points out, the practice is likewise rampant in Ontario and is similarly illegal (and it’s an issue that I have written about previously).

Following Dann Paquette’s public comments, some Ontario beer industry folks suggested that perhaps this practice would be less widespread if people had some means of outing bar owners who don’t play fairly. To test this theory, I created a completely anonymous website for submissions about tales of “dirty draft lines.”

Since it was created on October 15, 2014, Dirty Lines has received zero submissions.


Photo credit: Ian Willms

3 thoughts on “Quoted: Veteran brewer Michael Hancock on purchased draft lines

  1. 8 days and you expect that you’ll have a long list? Actually, thanks for putting that there. Maybe with a bit of coverage, it will take off. While no fan of the beer store, I would rather see these type of things that are way more damaging to smaller (note not craft) brewers getting into the market.

  2. Once again, Michael Hancock has so eloquently said what I have been trying to say for a while (and just end up yelling at people on occasion…).

    More than the LCBO issues and the stupid Beer Store monopoly that will eventually end, THIS is the key issue. If rules are not enforced then no system can work. If money makes the rules, then the consumer (and ethical small brewers) will suffer. My experience has been that nearly all Ontario craft breweries, and their association, are more than complicit in the ‘kick backs’ or the vaguely disguised equivalents that happen at > 90% of the bars I have spoken with.

    It is so prevalent, and accepted as a ‘part of the business’ that it’s not even cleverly disguised anymore by most. If you have any friend in the industry, ask what versions of this game they personally have witnessed and you will have a lot of stores.

    The lack of evidence is not the issue, it’s the POLITICAL will to do anything about it. The AGCO is well aware, but unless pushed by active complaints they are ‘not a policing agency’ in their words, and they feel no pressure or directive from their legislative overlords at the Ontario Legislature to change (for whatever reasons, but speculation that it’s related to massive political contributions by macro breweries to politicians is at least a fair guess).

    The last part about anonymously outing other breweries is at least something, but I have hesitations on taking that approach and would prefer an open dialogue with other brewers to all come to an agreement on how we grow this industry in a positive and ethical way. It would have to involve admissions of past practices and a ‘clean slate’ approach going forward. It is the better way for everyone including consumers. I’m just not sure who will go willingly to this new world order, and who will have to be outed. In this area, the lack of leadership by an association is clearly a sore point, and brings up another critical issue that will have to be addressed sooner rather than later if the industry is to grow and thrive in Ontario as it does in so many other places. But for now, Michaels voice is great to have, we need a few more.

    Jason Fisher
    The Indie Alehouse

  3. I also own a small Ontario brewery and it really hurts when Im told that a tap will cost me 500 to 1000 at an account. It also really hurts to see the larger OCB breweries throw money around, kick backs, free product etc etc to bar owners. The OCB needs to set some standards about best practices and have them followed.

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