As has been posited by fellow beer scribe Jordan St. John, it once seemed like roughly every six months we were inundated with a slew of articles about the makes-you-want-to-smash-your-head-through-drywall-it’s-so-frustrating world of beverage alcohol in Ontario.
Six months seemed to be roughly the amount of time it would take people to forget that one company was allowed to have 440 retail beer stores in this province while the people who actually make beer in Ontario were still only legally allowed to have one. And so this was the amount of time that would pass before some article would pop up, cause some outrage, make the rounds on social media, then quietly die with nothing ever coming of it. Some beer writers may have even used this cyclical outrage to build a reputation as something of a shit disturber. Ahem.
Recent events, however, seem to have put St. John’s hypothesized six month cycle into hyper-drive. To name just a few of the items keeping our beer woes on the radar, there has been:
- a report released by independent right-wing think tank The CD Howe Institute in August of this year which called for more competition in alcohol sales;
- the semi-widely publicized struggles of small brewers Beyond The Pale in Ottawa and Bellwoods Brewery in Toronto who are trying to open second locations but coming up against bureaucracy preventing them from opening second stores;
- an ugly public feud between The Beer Store and Ontario’s convenience stores over who should get to sell booze in the province; and, most recently
- a panel led by TD Bank CEO Ed Clark that recommended last month that the province start charging The Beer Store for the right to maintain their monopoly (if you’re interested, I had some thoughts on this last one recently, over here).
It would seem then, with print media fairly saturated with beery outrage as of late and our collective frustrations seemingly coming to a head, the timing is right to bring The Beer Store / LCBO quasi-monopoly issue to the big screen.
And so two documentary film-makers have done just that.
Peter Lenardon and A.J. Wykes, two former Blackberry employees, decided one day that someone ought to make a movie about just how crazy this province’s retail alcohol industry is. And so Lenardon, a photographer and videographer, and Wykes, a sound engineer, ran a Kickstarter campaign to finance their film and produced Straight Up: The Issue of Alcohol in Ontario.
If you’re the kind of IPA-swirling beer nerd who reads my blog regularly (I love you all, by the way), the movie probably won’t provide you with any shocking revelations–but that’s not really the point. Instead the film, which lays bare the issues often lamented in so many column inches, presents the facts in just the right graphic-heavy, pithy tone that seems needed to drive the outrage home for all of those who don’t currently mine twitter and Bar Towel for the latest beer scandals (again, love you all. Thanks for your support). And given that something like 80% of this province is still ignorant of the fact that only one private beer retailer is currently allowed to operate in Ontario, it’s great there’s something that’s likely a little more accessible that will be soon be available to the masses.
That said, there are parts of this film that even hardcore beer nerds will appreciate. The input from Jim Brickman, the founder of Brick Brewing Company and essentially the first guy to even try to take on the big brewers in any real way was insightful, and the lads from Toronto Distillery Company offering up an attempt at explaining the insane process of trying to sell booze to a bar in the same god damn town as the distillery were equal parts amusing and infuriating.
I certainly think this is a film that every beer drinking Ontarian should watch. And I even said so in a blurb for their trailer, embedded below!
You can catch the entire movie on Thursday November 13th when it will stream live over on Ontario beer news aggregate site Mom ‘n Hops.
Open a beer and check it out.