Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Alberta gov issues fines for inducement, governing body in Ontario confirms they never have

Breweries providing cash and incentives in exchange for exclusivity in bars and pubs is an ingrained part of the beer industry.

I’ve written about this a few times over the years (most recently last week for my bi-weekly column Full Pour in the Metroland Media publication Our London). If you’re new to this issue (or my impotent ranting on the subject), the TL;DR version is this: if you’re sitting in a bar that has dedicated all of its draught lines to one particular brewery or are sitting in a pub that seems to be decorated entirely in swag from one particular company, you can virtually guarantee that cash and / or incentives were provided to that bar in exchange for space on that draught lineup.

The kicker here, of course, is that this entire practice is technically illegal per Ontario’s liquor licence act, specifically Regulation 720:

A manufacturer of liquor or an agent or employee of a manufacturer shall not directly or indirectly offer or give a financial or material inducement to a person who holds a licence or permit under the Act or to an agent or employee of the person for the purpose of increasing the sale or distribution of a brand of liquor.

Again, this isn’t new ground and is something I’ve been talking about since roughly January of 2013 when I wrote the post, In Toronto Pubs, Breweries Battle for Beer Taps With Persuasion and Cash, for the website Torontoist.

In the roughly four years since I wrote that post, nothing has changed about the prevalence of the practice except that, for the first time in my beer writing career, I’ve learned two fairly interesting things about penalties for inducements:

  1. A fine was actually issued to a Canadian brewery for this practice in May, and
  2. The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has apparently never issued monetary penalties in response to inducements.

Continue reading


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A conversation with Richard Sigesmund of Gleemer Imports

If you’re a fan of craft beer in Ontario and have spent any amount of time participating in the conversation about the scene online, it’s likely you’ve run into Richard Sigesmund.

A perennial critic of the province’s beer scene, Sigesmund generally isn’t afraid to tell anyone how he really feels about a certain beer, brewery, or trend and, on occasion, the conversation has been known to get a little heated. As of this post, for example, he has unfriended me on Facebook (though we still trade barbs on twitter and we chatted via email for this post).

To call him a fan of Belgian beer would likely be putting it lightly. Sigesmund travels to the region at least once a year and interned as a brewer there. He’s also an avid home brewer and has collaborated on a few brews with Toronto’s Muddy York brewing. And while he’s fairly quick to share his thoughts on the superior beer scene in other regions, unlike most Ontario beer-critiquing twitteratti or self-righteous beer bloggers (ahem), Sigesmund is poised to put his money where his mouth is later this year when he officially launchers Gleemer Imports, his very own Ontario beer agency “importing liquid happiness from Belgium and beyond.”

I chatted with the fledgling agency owner to see what we might be able to expect from Ontario’s newest beer importer. Continue reading


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Five more points about contract brewing

Last week, I wrote a piece for  the Globe and Mail about contract brewing, the practice wherein brewing companies or virtual breweries rent space from larger facilities to make their beer.

Given the constraints of the 800 words I was alotted, there was much I did not have time to dig in on and so the final piece was something of an overview of the practice, with some brief discussion of why it might be growing in popularity–especially in Ontario–with some insight from a business owner, Shehan De Silva of Lost Craft Beer, who has had success with this model, and from a bricks and mortar brewery owner, Jason Fisher of the Indie Ale House, who is generally opposed to this model for what he feels it brings (or doesn’t) to the industry as a whole.

The article was intentionally targeted at the Globe and Mail’s “general audience” and so much of the beer geekery I might have dug in on was omitted. Accordingly the responses from beer industry folks on twitter, Facebook, and my email were passionate and varied. Interestingly, the article seemed to simply confirm everyone’s beliefs no matter which side of the argument you might be on. Both virtual brewers and bricks and mortar brewers have reached out to me in the interim to say I had represented their side well (Not to toot my own horn, but beep fucking beep).

Also of interest, one owner of a contract brewing facility says he was subsequently inundated with calls from interested new brewing companies. Er, sorry / you’re welcome, Ontario?

Anyway, here are some mostly random tidbits I had hoped to include but couldn’t. Continue reading


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Are beer drinking Saskatchewan football fans getting a rough ride?

Beer drinking fans of Saskatchewan’s CFL team appear to be getting something of a rough ride when it comes to their choices this season.

That’s because the Roughriders’ new stadium, which opened in August of 2016 and is slated to host its first regular season CFL game on Canada Day, appears poised to pour Molson-Coors products exclusively, despite much lip-service paid to craft brewers in the run up to Mosaic Stadium’s opening.

Now, exclusivity in arenas and stadiums likely won’t be all that shocking to most readers given that in Canada we’ve become accustom to a team entering a “partnership” with either Molson or Labatt (despite the fact that it is technically illegal in Ontario). Jays fans will note the all AB-InBev beer lineup at the Rogers Centre and fondly recall the shit show that resulted when the organization dared to offer Steam Whistle for one glorious season.

But the Saskatchewan Roughriders aren’t a privately owned team run by Canada’s biggest telecommunications company and their new stadium isn’t owned by any private entity. Continue reading


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How to talk to your friend about drinking shitty beer

Have you noticed that a friend or family member is still drinking beers like Budweiser, Molson Canadian, Coors Light, Miller Light, or even Pabst?

It can be difficult watching someone you care about drink shitty industrial lager. You may feel torn about how to discuss foreign ownership, adjuncts, and the fact that much more interesting beer exists. But while the conversation about dad beers is never an easy one, it’s necessary.

Before talking to your friend about their shitty drinking habits, it’s important to understand that they may not realize they have a problem. Some people happily picking up a 2-4 with a NASCAR shirt in it or grabbing a “suitcase” of “crushable” cans for a trip to the cottage may deny they have a problem entirely. Regardless of your friend’s reaction, stay calm and know that you have their best interest in mind.

First and foremost, collect your thoughts and think about what you’re going to say ahead of time. A supportive message will be received better than negative, hurtful language. This is a difficult time for your friend, so your reassurance will help them realize they’re not alone. Millions of people have learned to put down the industrial lagers and drink well-made, interesting beer. Macro abuse should be discussed sooner rather than later. The earlier you have the conversation, the quicker your friend can seek treatment and start accompanying you on brew pub visits, ordering flights of small batch beer, and taking part in your bottle shares. Continue reading


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The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, Second Edition: a review

Recently, beer writers Robin LeBlanc and Jordan St. John released the second volume of their guide to the breweries currently making beer across Ontario.

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the aptly named Ontario Craft Beer Guide, Second Edition, and so, as I imagine the authors and Dundurn Press had hoped I would, I have undertaken the task of reviewing the book; and, as it seemed appropriate, I did so in a manner befitting the book’s subject matter.

Mostly a pale gold in colour, the book features spots of blue with white font and a sturdy, purple binding with about two fingers of head depicted along the top of the cover that has not dissipated in the twelve hours since I received this review copy. Including the comprehensive list of recommended pubs across the province, the book is a whopping 640 pages and is thus entirely opaque. Literally no light shines through it at all. Continue reading


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New Ontario brewery press release

With so many new breweries opening in Ontario these days, and given how busy these fledgling small business owners can get in the run-up to actually opening their doors, I thought I’d help out and create a press release template these brewers might use to announce their arrival. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
YOURTOWN  ON – Date

Insert Name Brewing Co. is proud to announce we are now brewing beer at our newly renovated facility at (address) and we are open for tastings.

Founded by long time friends (your names), Insert Name Brewing Co. is the culmination of our shared dream to one day make our own beer and share it with the world.

“We’re all (circle one: bored engineers / on the same hockey team / very new home brewers) and one day over a few beers we hatched an idea,” says (name of most coherent co-founder), “and Insert Name Brewing Co. was born.” Continue reading