Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Where Ontario’s candidates for Premier stand on retail beer, and why it doesn’t matter

Over the past few days, much ado has been made about the candidates running to be the premier of Ontario and their various positions on beer sales in this province.

Doug Ford got the party started on May 18th by releasing an official statement through the PC party that he would “expand the sale of beer and wine into corner stores, box stores and grocery stores all across our province.”

In response, Kathleen Wynne opted to hold a press conference on Tuesday  that was, at best, embarrassing, in which she doubled down on her ongoing policy decision related to retail alcohol and invited no less than the CEO of MADD and the head of OPSEU, the union that oversees the LCBO, to join her. Basically, she confirmed she’s sticking to the grocery store plan she enacted (which, to be fair, was actually the biggest change to retail alcohol sales in something like 70 years).

Andrea Horvath, who presumably didn’t want to miss out on the fun of distracting voters from actual issues, then commented and suggested that an NDP government might actually review the entire idea of selling wine and beer at grocery stores all together—which seems entirely consistent with a pro-union NDP. They opposed the idea of beer in grocery stores at the outset. Continue reading


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Beer is very healthy

Craft beer is booming in North America and, while the industry is fun and vibrant and its growth is doing much to support local economies, did you know that a recently-released study can be very narrowly interpreted to imply that beer is healthy?

It’s true! According to A Professor at Whatever Fucking University did a study that got picked up by the newswire this time, beer has significant health benefits.

“Sure, beer has healthy things in it,” says Professor, in a severely truncated quote I cherry-picked to support my flimsy thesis and traffic-grabbing headline. Continue reading


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What to expect from Ontario beer in 2018

Because it’s that time of year, here are the things that I think are going to shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2018.

Weed
When it comes to the craft beer industry, it seems kind of crazy to me how little attention is being paid to the legalization of marijuana in Canada. To my mind it is impossible to suggest that the destiny of any meaningful changes to our beverage alcohol sector won’t now be intrinsically tied to all things pot.

Government resources are right now being dedicated to drafting new legislation, debating policies, and creating laws that will govern how each province will handle the prospect of legal weed. And if you’re a pot fan or a policy wonk, these are exciting times, but if you had any hope that you might see meaningful changes to your respective province’s liquor laws anytime soon, I’ve got some bad news for you: Much of the resources and political capital that would be needed for progress in the world of beer are going to be focused squarely on sticky-icky for a while. Continue reading


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30 years of Great Lakes Brewery

At this point, Great Lakes Brewery has largely cemented their status as a great Canadian brewery and has earned their place in most Canadian beer fans’ hearts.

I’d wager that, right now, almost everyone reading these words has at least one GLB beer in their fridge. And why not? They make great fucking beer.

But it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the killer version of Great Lakes that most of us know and love is a fairly recent innovation considering that the company has actually been around for 30 years. Purchased by Peter Bulut Sr. in 1991, Great Lakes was, at the time, a small brewery in Brampton with an 18 hectolitre system that made their beer using syrupy malt extract brewed on an electric kettle. And so, roughly the same time they bought the business, they bought a mill and a masher to make beer from proper malt, and immediately outgrew the brewery’s fermenters. Taking possession of the company in April, Bulut had to move his operation to a 30,000 square foot building in Etobicoke by August, and today that’s the building the brewery still inhabits.

Bulut quickly found success in the 1990s Toronto restaurant scene which was, at that time, largely dominated by Greek families. Having come from a Greek and Serbian background and having been raised in an Italian school, Bulut was a man of languages and would often adapt the dialect of whomever he was speaking with and tell restaurateurs he was actually from the same village as them. It proved to be an effective ruse and, as a result, he ended up selling a lot of beer.

Like, a lot. Next time you drink a Karma Citra, be thankful for the hardworking Greek people of Toronto and their patrons who drank a shit ton of Great Lakes Lager in the 1990s to make that IPA possible for you. Continue reading


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Sexist beer marketing: Meanwhile in Nova Scotia

A  few months ago I wrote a blog post discussing sexist marketing in beer and I called out–and chatted with–some Ontario breweries about marketing efforts I felt objectified women.

In the interim, there have been some changes worth noting. Whitewater Brewing, the Ottawa Valley area brewer who makes “Farmer’s Daughter Blonde,” has quietly updated the branding for that can and appears to have renamed their seasonal “Farmer’s Daughter’s Melons” to the decidedly less cringe-inducing “Watermelon Blonde.”

Niagara Brewing Company, the makers of “Amber Eh!,” an American-style Amber that features a semi-naked female lumberjack on the can, took the less strategic but still effective approach of responding to my repeated inquiries by simply blocking me on social media. I guess that works.

The other breweries mentioned have, to date, continued business as usual; including continuing to use the cans that I discussed.

As first reported here in August, Garnet Pratt Siddall, the then-newly-appointed chair of the Ontario Craft Brewers who spoke candidly with me for my article about sexist beer in the industry, has been terminated as the CEO of Collingwood’s Side Launch Brewing Co.

I’ve also confirmed with the OCB that she has likewise subsequently resigned as the chair and director of that organization. It remains to be seen who her replacement will be and, as such, it’s unclear whether the de facto figurehead of Ontario’s only organization advocating for small brewers will share Siddall’s interest in making changes related to offensive marketing.

Interestingly though, one of the most promising changes to come about since my article, and apparently as a result of it, comes not from Ontario, but rather from Nova Scotia. Continue reading


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What’s in store for Ontario beer next year?

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Last week I rounded up some of the biggest developments in beer in 2015 and it got me to thinking about the year ahead. Here are some of things I predict what we might see in beer in Ontario for 2016.


Small scale innovation

Grocery store sales are not going to be the tipping point for Ontario beer.  As I noted in last week’s post, that development doesn’t seem all that ground-breaking for me. I think it’s possible that, as the grocery store program rolls out over the next couple years, there might be some outlier chains and independent grocers who opt to support local and craft beer exclusively; however, given that Farm Boy, who were rumoured to be aiming at 100% craft beer on shelves, has opted to stock big beer on store shelves, I think it’s more likely that grocery stores will simply bring us more of the same beer we already have access to through the Beer Store and LCBO.

Instead, I think 2016 will continue to bring interesting and innovative solutions to Ontario’s unique legislative problems by way of small businesses and entrepreneurs. I predict a rise in home-delivery services that bring unique craft offerings to people in areas where distribution is difficult and I predict the coming of increased numbers of niche-market bars and restaurants that can offer rare imported beers given how hard it can be to bring in beers from other markets.  The forthcoming new bar from the family behind Bar Volo that will focus on barrel-aged and sour imports, to my mind, could be the first of many. Continue reading


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Loblaws set to launch beer sales

superstore

Early next week Loblaws will announce the details of their pilot program to be among the first grocers in Ontario to sell beer.

The grocery chain’s stores are among a select 450 Ontario grocery stores who will be allowed to sell beer by 2018 and they are also among an even more select 60 stores who will be allowed to sell beer “before Christmas,” a date that grows ever closer, despite what the weather might have you believe.

Ben’s Beer Blog has learned that, with an eye to that “Christmas” launch, Loblaws will likely be hosting a press conference next week where Premier Kathleen Wynne will be on hand to help the retailer announce the details of the launch of their beer program.

I’m going to add a big disclaimer here that I have been unable to verify all of what I’m about to reveal, but for the most part, I have the details that will be announced. Continue reading