Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Welcome to the bottom

When Doug Ford challenged Ontario brewers in August with a non-announcement that they could now sell beer for $1 a container, many beer commentators, myself chief among them, opined that no quality beer could be brewed at a profit for that price and that lowering the price floor on beer was nothing more than an invitation to big brewers to see how cheaply they might make beer to take advantage of a weird news cycle.

The announcement was, in essence, the firing of a starter pistol to mark the beginning of a new race in Ontario beer to find rock bottom.

The race has slowed in the interim and a few of the participants dropped out along the way, but it seems clear that the finish line is now clearly in sight because this morning, Loblaw Companies Limited announced the arrival of no name® branded beer.

My friends, welcome to rock bottom. Continue reading


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What to expect from Ontario beer in 2019

Because it is again that time of year where we do this sort of thing, here are the topics that I think will shape the conversation as it relates to beer, especially in Ontario, in 2019.

The failure of DME Brewing Solutions
In late November, I wrote here about the receivership status of Diversified Metal Engineering (DME), one of North America’s biggest manufacturers of brewing equipment. In that post, I suggested that there would be many breweries–Canadian and otherwise–effected by this closure. Shortly after I wrote about the issue, Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star wrote about the closure of DME and how it will effect local breweries, specifically the Indie Alehouse, whose owner Jason Fisher told the Star he was waiting for about $800,000 worth of brewing equipment to expand his brewery that he was now unlikely to ever see. Shortly thereafter, Good Beer Hunting picked up the story, expanding on it and chatting with a handful of Canadian brewers. In that story, GBH noted that DME owes “at least $20 million to 370 businesses and banks, and an unknown amount to another 382 individuals and companies.” Continue reading


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Cool Brewery wants to sell you dollar beer. And possibly weed.

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On Monday, Cool Brewery announced that they would become the second Ontario brewery to take up Premier Doug Ford’s “buck-a-beer challenge” and would attempt to make a one dollar beer.

If you’ve been paying attention to this story at all — and indeed it’s been fairly impossible not to — you’ll know that the response to buck-a-beer and the first brewery to take up the challenge, Barley Days Brewery in Prince Edward County, has been polarizing, to say the least.

As I first wrote a few hours after the announcement and as I repeated on CTV news and on a few local radio stations that day and the next, I think the whole thing is, at best, all rather silly. It was a fairly amusing political stunt with no real policy behind it, the Premier simply said, you can now make cheap beer and brewers could choose to if they wanted. Not a bad move for a politician, really. But as many brewers have pointed out as they too enjoyed an opportunity to do the rounds of media, it’s largely impossible to make a quality beverage, sell it for $1 and still turn any kind of profit. Doug Appledoorn of People’s Pint Collective had a succinct argument on CTV News, Mark Murphy of Left Field Brewery posted a dollars and cents argument on Facebook, Jason Fisher of Toronto’s Indie Alehouse, as is his wont, put things rather bluntly when he explained on Metro Morning that he couldn’t even make a profit selling one of his empty bottles for a dollar and many other breweries have taken up the call of myriad local media outlets looking for a soundbite. Fuelled by media who, perhaps rightly, have relished the chance to poke fun at the Premier, plus the fact that this is a story about the click-worthy subject of beer, and the fact that many a craft brewer is willing to talk about their passion for brewing beer with quality ingredients, buck-a-beer has really enjoyed a rather astonishingly-long media cycle.

Probably too long, really, given how meaningless it all is in the grand scheme of things.

And while I’ve tried to stop paying attention to the twitter-ramblings and politicizing of the buck-a-beer fallout, I can’t. It’s like a car wreck and I just can’t look away (of course when people are all up in your mentions because of a blog post you wrote, it’s even harder to look away). That said, I thought things might finally be dying down. In an aftermath that seemed to be 259-1 in terms of brewers opposed and brewers for the idea of buck a beer, it seemed that one side had probably finally won the argument, logic had prevailed, and maybe this would go away.

Until Cool’s announcement today. Continue reading


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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