Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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.

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


The LCBO doesn’t have a definition for “craft beer” either

If you want to have an exhausting and irritating conversation with a bunch of beer nerds, bring up the subject of the definition of the word “craft.”

Opinions will quickly vary on whether or not it relates to production methods, some notion of “quality,” size, or ownership, and some folks think the word ought to be abandoned altogether. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the Brewers Association’s definition, while not perfect, provides a good place to start in order to create some working definition here in Canada–and I actually attempted to define the term in an August 2016 blog post.

My own efforts notwithstanding, the definition of “craft” seems to be something that we still struggle with here in Ontario. Even, it seems, at the LCBO.

First, let it be said that I do think the LCBO is making commendable efforts to support craft beer. Virtually every small brewer in Ontario that I’ve spoken to on the subject notes that the people working within the LCBO are very helpful and supportive when it comes to the local breweries who vie to hawk their wares on their store shelves. Aside from being overly bureaucratic and occasionally making some head-scratching decisions about beers that are and are not approved (NO LASER SHOW?!), I think the LCBO is a pretty darn decent place for craft beer.

That said, given that the government-run booze emporium is one of the few places we can legally buy beer to take home, too much of its advertising and merchandising seems to me to have a complicated relationship with the word craft. Continue reading

1 Comment

10 totally true facts about Toronto Beer Week


In a few hours, Toronto Beer Week will kick off with a launch party at the Summerhill LCBO.

The next week will feature a slew of events in and around the city and even an official beer, Interloper, a barrel-aged, blended farmhouse beer made by Indie Alehouse and available at the LCBO, participating TBW bars and at Indie’s bottleshop.

That much you probably already knew.

But to help you make the most of your Toronto Beer Week and give you the inside scoop, I’ve put together this list of 10 totally true facts about Toronto Beer Week.

Everything written here is totally 100% true. Obviously. Continue reading


2015 Beer News Round Up

2015 in beer
Last year, for my round up of beer news that occurred in 2014, I  summarized my thoughts on the scene generally with an uncharacteristic sense of optimism.

The “Ontario beer conversation” seemed to have leapt from blogs and bars to the mainstream and a seemingly constant series of newspaper articles and op-eds was bringing more and more of the general public into the beer world’s previously private world of fist-shaking, head-scratching, anti-monopolistic, impotent rage. At the close of 2014, change in Ontario’s frustratingly archaic retail beer system seemed not only likely, but practically inevitable.

“I really think 2015 is poised to be a big year for beer in Ontario,” I wrote, one year ago today, in a post that seems almost as painful in its earnestness as the Geocities website I once created for my high school punk band.

Because of course, as is often the case in this province, the reality of the change to the beer scene in Ontario has been painfully slow, unnecessarily complicated, and largely unsatisfying. And so, instead of the celebratory year we might have had, this year, if I had to chose one word to describe how I felt about the beer news that went down in 2015, that word would be “meh.” Continue reading


More details emerge about the LCBO’s growler program

LCBO Growlers

On Monday August 24th, the LCBO sent an email to some of Ontario’s craft brewers to invite them to submit products for the launch of their growler fill program that will start with their flagship Summerhill location.

Ben’s Beer Blog has obtained a copy of the email and it includes some details about the program that until now have been something of a mystery.

The email reveals that the space will include the LCBO’s first growler station as well as a craft beer tasting bar. Furthermore they are actively seeking beer that they don’t already have available for sale in packaged format (so we won’t see the Bud Zone Growler Station as some beer nerd grumbling posited).

The LCBO has indicated that their staff will dispense beer directly from kegs into the growler; however, it did not reveal if they would be investing in a proper growler filler or merely filling them from a draught tap (presumably–and hopefully–it’s the former given their investment in this). Continue reading


The LCBO’s statement on imported beer freshness


Depending on when you’re reading this, I am either just about to or just have published a brief post on blogTO about “The LCBO’s stale beer problem.”

For that post, I reached out to the LCBO for comment and though I included excerpts of their statement, the blogTO article was limited in terms of column inches and the statement couldn’t be included in its entirety.

Given that we beer folks so often lament the LCBO’s efforts on keeping their imported beer fresh, I thought it was worth publishing the statement in toto.

To my mind, it seems like we’re maybe giving them a bit of a bum rap. It looks like they’re making solid efforts to handle a situation that is presumably pretty big considering the size and scope of the LCBO’s import alcohol business.

What do you think? Continue reading


The Toronto Distillery Co. is taking legal action against the LCBO

Toronto Distillery Company

The Toronto Distillery Co., a local maker of organic spirits, is in a fight with the LCBO about unpaid fees that could threaten the company’s existence.

The company is taking legal action against the LCBO because they say the LCBO is unfairly requiring them to pay taxes on booze they sell directly from their distillery; a tax that they say is “inconsistent with Canada’s constitution.”

Their argument stems from the Constitution Act of 1867 which states that all taxes in this country need to be legislated. That is, they need to be presented in the house (federal or provincial) and then voted on. As such, the Toronto Distillery Co. claims that current fees for onsite stores that are imposed on distilleries and created by the Ministry of Finance (and not voted on), are not consistent with this law.

The current fees related to booze sold onsite, The Toronto Distillery Co. alleges, are based on the same mark-up the LCBO uses on the booze they sell in their actual stores. That is to say, if a distillery opts to sell liquor from their own premises, they are forced to mark up their prices 140% and pay the LCBO a hefty fee. Continue reading