This piece originally appeared in print and online for in the December 2018 edition of The Growler, Ontario’s Beer Guide.
As a paying customer in a bar, you might think that the beer on tap is chosen to suit your tastes. It feels like a safe assumption that not only the food but also the beer pouring from the gleaming row of taps is selected to appease you, in order to make you spend money, return, and maybe even invite friends along.
But it usually isn’t. Those beers are there for different reasons and that bar isn’t actually a really big fan of the 12 very similar lagers that Labatt offers.
The truth is, most bar and restaurant owners treat their draught taps, and often their fridges of bottles and cans too, as not much more than prime real estate, available to the highest bidder. Brewery sales reps come into bars with an arsenal of free shit in order to “influence” their way onto these tap lines. They’re flush with “swag” like t-shirts, patio umbrellas, bar mats and chalkboards. They have budgets to offer keg deals, buy five get one free, for example; and they often simply hand over cash or offer to pay for a bar to install draught lines so that the brewery can make sure their beer is always in that line. There is no loyalty in the hospitality business. A bar manager’s love for a brewery is really only as good as the last rep who walked in the door with free tickets to a Ti-Cats game and a fucking snapback hat. Continue reading “From Graft to Glass”
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:
- A fine was actually issued to a Canadian brewery for this practice in May, and
- The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has apparently never issued monetary penalties in response to inducements.
Continue reading “Alberta gov issues fines for inducement, governing body in Ontario confirms they never have”
A couple weeks ago Toronto’s Bellwoods Brewery officially announced their intention to open a second brewery on the corner of Dovercourt and Dupont. I likewise provided further details in my signature “hey-I-already-knew-about-it-because-I’m-cooler-than-you” style in a post for blogTO and the response on the interwebs was nothing short of ecstatic as twitter exploded with well-wishes and excitement about a new place for craft beer fans to get Bellwoods’ delicious beer (even the goddamn blogTO comments section was all positivity for once).
The news is clearly awesome, but there’s a bad news element to the situation that I opted to leave out of my original article in order to help ensure that the Bellwoods folks received only much-deserved optimism and happiness about their expansion. Well, the time for happiness has passed and, as is often the case when it comes to the brewing industry in Ontario, the time for rage is upon us.
The new space might not be allowed to have a retail store. Continue reading “The new Bellwoods Brewery might not have a bottle shop”