Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


If I owned The Beer Store

Ben Store

As an increasingly large chunk of the population of Ontario knows, The Beer Store is owned by three multinational brewing companies, AB-InBev, Molson-Coors, and Sapporo.

And while these three companies recently opted to open up ownership to other breweries in Ontario, it doesn’t seem likely that the ownership stake they’ve offered other brewers will allow their potential new owners very much say in how The Beer Store runs its business (specifically, the new owners will have access to two seats on a five member board so unless my math is incredibly flawed, the three companies that currently run the place will still get the final word on how the province’s only retail beer outlet handles their day-to-day operations).

Of course these are all points I’ve already made elsewhere. I remind you of all this today simply to point out the rather obvious fact that I don’t own the Beer Store.

I don’t own any part of AB-InBev, Molson-Coors, or Sapporo and I don’t own an Ontario brewery that might opt in for even one of these newly-available symbolic seats on The Beer Store’s board.

I, Ben Johnson, have no say in how the Beer Store runs.

But let’s pretend that I did. Continue reading


The new Bellwoods Brewery might not have a bottle shop

Wizard Wolf

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 Ontario Craft Brewers enjoy their ninth annual token gesture at Queen’s Park


Last night, the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) were welcomed to Queen’s Park for their ninth annual tasting event wherein the attendees vote to choose the beer that will be featured at the Legislative Assembly for the next year.

In theory, the event is a great way for OCB members to get face to face with provincial politicians and the fun voting process is a nice show of support from provincial pols and the Speaker of the House for the province’s craft brewers. The truth is, the event is not much more than a token gesture and it’s one that’s ultimately frustrating for anyone interested in seeing actual change to the province’s beer industry.

First, it needs to be said, the OCB is doing some great things. They help promote their members (for a fee) and have created marketing campaigns and initiatives that have had real results growing the province’s craft beer scene, creating jobs, and spreading the word about the great beer that is made here. At the same time, the OCB seems at times out of touch and their continued participation in events like this one speaks to the very real disconnect that exists between the province’s only official craft beer advocacy group/lobby and the governing body making decisions that affect the industry. Continue reading


It’s OK to love the LCBO

Summerhill LCBO
(Image: Sina Gorge)

Frequently, when I write articles about the province’s retail alcohol industry (i.e. my slew of recent Beer Store rants), I receive supportive comments in response along the lines of “Hear, hear! The Beer Store and the LCBO need to go!” or “Yes! The time for TBS and LCBO is over,” and while I appreciate your support, I encourage you to read my articles in a little more detail, please.

I never said I wanted to dismantle or sell the LCBO and I think it would be insane to lobby for such a change.

In fact, I love the LCBO.

It’s probably one of my favourite stores and rivals only bookstores for its ability to consume far more of my time and money than I anticipated every time I walk into one. And, while I share some of your concerns related to the way the LCBO conducts its business, if you’re lobbying to get rid of the LCBO, you need to give your fucking head a shake. Continue reading


Never mind the LCBO strike, here’s the local brewers

Never mind the LCBO strike

As we rapidly approach the long weekend that unofficially marks the start of summer here in Canada and one that quasi-officially requires that we drink beer in order to celebrate it, we are also faced with the looming threat of an LCBO strike.

As has been repeated in the media ad nauseum as of late, the LCBO is urging us to “stock up” now lest we be caught without any other options for booze this weekend.

I’m growing fairly tired of this refrain for a couple reasons. First, I’m inherently suspicious of any solution being offered by an organization that stands to profit massively from said solution. Perhaps they really are just being nice, but hearing the LCBO say “You better come spend a lot of money at our stores ASAP!” really turns me off actually doing it and, given my tendency to leap to unlikely conspiracy theories, is almost enough to make me think that maybe the whole strike is just a massive, brilliant marketing campaign to get us all hoarding booze (Whether or not the ghost of Elvis is involved remains to be seen). Continue reading


Same shit, different pile: A wholly objective look at The Beer Store’s makeover


Yesterday, the Beer Store issued a press release announcing the launch of a new “pilot series” of stores with the idea of inviting Ontarians to “meet beer.”

At a glance then, it would seem that the Beer Store had recognized that their sales model needed revision–one of the criticisms of the Beer Store is that their system of a conveyor belt and wall of labels didn’t lend itself well to introducing consumers to new products, so a re-visioning that literally invited consumers to meet beer must surely mean the Beer Store is listening to our criticisms! Right?! Continue reading