Ben's Beer Blog

A place for all things beer.


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Why it’s OK to go to The Beer Store (on May 28th)

returns for lymphoma

Regardless of how you feel about the beer industry, The Beer Store, the LCBO, and our province’s myriad legislative nonsense that makes the distribution, sale, and enjoyment of beer in Ontario the gong show that it is, there is one thing that everyone in Ontario who enjoys an adult beverage has in common.

We all have empties.

From the pretentious, be-flanneled, stout-sniffing hipster to the lowly, Labatt-Blue-crushing, mouth-breathing masses, at the end of the day we’re all left with the same problem: a pile of empty containers that we don’t want to put in the garbage and most of us feel bad about simply hucking into a river.

And so, while I’m personally not a fan of spending my money within their doors, I am actually (brace yourself) encouraging you to go to The Beer Store next week. Continue reading


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25 Ontario brewers are now co-owners of The Beer Store

The-Beer-Store

Last week I was reading the Sudbury-based, twice-weekly community newspaper Northern Life (as we all do), and I stumbled upon an interview with Beer Store president, Ted Moroz.

The article is a pretty straightforward profile of Sudbury-native and Laurentian-grad Moroz’s rise to prominence within everyone’s favourite Ontario-based retail monopoly, but it did offer up an interesting  tidbit. Specifically, this:  “Today, 25 Ontario brewers owned [sic] preferred shares in The Beer Store.”

As you are likely aware, The Beer Store officially offered up ownership stakes in their business a few months ago (a move I parodied as a token gesture at best since the structure of TBS’ board would still mean that the organization’s big brewery owners had majority position) , but I was not aware that any breweries had actually taken The Beer Store up on said token gesture. Continue reading


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Press Release: Beer Store happy to announce token gesture board seat to one small brewer

 

The Beer Store
TORONTO, Dec. 7, 2015 – A new Beer Store Board of Directors is taking shape to reflect Beer Store ownership that is now available to all qualifying Ontario-based brewers, large and small.

In keeping with tradition, the new board will continue to champion the rights of its three owner breweries, AB-InBev, Molson-Coors, and Sapporo who, combined, control roughly 75% of Canada’s beer sales; except now the board will offer a completely meaningless seat to one “Director” nominated by Ontario-based breweries who sell less than 50,000 hectolitres per year through The Beer Store.

The remainder of the new 15-member Beer Store Board of Directors will be made up of the following members:

  • Four Independent Directors nominated by a selection committee jointly represented by the Province of Ontario and the current Beer Store owners, who have clearly already shown themselves adept at handling the finer points of managing Ontario’s retail beer sales and liquor legislation;
  • Two Directors nominated by larger brewers like Sleeman, Brick and Moosehead, who already do most of their business through The Beer Store and are unlikely to advocate for any real change;
  • Four Directors nominated by Molson; and
  • Four Directors nominated by Labatt.

“We welcome this change to our governance, and we’re optimistic that literally no one involved with the change can do the basic math required to see that Molson and Labatt will clearly continue to call all the shots at The Beer Store–even in the unlikely event that all other members of the board unite,” said Charlie Angelakos, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Beer Store.

These new Directors will take their positions as of the January 1, 2016 effective date of the new Beer Store shareholder agreement reached by the Province and the Beer Store under the new Beer Framework Agreement, which essentially promised Ontarians decades more of the same bullshit, but inexplicably put the control of a tiny fraction of beer sales in the province into the hands of a third party, Ontario’s grocery stores, and then tacked on some nonsense about shuffling the board at Ontario’s most profitable, legislated monopoly.

Beer Store President, Ted Moroz, personally issued a letter recently to “Qualifying Brewers” with details of how a small Ontario brewer might become shareholder, and how they might elect their Director. “It’s literally meaningless,” Moroz said of the Director’s spot. “It’s like when I tell my nephew Danny he’s my ‘special helper’ in the garage, but really he’s just banging an old screwdriver on a shoe box.”

“The Beer Store and the Province agree that these new Directors will make a tremendous contribution to the Beer Store Board as we move forward,” Angelakos said, making the classic ‘air jerk off’ motion with his hand.

About the Beer Store
The Beer Store was initially a co-operative of Ontario’s brewers, but through consolidation of brands is now owned entirely by three beer companies, all of whom are headquartered outside of this country. Despite this, The Beer Store is legislated as one of only three places that brewers might sell their beer in this province (oh yeah–until the grocery store thing *fart noise*). With over 450 stores, The Beer Store continues to enjoy exclusive access to one of the most lucrative retail enterprises in Ontario, taking in $2.5-billion in revenue annually after taxes, 80 per cent of which goes to the owners. And of course, even if you don’t choose to buy beer there, you have to walk in their doors if you want to recycle your empties because they also have exclusive rights to that service. The Beer Store Employs 7,000 hard-working Ontarians with well-paying full- and part-time jobs, are very quick to remind you of that, and will be all too happy to mobilize them to get vocal if you try to take away our sweet, sweet monopoly.

 

*in case it’s not clear, this is satire. The people “quoted” above did not actually say these things nor do I have any information about the gestures they may or may not have made while they did or did not say these things. 


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Talking beer with Ontario’s Minister of Finance

Sousa at Bellwoods

Earlier this morning, The Honourable Charles Sousa, Ontario’s Minster of Finance, presided over an event at the LCBO’s flagship Summerhill location in Toronto.

The event was held mainly to announce the launch of the LCBO’s growler program pilot project (which a certain beer blogger may or may not have spoiled with an exclusive post in late August), but also provided an opportunity for Sousa and the LCBO to announce that the growler program is actually part of a broader effort being made by the LCBO to embrace craft beer.

Speaking today, Sousa announced that in addition to Summerhill’s growler program, which will initially feature beer from Amsterdam Brewery, Mill Street Brewery, and Great Lakes Brewery and then rotate frequently, the LCBO will roll out “craft beer zones” to 25 other LCBO locations across Ontario. Similar to the LCBO vintages section, these craft beer zones will feature and highlight craft beer made in Ontario.

I spoke with Minister Sousa about not just LCBO improvements, but the province’s effort to support craft beer and I asked about what we might expect from the forthcoming sale of beer in grocery stores, specifically I asked if there has been any further progress on deciding which grocery stores will be allowed sell beer. Continue reading


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Ontario’s potential ‘off sale’ beer problem

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Recently, The Toronto Star wrote a story about the fact that Restaurants Canada would like their Ontario members to be able to sell retail beer.

Touting the fact that six other provinces already allow “off sales,” Restaurants Canada vice-president James Rilett was quoted as saying that the idea was “a natural evolution in Ontario’s retail system.”

And while that seems a logical statement at face value, it’s important to remember that there really is nothing natural about Ontario’s retail beer system. Indeed, legislated under almost century-old rules and controlled by foreign-owned entities and a government-endorsed monopoly, Ontario’s retail scene is not so much something borne of “natural evolution” as it is an ungodly, slapped-together, and agonized monster stumbling in the woods praying for someone to euthanize it.

That is to say, I don’t think this plan will work.

For one thing,  this not-so-new-idea doesn’t really seem to have Ontario’s brewers’ best interests at heart. Full disclosure: A nice guy from Restaurants Canada once bought me lunch to discuss this very idea in hopes that I’d help them shore up support from brewers for this plan. As I told them then, I think it’s a lovely plan for Restaurants Canada, but not so much the solution brewers need. Continue reading


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The Ontario Craft Brewers would like their own stores, please

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“Though this be madness,
yet there is method in’t”

Last night I attended the 10th annual Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB) tasting event at the Ontario legislature.

It’s an event hosted by the Speaker of The House wherein the OCB, a 50+ member group that is currently the only organization advocating on behalf of the province’s small brewers, is welcomed into the Ontario Legislative Building to pour their beers for myriad MPPs and (mostly) their thirsty, bespectacled, pointy-shoed staffers.

I have attended in previous years and wrote about last year’s event in less than flattering terms as a missed opportunity in my opinion given a climate in Ontario that seemed destined for real change to the beer scene.

This year, even more than last, the event seemed rife with potential for some grand statement: the premier of Ontario has made a few opening but vague salvos relating to reforming the province’s beer scene and speculation grows about what might be in the upcoming budget for people who buy and make craft beer–including rumours recently reported by The Toronto Star’s Martin Regg Cohn that we can expect beer in grocery stores soon.

This year, I thought, someone might say something bold that electrifies the crowd.

And I was right.

Sort of. Continue reading


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What supermarket sales might mean for local brewers

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Earlier today, The Toronto Star published an article in which Martin Regg Cohn claimed an unnamed source informed him that large grocery stores will begin selling wine and beer in a plan that might be part of the upcoming spring budget.

Torontonians thirsty for changes to our province’s long-outdated beer retailing system were quick to rejoice at what seemed like positive news. But is it really something worth getting excited about?

The idea to allow beer in some of the province’s larger grocery stores means putting the control of Ontario’s beer sales in the hands of yet another third party and, as a result, local brewers’ reactions to the news were mixed.

Jason Fisher, owner of the Indie Alehouse, told me he has concerns about the plan. “My main question,” he told me, “is why can’t local Ontario brewers have their own chain of retail stores? Molson and Labatt are allowed to own stores that sell beer, and now Loblaws can sell beer? Why can’t smaller breweries just open their own stores?”

“[Grocery stores] will likely just be another middle man for consumers and manufactures and it will mean less profit for the people making beer and ultimately higher prices for consumers.”

John Hay, the president of The Ontario Craft Brewers, issued an official response today that reiterated his members’ commitment to working with the province, but laid plain the need to have brewers at the heart of any changes. “We do not want to be trapped in the distribution system of any large players,” he said in a statement emailed to media.

You can forgive local brewers for being less than enthusiastic about these potential changes in a retail environment that’s seen many changes promised then taken away over the years.

Read the rest of this post over on blogTO….