Large brewers like Molson and Labatt have never had much trouble getting their beers to market in Canada. For a long time, they were the only game in town and they’ve long had a significant presence on the shelves at your local liquor store. This summer we’re going to see an unprecedented number of small breweries opening across the country – 30 before the end of June might not be out of the question.
One of the important questions in the face of this kind of expansion then might have to do with where they’re planning to sell all that beer.
It’s a powerful motivator for provincial agencies to update the laws surrounding the sales of alcohol. No one wants to be accused of stifling small businesses. The majority of the existing laws were laid out the in the wake of prohibition and they reflect a brewing industry that was a vastly different shape. Change is being driven from the bottom up, but it is becoming more likely.
As an example, just last month in British Columbia, the laws were amended to better serve the public in a number of ways. They already had provisions for private liquor stores, but the province has seen fit to allow the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores by the winter of 2015. There have also been some tweaks made to rules surrounding brewing at home, with a separate license to be created for homebrew competitions and a provision for homemade products to be served at weddings or family gatherings.
In Ontario, we’ll be watching that experiment with a great deal of interest as the LCBO moves ahead with their LCBO Express model, which has been in the works for over a year. The 10 pilot stores that will be located within grocery retailers across the province are essentially just much smaller LCBO stores with less selection. I am not entirely sure that that is what the public has in mind when it asks for beer sales in grocery stores; it may prove to be a good idea, but even for a pilot project the scale is underwhelming.
One place that you won’t be able to purchase beer from small breweries is the Rogers Centre. Steam Whistle, which had managed to get through the 2013 season unscathed, has lost their concession at the ballpark. Reports claim that the brewery, located an Encarnacion-dinger from Home Plate, was turfed for inappropriately tweeting the location of their kiosk. This decision has made the Rogers Centre the only park in the league that doesn’t offer a local craft beer as an option. Pittsburgh is officially more progressive than we are. We’ll have to console ourselves with the magnificence of Adam Lind’s beard.
Jordan St.John writes about beer at saintjohnswort.ca. This week he’s writing about mediocrity.