There has been a lot of talk about the beer industry lately in Ontario. The Toronto Star News paper did a 3 part story on the Beer Store, which opened a lot of people’s eyes to how we, as Ontarian’s, have simply accepted whatever the government tells us. For those that don’t know about alcohol sales in Ontario let me give you some background. There are two stores in Ontario where you can buy alcohol, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and the Beer Store. The LCBO is owned by the government and sells domestic and international wine, beer, and liquor. They do a very good job of rotating inventory and have a wide selection of beer and wine from around the world. The Beer Store is owned by a handful of the largest brewers in Canada, Labat, Molson, and Sleeman. Some people were not aware of this. They thought that the beer store was owned by all Ontario brewers, which was the case a long time ago. I was aware that the larger breweries owned the store, but wasn’t too concerned given that they sell the most beer in Ontario. But then it was brought to my attention that Labat, Molson, and Sleeman aren’t even Canadian brewers anymore. They’ve been bought by InBev, Coors (joint venture), and Sapporo.
What this means is that huge foreign breweries own the only store which Ontarian’s can buy beer from and are the only store which small “craft” breweries can sell their beer in. The larger brewers stock the shelves with all the brands that they have acquired over the years leaving little to no space for the craft brewers. Not only is the shelf space limited, but the price to sell beer in the Beer Store is also set by the huge foreign breweries which again prevents the small craft brewer from advertising his or her products. Many of the craft brewers are lucky they can afford to have one of their products on the shelf in the Beer Store and it is often tucked away in the corner.
Now if the Ontario government would let grocery stores and convenience stores sell alcohol like the rest of the free world the craft brewers would not be limited to one set of advertising prices or limited shelf space. Add to that the convenience most consumers are looking for and you would find a lot of happy people. A study was even commissioned by the government to determine the affects of alcohol sales in stores other then the Beer Store. The study found that the government would be able to make more revenue then they currently do and there would be no increase in crime or alcohol abuse. Yet Dalton McGuinty, the Premier of Ontario, simply says “if it’s not broke then don’t fix it” and wipes his hands clean.
In light of yesterdays announced takeover of Anheuser-Busch by InBev it looks like the global beer industry is moving towards an oligopoly where there will be 2 or 3 major brewers for the world. Brewing beer is an art, a passion, and even a hobby for many people across the world and many of those people have a dream of starting their own brewery. We must ensure that these craft brewers aren’t suffocated by the big brewers who lobby the government to do nothing. Here is a link to a No More Beer Store petition that a fellow beer drinker started after reading the articles in the Toronto Star. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/nobeerstore/