The Beer Store, Ontario
by Sam Corbeil
(Beer Delegate, ON, Canada)
The Beer Store: beer retailing in Ontario is in a bad way
RANT ON: The Beer Store, Ontario
In Ontario we are pretty much relegated to buying whatever The Beer Store and LCBO has on stock at the time. The Beer Store may tout the fact that they have 300-and-some-odd different types of beer for sale, but for the most part that's just a bunch of hogwash.
And another thing about The Beer Store! I can't count how many times I walked into different beers stores across the city, took my time scouring the wall of labels looking for something different, something new and exciting, finally find one, only to be told that they don't have it in stock.
Many times I had to revert to my third and fourth choices! What kind of way is that to run a business? But what does it matter to The Beer Store? They are a fucking monopoly! And since they have no real competition, they don't really care. It's ridiculous. It's pathetic. It's Ontario.
The LCBO has done a good job picking up the slack. They seem genuinely interested in supplying different beers from around the world to the beer consumers of Ontario.
Their shelves seem, more and more, to be stocked with some interesting beers from fascinating places around the globe, with new releases seemingly popping up each month. They still have a long way to go: for evidence, just pop into any LCBO and see how many of the imports are again just lagers from other parts of the world... but at least they are trying.
The price point may be different from The Beer Store, which maybe part of the reason that The Beer Store doesn't stock to many imports or Micros, but again that is just our wonderful government at work.
Now don't quote me on this, but I've been told that on a percentage basis, Canada is the second highest taxed country in the world when it comes to beer and liquor. WTF? I can see the argument in that I would gladly pay a little more for beer and liquor if it means I get free health care, but come on. It's getting ridiculous.
Anyhoo, enough of the ranting and raving. Truth is, if you want to find good beer there are many options available to you. Especially here in Toronto.
You can visit many of the local Craft and Micros across the GTA and purchase directly from them. Mill Street, Magnotta, Great Lakes Brewing, Steamwhistle, Black Oak, Cameron's, Trafalgar Ales & Meads, Old Credit Brewing... and the list goes on. There are a lot of great beers to be had if you just go out and take a look.
There are also many great beer bars across the GTA. Bar Volo, C'est What?, The Rhino, Victory Cafe, The Beer Bistro, Michelle's Brasserie, the Mill Street Brew Pub, The Granite Brewery and Pub, just to name a few. And many of these bars offer great events throughout the year. Bar Volo hosts a cask day each year. C'est What? has spring and fall craft brewing festivals. The Granite has Robbie Burns day and other brewing focused dinners.
And if you really feel the need to try something different, take a drive down the QEW, pop across the border and just Stateside, there is a great little place in Buffalo called The Premier Gourmet. They have an extensive beer list, many of which are unavailable to us in Canada. And with a strong dollar it maybe worth the trip. Especially if The Beer Store, Ontario's beer champion, keeps letting you down...