As we mentioned earlier in December, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) strangely and for no apparent logical reason banned beers for sale in the province that exceeded 11.9% alcohol. This quickly led to an outcry from many in the beer community – from drinkers and importers alike. It certainly was a ridiculous policy and one seemingly made with an uninformed view of craft beer.
But we’re happy to see that our friends in Alberta can now drink their strong beer again. The AGLC announced that high alcohol beer can once again flow into the province, with an increased tax structure. So whereas beer that is less than 11.9% will be charged the provincial markup of anywhere from $0.20 to $0.98 per litre, beer above this threshold will be marked up anywhere from $4.05 to $13.30 per litre, depending on strength.
So, a couple of things about this. First, the original decision made should never have happened. As discussed over at The Bar Towel, it seems that a couple of BrewDog beers coming into the province is what triggered the decision. Looks like the governing body freaked out at the sight of something they have never seen (or rarely seen) before. But even doing some quick research online would show that these beers are legit and really not the kinds of products that consumers would abuse. So, this indicates that the AGLC could use a bit more education when it comes to craft beer, and hopefully this process has done so.
Second, it is impressive to see the quick reaction to fix what obviously became a public relations challenge for the AGLC. I don’t live in Alberta but some of the content of the AGLC’s web site speaks to how great privatization is, so one would hope that part of that would include a lack of meddling in the business of alcohol, although this proved otherwise. However, in the course of a couple of weeks the AGLC did reverse their decision, which was a good thing. To contrast against Ontario, we have some examples (Delirium Tremens, Samichlaus, etc.) where the LCBO ‘overreacts and bans’ but then they never change their stance, no matter what the PR outcome is.
In the end, consumers get their strong beer back, importers get to bring it in again and the AGLC gets more money in the process. Everyone wins, right?