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Beer Importing – The Origin Story

March 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

It was late last year when I decided that becoming an import agent (also known as a manufacturer’s representative) would be something worth pursuing.  Since the founding of Bar Towel a number of years ago, we have heard many tales about what it was like to do business with the LCBO from an importing standpoint.  There were some positive experiences, but many frustrations as well.  There were stories about rejected beers, strange policies and secretive decisions.  But most of the recollections were shrouded in mystery – bits and pieces of what went on, but never the full story.

It’s important to note that the LCBO manages the flow of beer into our province.  Never forget that the “C” in LCBO stands for control.  The LCBO makes decisions on behalf of consumers regarding what beers we can drink here.  The beers available at your local store, the beers that come out in seasonal releases, are all chosen by the LCBO.  As a consumer, I wanted to better understand the decisions the LCBO was making for me.

In December 2008 I submitted a formal request through the Freedom of Information and Privacy Office of the LCBO.  I asked for the LCBO to disclose the beers that were considered and rejected for both the seasonal and general listings for both 2007 and 2008.  The seasonal and general release beers are chosen by the LCBO based upon submissions by importers.  The beers that hit the shelves are the ones that the LCBO deems fit for release.  Other beers are rejected and we do not get access to them.  After paying the $5 fee and discussing my request with someone at the LCBO, it was rejected on the grounds of not wanting to disclose third party information.

This rejection was the catalyst for becoming an agent.  I founded Free Our Beer last summer as a way of bringing to light some of the shortcomings of the beer retail system, from a craft point of view.  I wrote a number of stories based upon personal experience and observations, but I knew there was more out there worth discussing.  Becoming an agent, I believed, would give me increased access to how the LCBO system works in Ontario, which I could in turn document on Free Our Beer.  Hopefully I can shed some light on how beer is treated in this province.  Maybe we can affect some positive change for a beverage that we are all so passionate about.

So now I am officially an agent (actually its my corporation, Cecktor Limited), as the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario issued my Manufacturer’s Representative license on March 6th.  It has taken a few months to get to this point, and I’ll tell you about that shortly.

Tags: Importing

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bloke // Mar 30, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    I look forward to hearing the tales. I suspect that you may make a few people unhappy. The status quo often depends on the obscurity of processes. I hope that things change.