What’s interesting now that Free Our Beer has been going for a couple of years (god, time has flown by) is to see how things have changed (or haven’t) over time.
For instance, we’ve tracked the process to get Garrison’s Imperial I.P.A. onto LCBO store shelves as part of its Autumn Ales release. This has been a big win for beer lovers in the province as it’s truly a great beer and a testament to the LCBO doing some positive things to help push craft beer forward.
On the absolute opposite hand is The Beer Store. The Beer Store is Ontario’s government-sanctioned, exclusive corporation authorized to sell beer in the province (save for the LCBO itself and breweries on their own premises). The Beer Store is a disaster as a craft beer operation, an entity (in my opinion) made to resemble what people would think of as government retail to distract from the fact that is a privately-held, foreign-owned for-profit corporation. It’s a factory for buying beer, offering a terrible in-store experience and weak selection in craft beer terms. So it’s about time that a couple of posts are dedicated to The Beer Store so readers can learn a bit more about this “Ultimate Source for Beer“.
A couple of years ago I wrote about The Beer Store’s beer merchandise on their site. It was pretty basic, offering a couple of glasses and no craft beer merchandise at all. Well, I’m sad to say that it hasn’t improved one bit.
Their technology has – The Beer Store now offers a full e-commerce site Shop The Beer Store. But what’s available is utterly sad if you’re interested in actual beer merchandise. The site looks more like a sports paraphernalia store, with products grouped by sports league – NHL, CFL, UFC, that kind of thing. You can get yourself such items as BBQ covers, garden gnomes and solar stepping stones, all branded with your favourite teams. There are glasses and beer cozies, but they’re all sports-branded rather than brewery branded. Feels a lot like the kind of stuff you can get for free inside a megabrand 24.
But what about actual craft beer merchandise? Well, if you go to “Beer Gear“, there’s precisely two items – a “Canada” ball cap and a “Got Beer?” ball cap. That’s it. How about a Maudite tulip glass to go with the same beer that The Beer Store sells? Nope. How about craft beer branded bottle openers, coasters, posters, anything? Again, sadly, no.
It’s clear that branded craft merchandise isn’t of interest to The Beer Store. Perhaps they just don’t want it, perhaps they’ve made it difficult for breweries to supply merchandise due to red tape or other policies. But the reason isn’t as important as this: The Beer Store boasts to be the “Ultimate Source for Beer” in Ontario and by creating an e-store that so seriously under-delivers on its own claim is both hypocritical and pathetic. And as Ontario’s only authorized beer retailer, they are under-servicing the needs of the craft beer drinker, and this is just one example of how it does so.
In conclusion, I can understand why the selection is what it is – The Beer Store’s target market is predominately mass-beer drinkers rather than craft enthusiasts. But craft beer is a legitimate and growing segment of the beer market. If The Beer Store won’t service craft drinkers the way that they deserve to be, an alternative must be made available.