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There must not be beer outside of Ontario

July 24th, 2008 · 6 Comments

One of the often overlooked problems with our beer system in Ontario is how the rest of our great country is generally omitted. To a casual beer drinker in Ontario, the craft beer selection consists of beers from Ontario and the rest of the world. Not, however, from the rest of Canada.

Canada has thriving microbreweries from coast to coast. Unfortunately, as an Ontario beer drinker you will rarely, if ever, have an opportunity to discover what is beyond our provincial borders, unless you physically travel out of province. The LCBO and The Beer Store simply do not offer any substantial selection from outside of Ontario.

Let’s look at the numbers for a second. The LCBO claims on its web site to offer 340 brands of beer. From a more detailed seach, the LCBO offers 15 total craft beer brands from outside of Ontario:

  • Alberta: Big Rock Traditional, Warthog, Grasshopper and Pale Ale
  • Quebec: Belle Gueule; Unibroue Blanche de Chambly, Maudite, Ephemere Apple, Fin du Monde; McAuslan Griffon Extra Pale, Griffon Red, St Ambroise Oatmeal Stout, St Ambroise Pale, Apricot Wheat; Messagere

15 beers. 5 breweries. 4% of the LCBO’s 340 brands available. Pretty sad. The Beer Store isn’t any better.

Where’s Tree or Spinnakers from British Columbia? Alley Kat from Alberta? Half Pints from Manitoba? Garrison and Propeller from Nova Scotia? Dieu du Ciel and La Barberie from Quebec? You have to get them in their home provinces. Taxation and trade barriers are certainly a problem – there is a lot of evidence about how provinces treat beers from within Canada but outside the home province as foreign and are therefore taxed and governed by a different set of rules.

Aside from the odd one-off release at the LCBO, out-of-province beers are an extreme rarity. Similar to the perception of U.S. craft beers, if you asked a casual drinker they probably would not even know there were interesting beers in other provinces.

In Ontario, we like to support our own brewers, and of course the major international ones. Unfortunately this support is not extended to craft brewers from the other nine provinces. That’s a damn shame.

Tags: Brands · Government · LCBO · Outside Ontario · The Beer Store

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Troy // Jul 25, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    It is a damn shame.

    Canadian craft brewers makes some great beer that many of us will never see unless we make an illegal trade through mail or actually visit the province the beer is located in.

    While I love supporting our local Ontario Craft Brewers, there are times when I crave a nice hoppy beer from Propeller or Garrison in NS or Tree, Swans-Buckerfield or Old Yale from BC, and it would be great to pick these up in an Ontario store.


  • 2 Bill Ramshaw // Jul 25, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    I am not saying this to defend the LCBO rather to point out something I have noticed while beer touring in Quebec. Depanneaurs in Quebec have few if any beers from Ontario or the states and next to nothing from micro’s in either.

    Halles de St Jean, a frequent stop for me on my way back from Vermont has a great selection of Quebec micro’s but nothing from breweries an hour’s drive from them.

    It is far easier to find a good Quebec micro on the menu at a bar in Burlington Vermont than to find a good Vermont micro brew in Montreal (outside of during the Mondial du Biere when 1 or 2 make the trek)


  • 3 Lager Bore // Jul 26, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    This issue was exemplified in the LC’s latest weekend paper insert. Past the page “Canada: classic and diverse” which was represented by Moosehead, Sleeman, Rickard’s and Keith’s–neither classic nor diverse, and all Beer Store owners!–was the page of Ontario Craft Beers, and Other Canadian Craft Classics. The only two that made that column were McAuslan Apricot Wheat and Big Rock Grasshopper. These are beers that have been on the lists for a long time. Nothing new or surprising or innovative. Just beers with enough money behind them to pay for a spot.
    Incidentally, why are the three Ontario Craft Beers represented all Pilsners? Diverse in the Orwellian Doublespeak sense.
    N.B. While Steam Whistle in cans is listed in the flyer at $2.55, the LC is advertising it in store at $2.70, and that’s what it comes up at on their list. I wonder whose fault this is…

  • 4 Matthew // Aug 5, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    I visit Winnipeg and have bought beer from Manitoba breweries. I must say the beer tastes great, such as Three Rivers Lager.

    I think a free market system would do more to allow Canadian breweries sell their beer in Ontario. In fact Mountain Crest Beer has been trying for nearly 5 years to get into Ontario.

  • 5 Guy Tozer // Sep 17, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Don’t forget the award winning beer of Saskatchewan.Great Western Brewing CO. The LCBO is a monopoly that we can all do without!! Free the borders.

  • 6 Francis Veloso // Aug 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    It disgusts me that the Ontario government, in this day and age, prevents the sale of many other varieties Canadian provicial beers in favour of the imported varieties. These monopolies we certainly can do without! Wake up Ontario Government!