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The Beer Store’s Interpretation of Beer Merchandise

December 26th, 2010 · 23 Comments

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.

Tags: Perspectives · The Beer Store

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23 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chris // Dec 27, 2010 at 8:37 am

    I absolutely agree. They cater to the mega-brewer drinkers only. I rarely go to this pathetic place because I make my own. The last time I was in, customers couldn’t read on the wall what the beer store had to offer because they put it right where people returned their empties. A sly move on their part. This store is simply a Coors Light, Canadian and Budweiser store. Period. It is everywhere, on the floor, walls etc… The next time you go in, make sure it is 5 o’clock on a Friday and order a six pack of craft beer if they even have it. The line up of assimilated Borgs behind you will grumble.

  • 2 Jordan // Dec 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I sort of disagree completely here as I think this is a fairly weak argument. If you’re going to take The Beer Store to task it should probably be because they don’t have any interest in the commodity that they’re selling. They don’t go out of their way to stock craft beer because they’re owned by large multinationals and it is detrimental to their business interests.

    If anything, what you’re complaining about is similar to saying “Well sure, Toys R Us sells a lot of Lego, but they don’t have a Lego sweatshirt or a branded storage box to keep my Lego in.”

    On the other hand, you’ve identified a significant possibility to expand freeourbeer. You have the ability to go around to the OCB and other Canadian Craft Beer institutions and set up an online retailer as a one stop shop for Canadian beer merchandise. You could probably even come up with a neat marketing slogan that looks good on a t-shirt. After all, you can’t sell beer outside government sanctioned agencies, but you can sure sell t-shirts.

    It’s likely, though, that you’ll find that it isn’t profitable. Which may be why The Beer Store doesn’t do that. After all, the reason people have Molson Canadian shirts is that they’re free in a 24.

  • 3 admin // Dec 28, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Finally, some good discussion around here!

    First off, I’m certainly not using merchandise as the primary way to “take The Beer Store to task”. You’re right that there’s a lot of things to start with. However, TBS boasts being “the ultimate source for beer” and has obviously invested to build a e-commerce portal (very little other web functionality is available). That indicates that they have some business interest in selling non-beer items.

    So, being “the ultimate source for beer” and only selling sports merch is inconsistent. It’s one of the many ways that TBS does not live up to their own tagline which I hope to discuss here.

    Further, the reason that brands put shirts into their 24’s isn’t because they are unprofitable. It’s a strategy to appeal to drinkers who don’t actually think about the product they’re buying and sway them with something shiny.

  • 4 Vic // Feb 4, 2011 at 8:29 am

    Craft Brewing is a great thing in Ontario and Canada. The basic premise of the Beer Store is to offer to ANY brewer…small or large the opportunity to sell their products in the Beer Store.
    LCBO limits distribution…and craft brewers choose not to sell their product through the Beer Store. Ask the craft brewers why they aren’t in the Beer Store? I would love to buy cool craft brews from The Beer Store! I am tired of the gov’t taking my money to build a retail empire called the LCBO….if that is where you want your tax $ to go so be it….

  • 5 admin // Feb 5, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Hey Vic – one of the big issues with The Beer Store (IMO) is the costs. Yes, any brewer can get in, which is a politically-correct positioning. But they set all the rules for the right to get in, the most basic of which is costs. It would literally cost thousands of dollars to list a single brand similar to a seasonal release at the LCBO. For many brewers, I would suspect that just isn’t feasible, especially for limited edition or speciality brands.

  • 6 Bring On the Expensive Beer // Feb 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

    […] LCBO has been doing some good things recently to push craft beer forward, and one of these initiatives is testing the waters with these super-premium and expensive brands. […]

  • 7 Vic // Feb 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Dear Admin;
    Are the “listing fees” different between the LCBO and The Beer Store? Rumor has it that the LCBO is more? Also I hear that the Beer Store would love to have more craft but can’t get the brewers in. Any insight would be gladly be appreciated. The beer store can use some help.

  • 8 Ted Moroz // Mar 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    “I hear that the Beer Store would love to have more craft but can’t get the brewers in.”
    hahaha come on man…poor Beer Store, they’re trying so hard, just can’t get any distribution love from the craft breweries! I agree with Jordan in that it’s not in the business interests of the beer store/brewer’s retail to sell more beer thats not already manufactured by the multinational beer conglomorate that owns them. The Beer Store is operating a very profitable enterprise in Ontario. there aren’t enough consumers like myself demanding craft beer to really threaten their customer base, and really their only competition is the LCBO. Business is business; TBS is behaving like a responsible, profitable corporation. I guess my grievances lie in the province’s current laws regarding the retail of alcohol. It’s absurb that no one else can retail booze other than the lcbo or TBS. It would be one thing if the lcbo was the sole retailer; but to allow one large private organization to operate and not others is unfair and whatever logic this operates under is unsound. I know im not on topic here; im just new to the site. Free our Beer!!!

  • 9 Me // Sep 18, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I have no idea what it costs craft brewers to have their beer sold at LCBO or TBS, but can just imagine the costs and roadblocks. I despise the notion that we have little choice in this province. I was in California and New England recently and, wow! It makes us look like dictators. I went into brewpubs that had 20 or so of their own beers and then had another 20 or so from other craft beer producers. Then go to a store (a privately-owned store). I was drooling looking at the selection. Ontario citizens have little idea how archaic our beer-selling system is. We even have difficulty getting beer from another province! Loosen up, Ontario and you will start seeing better quality beer. As it is now, there’s very little to speak of as far as quality goes in our beer supply here. I’m heading back the States to get quality…

  • 10 416expat // Oct 18, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Is there some sort of concerted lobbying effort vs. the Province of Ontario to loosen up regulations, perhaps on behalf of the craft brewers?

  • 11 Murphy // Nov 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    416expat, I haven’t really seen any lobbying efforts in Ontario. Ontarians just don’t care in my opinion. They have grown up with lousy beer, lousy selection, and just a plain lousy retail system. As long as they can get their favourite case of swill, they are happy, no matter what the cost. Besides, The Beer Store and the Ontario gov’t are in bed together. As far as they are concerned, just “buy your swill at inflated prices and shut up”. Sad…

  • 12 Lawrence Sauder // May 22, 2012 at 7:50 am

    There is a quote on this page attributed to Ted Moroz, President of The Beer Store. As this quote is not from Ted Moroz i woudl ask that you remove it from your page.

    Thank you

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