B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Posts Tagged ‘Labatt

Local Breweries Feel Slighted by LDB’s Plan to Lure US Craft Sales to Gov’t Liquor Stores

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by WanderingPaddy

Despite the fact that many small BC craft breweries often struggle to get their beers listed for sale in government BC Liquor Stores, the Liquor Distribution Branch (LDB) is sending one of their own to the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America (CBC) to give a talk about “market opportunities” in BC for US craft breweries.

LDB Portfolio Manager, Kimberly Giesbrecht, is set to give a one-hour talk entitled, Canada Market – British Columbia, during a day of talks dedicated to “Export Development” at the CBC.  According to the LDB, Giesbrecht was invited to speak at the CBC by the U.S. National Craft Beer Association (USNCBA) “because BC is recognized as very supportive of the craft beer industry.” Giesbrecht “will be sharing her insight into the BC market with their members,” addressing “craft brewers from around the world including many from BC.”

I hope BC craft brewers do not have to travel all the way to Washington, DC, where the conference is being held, to benefit from Giesbrecht’s insights about the BC craft beer market.

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The Sh*t Has Hit the Fan

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by WanderingPaddy

The shit really hit the fan on Thursday, splattering all over the BC Liberals and their plans to fast-track the sale of the LDB warehouses and warehouse distribution system.

NDP MLA, and my favourite BC politician at the moment, Shane Simpson, flung the poop when he dropped a bombshell, producing 39 pages of documents indicating that the BC Liberals, as recently as June 2011, had no plans to privatize liquor distribution. Yet weeks later, after then Solicitor General Shirley Bond was approached by Exel Logistics VP, Scott Lyons, the government had a change of heart. They decided to privatize, despite having no business case.

After Simpson released the documents accessed through a Freedom of Information request, a media frenzy erupted. I especially enjoyed Vaughn Palmer’s grilling of Labour Minister, Margaret MacDiarmid, on CKNW. MacDiarmid’s comment that “governments do change their minds”, is ridiculous under the circumstances. Consider that last June, LDB privatization was not on the table. But after the meeting with Lyons on August 25, privatization was alive and moving forward. It recalls BC Liberal claims that the HST “was not on their radar” prior to the 2011 election, yet weeks after being voted back into government, Gordon Campbell’s Liberals were ramming the hated tax down our throats.
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Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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A Vancouver Sun article yesterday about a Statistics Canada report on the sale of alcoholic beverages in Canada talked about beer being the top choice of Canadians, albeit with a declining market share, while red wine sales have doubled since 2000 (article had a photo of a blonde drinking white wine!). This, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of beer consumption in BC because only generalized statistics categorizing beer into domestic and import are being reported.

One gets a more complete picture from sales figures reported by the BC Liquor Distribution Board. From April 2008 to September 2008, bottled beer sales in BC increased by 4.16% overall. Figures for the different sales categories are:

Large: 1.24% +
Regional: 2.06% +
Cottage: 32.49% +
Import: 13.2% +

So while mass market beer sales are rather flat, craft (cottage) beer sales in BC are growing much more than all other segments. Gerry Erith, manager of Brewer Creek Liquor Store in Vancouver, sees a divergence in the beer market: the price conscious and the quality conscious. Those looking for cheap beer will be attracted to products from Pacific Western Brewing, Bowen Island, Shaftebury, Molson, and Labatt. Those more interested in flavour & variety will opt for Cannery, Howe Sound, Phillips, R&B, Tree, etc. They are willing to pay more for a better beer, but don’t need to drink as much to be satisfied. Hence, as more people buy craft beer, I expect per capita beer consumption to go down, which is what has been happening. The difficult segment to be in is mid-market as those products are more than what the price conscious are usually willing to pay but not interesting or flavourful enough for the aficionados.

Could craft beer do better in the market? Aside from the perceived health benefits of red wine, I think there are a couple other factors that explain why beer is losing market share to wine — knowledge and marketing.

There is a lot more coverage of wine in the mainstream media than beer. The major newspapers have weekly wine columns; not one has a beer column (not that there is a lack of anything going on in the craft beer world). As an example of how slim the coverage of BC beer is, a new brewery opened in Comox recently. While it was covered in the town’s local paper and in this blog, there was not a word of it in the Victoria Times Colonist, The Province, or The Vancouver Sun. This is no piddly brewery either. With an investment of $2 million dollars, they aim to sell their beer throughout BC. It also is a good story of an entrepreneur finding a way out of the forest industry sinking boat without laying off all his workers. I doubt the opening of a new winery would escape notice.

So with the average person getting next to no information about their own craft breweries, beer styles, beer & food pairing, and the industry’s movers & shakers, how could one become interested in the possibilities of beer, never mind even knowing that there are any?

And of the information widely available, the majority of it is industrial beer advertising. Is it any surprise, then, that BC’s top-selling brands closely correlate with those most heavily advertised? And what is the substance of the majority of that messaging? Beer, sports, and men. What a great way to limit the appeal of your product, especially if the imagery is blatantly sexist. This doesn’t appeal to a large number of women, so they will choose something that has a more sophisticated, inclusive image. That’s a shame because it isn’t as if women don’t like beer. Many think they don’t, but actually haven’t gone beyond the beer that they didn’t like to find one that they do. That’s typically a fruit beer, wheat beer, or chocolatey stout to start off with. (I actually had a woman kiss me after trying an Old Yale Sasquatch Stout for the first time.)

Given people’s growing interest in gastronomy and the hospitality industry’s efforts to put BC on the global culinary map, it’s no surprise our wine industry has progressed so tremendously over the last two decades. We’ve seen the same with an evolving coffee culture and, recently, a nascent cocktail revival. Therefore, it makes sense people have a growing interest in BC craft beer. Given the myriad of styles available beyond American lager and pale ale, there’s a lot of scope for discovery. Let’s hope our media start catching on and get people excited about what our local brewers are doing. This is an opportunity being missed.

Craft Beer Comes to Comox

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With forestry having played a large role in the economy of Vancouver Island, it’s not surprising that as the industry took a nose dive, many people found themselves facing the prospect of unemployment. Bob Surgenor was one of those people. He depended on the forest industry for much of the work that engaged his Comox-based industrial electrical company. Not wanting to lay his employees off, he decided to start a brewery to keep them working. Last month, after a number of delays, they began shipping beer.

Not a brewer himself, Surgenor has hired Douglas Rae as his brewmaster. Rae began his brewing career at Granville Island in 1984, before moving on to stints at Labatt and Molson. He’s starting off with two beers — Red House Irish Red ale and Steam Donkey Lager — to ween the “Lucky Lager crowd” from macro lager onto craft beer. A stout and a wheat ale are next in line.

Surgenor is concentrating on developing the nothern Vancouver Island market over the next nine months, followed by the south Island, before expanding province-wide. The brewery will host a soft-opening celebration on March 21. The grand opening is planned for some time in July.