My name is Matt and I’m a beer geek. Just over 3 years ago I joined ratebeer.com and my life as a beer geek changed forever. I was shocked at how little I knew about beer and I was horrified to learn I could not easily purchase any of the brews that scored well on ratebeer. Looking at the ratebeer top 50 was like trying to learn a new language. I had no idea what an Imperial Stout, IIPA, or Sour Ale tasted like. With over 500 brands available locally I assumed that the best beer in the world was right down the street. I quickly found out that Ontario is a tough place to be a beer geek.
So here is the start of my Hop Press look at the Ontario Beer scene.
In Ontario you can only purchase beer for consumption at home at three types of retailers. The LCBO, The Beer Store, or a brewery retail store. Here are the highlights and lowlights of the LCBO and Beer Store.
Highlights: the LCBO has the best selection of local and imports, most priced below what you would find in other markets. Unibroue 750ml’s are around $5, 473ml cans of Denisons Weissbier are $2.60, and 500ml cans of Fullers London Porter are $2.35. The hours are decent and most cities have multiple outlets. In Ontario, you’re never more than 10 minutes from an LCBO.
Lowlights: the selection rarely changes and even though the LCBO lists some decent beer, you rarely find all of it at the same store. Local 6-packs are quite expensive. Mill Street Tankhouse Ale is $12.55/ 6er and Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion is $12.95/6er. Also, the LCBO does not currently list an IIPA, Sour Ale, Imperial Stout, Barley Wine, or Quad.
The selection is improving and the seasonal releases are introducing additional world-class beer to local beer drinkers, but considering the LCBO is your best option for craft beer in Ontario, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
The Beer Store:
Highlight: you can get Unibroue in 6 packs, and you can recycle your empties.
Lowlights: terrible customer service, long lines, and poor selection make The Beer Store the worst possible place for a craft beer lover to end up. Instead of a self-serve retail area, you are forced to make your selection from a wall displaying the brands available and then you request your choice at the cashier. Often, if your choice is craft, the product will be “sold out” and a macro alternative will be suggested.
In addition, it is very expensive for micro breweries to list their products at The Beer Store.
The third and best option is to purchase your beer from a local micro brewery. That and the Ontario micro scene in general will be the focus of my next Hop Press post.
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