There’s a sobering reality for many of Ontario’s craft breweries: It costs a lot of money to make a quality product.
So it appears many local suds producers will be taking a pass on Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s buck-a-beer challenge. The Progressive Conservative government promised last week to lower the minimum price for any beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 per cent to $1, effective Aug. 27.
“There’s a time and a place for the differences between a drive-thru meal and a good steak,” Redline Brewhouse owner Kari Williams said. “For us, as an independently owned and operated small business trying to create our own market in Barrie, the buck-a-beer concept is of no interest. Without taking a significant loss, it’s impossible. If anything, it erodes what craft beer culture is trying to do. I’m nervous about getting political. But I don’t think it was well thought out. It is aimed at, and potentially supports, the global conglomerates.”
Craft beer’s share of the market has grown steadily in recent years and currently sits at about eight per cent, she said.
“People are hungry for that quality, unique, consistent beer,” Williams said. “They’re prepared to pay for (that). We purposely source local (ingredients) first. We hire from the local population.”
The government plan is not mandatory. However, the province has promised to provide incentives to participating breweries for a limited time throughout the year, including LCBO promotional discounts, in-store displays on end aisles and shelf extenders, or advertising in LCBO flyers and newspaper inserts.
Buck-a-beer will not apply to draft brews sold in restaurants and bars, or ciders, spirits or wine.
“You can’t do buck-a-beer at the craft brew level,” Barnstormer Brewing and Distilling Co. president Dustin Norlund said. “It’s not going to benefit Ontario. The only brewers that could do it successfully are producing in cheap jurisdictions elsewhere. Our consumers aren’t interested in buck-a-beer. They fully understand you’re giving up quality to get the price.”
The minimum price was raised by the previous Liberal government, from $1 to $1.25, in 2008, Ford said.
However, production costs and taxes have climbed significantly over the last decade, Norlund noted.
Instead, the province should focus on updating “archaic” alcohol laws, disbanding the Beer Store and diversifying products at the LCBO, he said.
Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery expressed similar concerns in social media posts last week, and strongly asserted it will not participate in the challenge.
“ have come so far creating jobs, supporting our local communities, and brewing fantastic award-winning beers with international reputations for quality,” Flying Monkeys said in an Aug. 8 post. “That doesn’t happen for a dollar.”
The company also finished the statement with the hashtag.
Two days later, the brewery reaffirmed its position with a post about vintage stout.
“In , there are incomparable beers which become Standards of Faith testifying there are Brewers who care deeply about their art,” the brewery said. “Craft Beers are worth more than a Dollar.”
Representatives from Flying Monkeys could not be reached for comment.