Summer beer festival toronto

Summer beer festivals saved by...The Beer Store?

The bureaucratic beer snafu we reported a few weeks ago that posed a potential threat to Ontarian's enjoyment of beer festivals this summer appears to have been avoided with the assistance of an unlikely hero: The Beer Store.

Yes, following the news that Left Field Brewery and other contract breweries might not be allowed to participate in events licensed with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario's (AGCO) Special Occasion Permits, The Beer Store evidently stepped in to see what they could do.

According to a Beer Store press release issued this morning, "soon after the problem was identified, the Beer Store developed a new sales process designed to facilitate the sale of contract brews like Left Field to special occasion permit events in a manner consistent with Ontario's Liquor Licence Act."

Ted Moroz, President of The Beer Store, is quoted in the release as saying, "We are huge supporters of all Ontario-based brewers including those in the rapidly growing craft beer business," he says. "Crafts who produce their products under contract are the start-ups, like Left Field Brewery, who need our support the most."

Regardless of how much IPA may have just been spit out in disbelief across the province as craft beer fans read the words above, the fact remains that Ontario's only legislated private beer retailer, the one owned by three of the world's largest, mostly foreign-owned brewers, did in fact just get little guys Left Field Brewery out of a jam.

Left Field Brewery's Mark Murphy explained how the fix will work and, while it's not exactly subtle, it works. "We tell the beer fest which beer and how much of it we want to bring," Murphy says. "Then the beer fest uses that info to issue a purchase order to The Beer Store."

The Beer Store then effectively "buys" the beer from Left Field Brewery.

"We're still responsible for delivery, collecting payment, returns, etc. but TBS brokers the deal," Murphy says. To make it all legal, the Beer Store will charge Left Field Brewery approximately $20 in admin fees.

Is it a silly work-around to dumb problem? Yes.

Is it insane that craft brewers need the help of a store owned by big brewers just to figure out ways to hack our province's archaic liquor legislation? Clearly.

Is it possible that the Beer Store has jumped all over a chance for an easy PR win helping craft brewers because they feel like their position as our only private beer retailer is being challenged? That'd be a heck yes.

But the fact remains that Left Field Brewery and other contract brewers will now be able to participate in the beer festivals they need to get their businesses started. It means precious word of mouth and exposure for these start-up breweries and, importantly, it guarantees the presence and variety of new and small brewers that craft beer fans expect at beer festivals.

So I guess we need to...thank The Beer Store?

I feel so dirty.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. After he's done weeping in the shower, you can catch him on twitter at @Ben_T_Johnson.

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