craft beer store ontario

The Beer Store opens itself to wider craft beer selection

Early this morning, news broke that The Beer Store, Ontario's only privately owned beer retailer, would be opening up ownership opportunities to all the province's brewers.

Beleaguered in the mainstream media and online outlets (ahem) as of late owing to growing outrage over the fact that just three companies -- AB InBev, Molson-Coors, and Sapporo -- were allowed exclusive rights to operate beer stores in Ontario, The Beer Store has seemingly acquiesced to popular sentiment and extended an invitation to all of Ontario's brewers to take a seat at their proverbial boardroom table--for a price of course.

Under the new arrangement, larger Ontario breweries, those that already sell 5 million litres of beer per year through the Beer Store, will be allowed purchase a "Class E" share in TBS for $1000. Smaller breweries, those who sell less than 5 million liters per year through the Beer Store, will be allowed to purchase a "Class F" share for $100.

Class E owners will pay the same listing fees as TBS' current owners, while Class F owners will pay discounted listing fees.

Additionally, in an effort to show support for smaller Ontario brewers, i.e. those who sell less than 1 million litres of beer per year in the Beer Store, TBS will waive the listing fee for two of their brands at the five Beer Store locations located closest to their brewery. What this means is that small brewers will be able to get two of their beers on TBS shelves in their geographic area. Brewers will now also be allowed to "swap out" existing brands twice a year to list seasonal brands at The Beer Store.

Ultimately, the Beer Store's board will still skew toward the big guys (Molson and Labatt will retain five seats each on the board of directors, Sleeman will retain two. Class E brewers will get two seats, and Class F will get one) and their majority ownership means they get to call the shots, but the move does mean that, on paper, smaller brewers have a chance to have their voice heard by The Beer Store.

In a statement released today, Beer Store president Ted Moroz was quoted as saying, "As a result of these changes all Ontario brewers will be able to participate in the management of the company and the smallest Ontario brewers will get improved opportunities to grow their sales volumes at a significantly reduced cost."

The changes of course don't mean much for brewers who don't want to sell their beer through The Beer Store, and while the board structure looks "open," the sales figure requirements mean only two or three Ontario brewers will actually be eligible to purchase "Class E" shares, but at the very least the news is a massive PR coup for the embattled Beer Store.

Ben Johnson also writes about beer over on Ben's Beer Blog. Follow him on twitter at @Ben_T_Johnson.

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