Liquor and Beer

For all my travels this is the first time I’ve lived in another province within Canada. All my previous stays in Canada have centered around British Columbia. In fact, the last time I left BC to visit somewhere else was thirteen years ago when I flew into Toronto for a few days on my way back from Africa.

Different provinces do things differently and those differences are just enough to make me step back and ponder why certain things evolved they did west of the Rocky Mountains. There are other provincial differences, but this is the first one that caught my notice.

There are two major alcohol outlets in Ontario, the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) and the Beer Store. The Beer Store offers exactly what one would assume. Beer. And lots of it. Depressingly the most popular brands are Coors Lite, Budweiser and Molson Canadian, but then my preference for microbrew beers with a colour not urine yellow and a flavour not beyond bland means I’m always going to be shopping from a smaller selection than most. Some of the Beer Stores only display a select few brands, while on a bulletin board there are offered a slew more tucked and chilled in the back.

I returned my empties to the LCBO and was informed, by a rather curt older woman, that they didn’t take returns, I had to go to the Beer Store for that. I told her how foolish I felt that decision to be before stalking out of the store. And I do find it curious, it has made for a symbiotic relationship between the LCBOs and Beer Stores. Having done a bit of research, it turns out the Beer Store is owned by the Big Three breweries of Canada; Labat, Molson Coors and Sleemans. They’ve established a rather effective relationship, the Beer Stores pump out their big three products (plus some others) and take all returns from all liquor sellers, while the LCBO focuses on wines and spirits and saves on building space as they do not need space to store and sort returned empties.

The Beer Store on Spadina, where the frat houses take their empties back.

In BC, the liquor stores accept returns.

There are some other differences between the liquor regulation, the first being that pubs rarely (if ever) have beer and wine stores attached to them. Pubs are for quaffing pints and glasses in public. Pubs also don’t do off-sales. I learned that when I tried to get some off-sales to take over to a friends and the barkeep looked at me with blankly and asked, “What are off-sales?”
Off-sales are drinks (usually beer) bought from behind the bar at an inflated price to take away and drink at home.  Customers are paying for convenience. It can be done in BC, but not Ontario.

I am learning, albeit slowly.



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