When I first heard beer was coming to Ontario grocery stores I was excited and hopeful. I thought competition would fix some of The Beer Store and LCBO’s shortcomings.
But my enthusiasm waned when I learned some details of the arrangement: grocers are banned from competing with the duopoly on price and selling hours; nor can they offer any cross promotions on beer.
Of course the grocery stores must overcome the usual pile of Ontario red tape to bring in any unique products. Plus, they face a new, seemingly arbitrary restriction: no beer with more than 7.1% alcohol. “I mean, let’s keep this respectable, right?”
My one remaining hope was that the grocers would seize the chance to exploit the one avenue of meaningful advantage available to them — temperature.
Most LCBO stores keep their beer at room temperature. Some stores have ineffective “cool shelves”. Even fewer have “cold rooms” which are not usually cold enough, and often out of service. The Beer Store does a slightly better job on the temperature front, albeit with a far worse selection.
As the cans and bottles initially rolled into grocery stores late last year I was disheartened when I saw them sitting warmly, with minimal shelf space at the grocery stores I visited.
This week, however, my wish came true when I stumbled on a wall of gleaming refrigerators, stocked with ice cold beer at my local Superstore.
Not only was the beer ice cold, but there was a surprisingly large selection, better than many LCBO stores. Fully 50% of the shelf space was devoted to Ontario craft brews (the law says only 20% has to be reserved for local craft).
This place is going to get a healthy chunk of my beer dollars.
I’ll still head to the duopoly for seasonal releases and imports unavailable elsewhere. But when I need beer to be consumed soon after purchase or if I’m buying regularly-available Ontario craft (especially hoppy styles), I’ll be picking up from the Superstore. There are currently 60 grocery stores authorized to sell beer.
As far as I’m concerned this is a win for Ontario beer drinkers. No more waiting for lukewarm lagers to cool down! No more faded IPA!
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you’ll sell more beer if it’s cold. As one impressed customer remarked, “It sure beats buying it piss warm.” In the almost 90 years since the end of prohibition in Ontario, The Beer Store and LCBO have not bothered to offer properly chilled beer to Ontarians with any consistency. For shame.
Does cold beer make a difference to you? Is your local grocery store selling cold beer?