Sometimes I start a Facebook post, and it ends up as a blog-worthy rant: case-in-point => yesterday’s Post on the Flatland BEER Facebook page.
(Since I now have a blog, I should probably stop myself halfway into the FB rant, and head over here to complete it. I’ll get the hang of this whole InterWeb thing one of these days…)
The rant started off innocently enough – a good news story on increased liquor sales in Saskatchewan. The key point of the story? Sask saw the second fastest growth in Canada across all liquor categories, according to Statistics Canada. This is a good thing… I should be happy about this. But somehow I managed to rant anyway… I guess it was the pejorative comment the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) spokesperson inserted when referencing beer:
“Customers in recent years have been purchasing better products, moving into more of the premium brands in all categories,” said David Morris from the SLGA. “And that might be wine and spirits or even beer [my emphasis].”
Mr. Morris’ comment implies a certain attitude towards beer – perhaps he’s reflecting general public sentiment, or perhaps he’s reflecting SLGA’s attitude… either way, I find it irritating.
Regarless, progress is progress – right? The Saskatchewan government has undoubtedly taken major steps to modernizing the antiquated liquor laws in this province (servers can even wear Spandex around alcohol without worrying about a liquor inspector shutting the business down – this was an actual issue the government previously saw fit to regulate… much to the joy of several media outlets).
The next big step? Make accessing Saskatchewan-made beer (liquor and wines) as easy in Sask as it is to access Sask beer in Alberta. And easy, it is: walk into virtually any full-scale liquor store in AB, and you’ll find multiple styles of Saskatoon’s Paddock Wood Brewing Co. (Paddock Wood is also available at The Beer Store & LCBO in Ontario).
This is a public policy issue, that SLGA and Brad Wall need to address — despite significant improvements to the province’s liquor laws in the past couple of years, brewers, distillers & winemakers still report difficulty in getting their products into SLGA stores due to:
- systematic red tape;
- local managers who simply aren’t interested;
- an apparent preference by SLGA for the Molson, Labatt & Sleeman (aka: Molson-Coors, AB InBev & Saporro);
- poor support to regional #CraftBeers;
- SLGA stores not rotating stock properly… especially important in quality beer; and
- not refrigerating local beers, even when the local guys offer to supply the fridge… despite doing so for the macro brewers
Other provinces – such as BC, Ontario & Quebec have implemented “local-first policies.” These don’t mean major producers are turfed, it simply means local producers essentially get first first of refusal to shelf & SKU space… especially important in high-traffic aisles of the store.
Is this policy working? Well when you look at the Brewers Association 2014 World Beer Championship winners, the 7 Canadian winners are from three of the provinces with local-first policies in their public liquor system: BC (2), Ontario (1), and Quebec (4). Correlation doesn’t mean causation… but it’s a theory worth exploring
Baby steps, I know. And we do see some excellent stores & store managers (Normanview in Regina has a great refrigerated section, and South Albert consistently seems responsive), but this shouldn’t be up to individual consumers lobbying individual store managers to bring in interesting, unique, local products… the public liquor system was explicitly created as a public policy vehicle: this is well within the SLGA’s mandate.