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Monday, July 21, 2008 - Independence, Variety, Choice

Len Owens, owner of the Golden Kiwi Pub and Grill in Cambridge, ON has commenced a website dedicated to raising awareness to the hardships independent pub owners of Ontario must face in their daily operations. Offering quality beer at quality prices while competing with chain pubs who receive the perks large breweries throw around. He is fed up and he is not taking it anymore. was recently unveiled on the heels of all the exposure in the media about the Beer Store, best beer bars in the GTA and the small brewers, and Owens figured the time was now to get things going.

His website (which looks promising) plans to offer a directory of freehouses across the country, helping drinkers of fine beer locate places without restrictions, while supporting the breweries that make quality beer and support local flavour.

Owens is calling out other owners of Freehouses to sign up and become partners in the fight, to work together. Grand River Brewing Co., Castle on King and Augusta's Winking Judge are confirmed so far and I hope others will soon join.

So what is a Freehouse? I'll let Owens explain:
Freehouses, as they became known, were not tied to any one brewery by ownership or the beer they chose to serve. Today’s freehouse will often have beer from many different breweries and some will have a sign proclaiming the establishment as a freehouse.
It is obvious that I am a strong supporter of freehouses. I seek them out when out experiencing a new pub. I rarely go into a place that has a 'contract' with a brewery so to speak. So I'm jumping on the bandwagon and encourage you to do the same. Lend your voice in support along with the great freehouses in this country.

Here is an example of what Owens is talking about based on personal experience, even though it doesn't involve a craft brewer, it still tells a story about the cutthroat business:

When I was living in Halifax I heard a story while working for a large brewing company. The company was made aware from a loyal customer that a pub in the downtown area was pouring a rival brewery's beer from one of our taps. A worker went in to investigative, ordered a pint of the stuff and confirmed it was indeed not the proper beer that should have flowed from that particular draught tower. Thinking maybe someone just hooked up the wrong keg to the line he went back over the next week and it was still the same. It was alleged that the rival brewery had approached the pub with promise of free beer, cash kickbacks for every keg sold and lots of advertising and promotional wares. Needless to say, the company involved pulled all their products from the pub and a once friendly relationship quickly turned sour.

Combine the recently created CASK Toronto movement, the Freeourbeer site and the opinions of other beer bloggers and media personnel, there is now a pretty substantial voice in the craft brewing industry. Keep up the noise, persistence pays off in the long run.

* Picture of Len obtain via*

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