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Monday, July 28, 2008

Why the Fuss Over Imports?: By Walter Leipurts

The rant below belongs to Walter Leipurts, owner/operator of WL Designs who handles various brewery accounts as part of his business. Stay tuned for more rants from Leipurts in the future.

I just received a colourful flyer from the LCBO with a focus on imported beers. The last few pages were dedicated to our Ontario products but I couldn’t help but wonder why a government-owned company was pushing imports over domestic products. I suppose they would have an argument if our local beers were inferior or we lacked sufficient variety, but we know this is not the case. Also, you’ve seen the TV ads pushing fresh local produce such as apples over the imported stuff. You can see where I’m heading... Beer is like young children and babies - none of them travel well. Also, what is the guarantee of freshness and environmental viability of these imports? We have no way of checking. As well, consider the energy used to transport this stuff, which has become an issue with skyrocketing fuel prices and carbon impact. The LCBO also might be the vehicle for these Europeans etc. with breweries the size of AB in St. Louis to dump excess product onto our market. Think of the selection of Ontario beers as well as the guaranteed freshness. We have a range of tastes and styles from the slightly flavoured Club Soda that is Coors Light all the way to the various Stouts that our micros produce. Is it the usual misconception that imported is better? We have the best water, barley and hops in the world. Let’s dump the inferiority complex and stick with the world class beer that just happens to be produced in our own back yard - Ontario. Arrange for a brewery tour - you’ll be surprised at how much pride local micros take in their products and how accommodating they are- - you’ll leave feeling pretty darn good and satisfied.

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Zoran said...

I should probably be the last person defending our local monopoly but here I am :)

- LCBO made the first step by offering a starter OCB pack. The beers offered in the pack are not amazingly interesting (I think they are all lagers) but it's hopefully just a start. I think OCB gets a partial blame for those selected six. I guess they want to go easy on the public first.

- They are currently conducting a sampling sessions of OCB beers across Ontario.

I agree that selection of non-Ontario Canadian beers is just disgraceful - I find it surprising that it is often easier to find an American micro than a Canadian one.

I do want LCBO to keep offering interesting foreign beers - just not at the cost of Canadian ones.

I didn't know that we have the best water/barley/hops in the world! I guess one is never too old to learn :)

Troy Burtch said...

Zoran - Believe it or not I am a fan of the LCBO's, for the most part. They are starting to realize the positive effects of 'thinking local' while trying to appease beer geeks by bringing in beers made famous because of their qualities.

Your points are well made. While I support the local breweries 100%, I don't want the LCBO to stop importing great beer made elsewhere.

Troy Burtch said...

Another point I forgot to include in my previous comment - even though I support Ontario local breweries, we can't applaud them for sub par products.

Zoran said...

You can say that again. Yesterday, after a long break, I had an Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale. I swear it had no aroma whatsoever! I was also disappointed with taste - no finish, no complexities, no nothing. Let's hope I had a bad bottle.

Stephen Beaumont said...

I, too, have to take issue with Walter, since as I've said before and will no doubt write again, one of the worst reasons in the world to buy a specific beer is because of where it is brewed. I buy beer for flavour, character and body, not because it's brewed down the street or on the other side of the globe.

(I'm discounting the "green" issues Walter raised, I admit, but only because I believe them to be far more complex that how he positions them. It's been shown, for instance, that in some cases the "100 Mile Diet" leaves a greater environmental footprint than does buying international.)

As for Ontario and Canadian variety, well, no, contrary to what Walter claims, we do not have sufficiency in that. Just look at what's on page one of the LCBO advert: Innis & Gunn, Young's Double Chocolate Stout and Pedigree. Any beers like those brewed in Ontario? No way.

This past weekend, I tripped down to the Queen's Quay LCBO to stock up my beer fridge with, yes, a bunch of Ontario craft beers, but also a good selection of imports. My goal was to assemble a healthy mix of styles, and I plain and simply could not do that by buying exclusively local.

Oh, and as far as Walter's claim of we Canucks having the "best water, barley and hops in the world," tell that to the brewers of Pilsen and Burton-on-Trent, where the local water literally defines the local brew, or Yakima, Kent, Hallertau or any of the many other important hop growing areas of the world. In fact, aside from a few backyard plots here and there, I know of only one substantial hop farm in Canada, located at the organic farm brewery Crannog.

Mark said...

Great comments. To summarize, I'll support local, as long as it's quality local... if not, I'll look elsewhere.

I recently was chastized on a local message board for not giving a locally owned, downtown beer bar (sprawl is becoming a concern) a glowing review. I was somehow supposed to suck it up, find and pay for parking downtown, just to have the pleasure of paying outrageous prices for ho-hum food and imported beer (almost zero local or even regional craft beer on the menu) that I can already buy elsewhere, all in the name of "supporting local business." No thanks.

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