Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hey Ontario! You Ready for some Garrison Beer?

I have written about the Garrison Brewing Company from Halifax, NS many times since I created this blog. I have also profiled a number of their beers. And now it is my great pleasure to announce that Garrison will now be available for private ordering here in Ontario!

But before I go any further, please let me tell you how it has come to be.

Remember that three-part series that the Toronto Star ran in the summer about the Beer Store and how beer is sold in this province? Remember ‘Bad Brew’. The one that caused a big stir in the beer industry, leading one man from Hamilton, ON to initiate a petition to outright ban the Beer Stores; the one that caused a local MPP to stand up in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and read the petition aloud to his colleagues; the one that irked Cass Enright, the founder of the popular Toronto beer forum Bar Towel, to put together a new website titled “Free Our Beer” aimed at running stories about the way our province regulates the sale of beer.

Enright started that website with one mind in goal – to reform Ontario’s beer retail system, from a craft point of view. Which leads me to my next story.

I was having beers with Enright one night back in December and we were sitting around his place talking about our recent rejection from the LCBO regarding an FOI (Freedom of Information) request we had made, searching for a list of all rejected beers over the last two years and the reasons why they were turned down.

I believe we were having a glass of 21% beer from Denmark when Enright mentioned that we could be going about this all wrong – instead of trying to request information, why not get an import agent license and bring in a beer? This way, one would be able to walk through all the stages an individual must go through to get beer on the shelves at our arms-length government liquor stores.

The following week a call was placed to Brian Titus, owner of Garrison’s asking him if he would be interested in signing up for this new endeavour. He was! Ok, so now how to go about getting the proper credentials to import beer from one province into another?

Enright did his homework. He talked to other importers, picked the brains of some LCBO staff, and contacted the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, who issue importer licences. Meetings, fees, and a signed contract got the ball rolling, and today the licence sits on Enright’s desk. What’s the name of the business? None other than Bar Towel of course! Actually, its Cecktor Limited, Enright's corporation behind this venture.

Titus meanwhile, was growing more and more excited about the possibility of entering the Ontario market, even on a small scale. In a recent phone conversation with Titus, I mentioned that his Imperial Pale Ale would be a great start for the Ontario market and his excitement grew even more. “The thought of Ontario citizens finally being able to drink the 2007 & 2008 Canadian Beer of the Year is beautiful,” he stated. “It will be nice to actually get our beer into the hands of all the people who have emailed over the last couple of years wondering why they couldn’t buy our beer in Ontario.”

So what exactly will be coming in? For starters, the Imperial Pale Ale at $51 per case (12x500ml), Garrison's newest seasonal Sugar Moon Maple Ale also at $51 per case (12x500ml), and flats (24) of mixer sixers that will contain Tall Ship Amber, Irish Red Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, Martello Stout, and Jalapeno Ale at $52 a flat (4x6 341ml).

Getting back to that whole Free Our Beer, dedicated to reforming Ontario’s beer retail system, from a craft point of view thing. Enright has been keeping meticulous notes on each step that he has undergone. It’s interesting stuff, and he's going to begin writing about his experiences on Free Our Beer. And hopefully, as this enterprise moves ahead, more information will become available about other products out there that are searching for shelf space here in Ontario. If so, I’ll be sure to post them here on the blog.

How to sign up for a case? Very easy. Go to, fill in the blanks when prompted and then wait for an LCBO order form that will need to be signed and dated before being submitted with your credit card number. A 25% deposit will be charged by the LCBO as a confirmation of your order. This deposit will not be charged right away, but when the entire order is delivered to the LCBO. The remaining cost will be charged once you pick up your order from the LCBO upon arrival.

Here is the press release:

TORONTO, March 19 - The Bar Towel, through its partner corporation Cecktor Limited, is proud to announce that it has been appointed the exclusive agent in Ontario for Garrison Brewing Company of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We are thrilled to announce this exciting new venture for The Bar Towel and our new relationship with Garrison,” said Cass Enright, President of The Bar Towel. “The Bar Towel has always stood for promoting craft beer in Ontario, and now we will be able to help contribute to this directly with one of Canada’s premier breweries in Garrison,” he continued.

The Bar Towel intends on doing things a little differently as a brewery agent in Ontario. All dealings with the LCBO and other regulatory bodies will be documented on Free Our Beer (, a web site begun by The Bar Towel in summer of 2008 to raise awareness about the challenges craft beer drinkers face from a retail point-of-view. “We believe that Ontarians deserve the best that the beer world has to offer,” said Cass. “And we intend on shedding some light, from the inside, what it’s like to be in the beer business in Ontario.”

A private order will be the first way that beer lovers in Ontario can try Garrison’s ales. Starting immediately, consumers can join a private order to purchase full cases of the following:

The multiple-award winning Imperial Pale Ale
The new seasonal Sugar Moon Maple Ale
A mixed-six of different brands including Irish Red Ale, Tall Ship Amber Ale, Nut Brown Ale, Raspberry Wheat Ale, Martello Stout Ale and Jalapeno Ale.

Consumers interested in being a part of this order can find out more information and apply online at

“This represents a big leap forward not only for The Bar Towel, but for beer lovers of Ontario as well,” Cass continued. “Hopefully passionate beer fans will be able to try some new beers as a result of this,” he concluded.

Garrison Brewing Company is an award-winning independent Halifax microbrewery, producing distinctive, unpasteurized, all-natural ales in small batches. Now in it’s 11th year, Garrison distributes widely throughout the Maritimes and has nearly doubled sales since moving to the Halifax Seaport three years ago.

The Bar Towel is Ontario’s premier online destination for craft beer lovers in the province. The Bar Towel is the founder of the Golden Tap Awards, a leading awards event recognizing beer achievements in Ontario and Free Our Beer, a web site dedicated to craft beer retail reform.

For more information, contact: Cass Enright, President, The Bar Towel,, 416-452-4049.

To submit your order, click on the flashing banner that will be a main stay on the blog, or head over to Bar or where you can fill out a form. Have any questions? Please feel free to contact Enright directly at, or contact me here at

**Stay tuned for some more information about some neat things taking place at Garrison. Things that include Hong Kong, a home brewing competition, and new beers.


Troy Burtch said...

A big congratulations to Cass for all the hard work he has put into this. I look forward to seeing, and hearing about all the hurdles he had to go through.

A pint to you Cass.


Mig said...

WOW!! What amazing news! I'm sure Cass will build a great portfolio of "imports".

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