Beer, Food

Ontario’s Beer Stores Now Even Worse

If you’re not from Ontario, you may be surprised to learn that The Beer Store, the Ontario chain licensed to sell beer, is not actually a good place to go for beer. Rather, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario is. That may seem a little weird, but it’s true.

If you are from here, and you are a beer snob, then you are well aware that, for some time, The Beer Store has been failing the beer snobs of Ontario. That is mostly due to the fact that The Beer Store is owned by three giant macro breweries. And they just made the experience even worse.

Normally I only ever enter a beer store to return empties (the only place you can do so in Ontario). But I bought beer from one back in September on my way to a music video shoot. Long story.

Today was my first time in a Beer Store as a consumer since September and probably only the second time in 2013. It was also my first experience of one of the new, re-branded stores.

Gone was the wall of brands, offering consumers small pictures of labels with their associated prices for 6- 12- and 24-packs. It was replaced by… nothing.

The information for “Big 10”, the brands the beer store pushes the most – and, to be honest, probably the most popular – were now located behind the cash. A small cooler in the middle of the store offered singles and 6-packs of an arbitrary mix of macros and micros, none of which I wanted to buy. At the front of the store were two computer monitors instructing me to “tap” them. Behind these monitors was a faux-chalk board (probably plastic) with seemingly hand-written beer titles on, trying to reference your local brewpub, with its ever-changing taplist, no doubt. Just titles, no prices. Next to the monitors were trays that claimed to hold the “pricing” list. Every one of them was empty. The empty trays instructed me to ask for assistance.

I am stubborn – I’m not “I won’t ask for directions, I know where I’m going!” stubborn but almost that stubborn – and I will not ask for assistance when something should be obvious.

I tapped the monitors. I poked the monitors. I bumped the monitors with my fists. Nothing happened. They did not appear to work.

The desk they sat on blocked the lower half of the supposedly hand-written list of brands so I spent most of my time peering through the small space between the desk and the fake chalk board.

Eventually I just asked the staff what a particular item was. They told me: it was a taster. I bought it. They sent it out. It did not contain the beers they said it did.

If I shop there another time in the next year it will be too soon.

Please, let’s get rid of the horrible alcohol monopolies in this province for once and for all.

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