Barley Mowat 

Value On, Liquor. Value On.

with 7 comments

New Liquor Retail Stores are cropping up left right and centre in this town, making me think that I’m not the only one getting a bit disenfranchised with the whole LDB monopoly thing. While it is true that the selection of good beer at the LDB is increasing, it’s really only because existing LDB brands (notably Lighthouse) have started producing better beer.

However, if your good beer desires stretch beyond the 4 or 5 reliable brands carried by the LDB, or if you want to interact with staff who actually give a crap about good beer, you have to haul your lazy ass over to an LRS. And over at that LRS you will generally find much better selection, a staff as snooty as you are, and prices that can sometimes verge on bankruptcy inducing.

Say what you want about the attitude you get for not buying Molson at the LDB, but that bomber of Driftwood Fat Tug sure is $5.50. That same bottle is >$7 at many LRSs, and even more at Viti, who annually win both the citation for Highest Prices in Town and that other award for Closest LRS to Chuck’s House.

It’s a cash prize.

At Value On Liquor, though, that bottle of sweet, delicious liquid hops rings true at $5.50. Yup, Value On offers LDB price matching, which is a Good Thing. Of course, as someone who lives downtown, it’s also a Moot Thing, as I most certainly didn’t drive past three or four perfectly good LDBs to buy the same schlock for the same price, only further away. I’m here precisely because the LDB doesn’t have good beer.

And sadly, Value On doesn’t have a lot of good beer either. Sure, they’ve got the standard mix of Deschutes, Lagunitas and Green Flash, and even some of the odder Canuck ales like Garrison, but where are the Uprights or Belgians? The store is still new, and there are lots of empty slots on those shelves, so perhaps they’re still stocking up, but somehow I don’t think so.

You see, in order to get to those above mentioned brands, you have to walk past their massive Wall of Beer (the back wall is all glass fronted coolers). And the first thing you’ll notice is that this Wall of Beer is comprised of Bud. And Coors. And Labatts. Lots and lots of it. For comparison, go to Viti, Legacy, Brewery Creek or Firefly and try to find the pyramid of Bud.

Much like Tall Food, stacking beer does nothing to make it taste any better.

It’s very clear that the big name brands are where Value On expect to make their money, and I get the feeling that the relatively small section of craft beer is only because a rep at AFIC or BeerThrist was able to convince them to try just the tip, just for a bit, just to see how it feels. RainCity, notably, is completely absent, so don’t go here hoping to grab an Upright or Glazen Toren.

Their wine selection is significantly better, though, and the price matching guarantee stole Sharon from my side for an extended period of time. I could always figure out where she was in the store by the muted “clinks” that came from her ever-increasingly-burdened basket every few minutes, but alas I’m a beer guy first and I was nowhere near as excited.

And while the price matching is a nice benefit, it goes right out the window for beers not offered at the LDB. Deschutes Mirror Pond? $15, same as the LDB (roughly twice the $7 it is in Oregon). Deschutes Inversion IPA, which is $8 in Oregon and not available at the LDB? $21. Throw on to that price the fact there is no 10% discount for CAMRA members and their beer is starting to look a bit pricey… at a store that obviously is positioning itself on price.

And on an First Nations burial ground. Next to an old strip bar. (Haunted strip bar?)

Perhaps this place might be a good middle ground for beer-loving geeks and their wine-loving girlfriends, but I’m not going out of my way to come back. Could I walk in en route to a party and find some beer that I would have no shame consuming? Absolutely. Is there anything here to geek out about? Not really.

Sure, it’s a giant step up for people that live in the area, but a store as large and as ambitious as Value On needs to be much, much more than that. It needs to be good enough to give me a reason to come back other than when I’m en route to get drunk watching the planes land at YVR.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if I did not at least mention that the famous Lundy Dale (of CAMRA BC and Firefly fame) will be involved with Value On Liquor. Lundy is sure to bring good things to the 3 or 4 craft beer coolers available to her, and maybe might even begin a program of annexation of the macro displays. I have no doubts that she’d like to, but what management wants to do might be another thing altogether.

Written by chuck

April 16th, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Beer and You

7 Responses to 'Value On, Liquor. Value On.'

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  1. Wow, look at all the haters. Empty shelves, nuff said


    17 Apr 12 at 01:45

  2. @Anonymous Perhaps I should have mentioned that many of the empty shelves were not in the craft beer section, or that the entire craft beer section itself was much smaller than Viti’s. When you boast about your total floor space on a big sign outside, you need to do better than a 600sf hole in the wall downtown.

    Having said that, it’s not awful. In fact it’s not bad. It’s better than the LDB, but that’s not exactly a high bar to pass.


    17 Apr 12 at 06:58

  3. […] Posted by Chuck from Barley Mowat […]

  4. Great post! I was thinking about checking out Value On just to see, but maybe I’ll wait until their craft selection opens up. I have heard they plan to expand that area, but they need to sell off their macro-swill first. Who knows if that’s Spin or not…


    19 Apr 12 at 14:27

  5. […] Posted by Chuck from Barley Mowat […]

  6. Hey guys:

    Why don’t you come out and visit us again. I have been there for a month! Yes, there were many empty shelves when you were there as I was trying to move things around to make space for more great beers! Ignore the signs above the fridges, I will need to get them replaced to reflect what is below.
    We now have Old Yale, Mission Springs, Townsite Brewing as well as Deschutes, Paddock Wood, Yukon Brewing, Mill Street,Hopworks, and a whole lot more.
    Upright, Uncommon , Cantillon, Ninkasi are on their way.
    Swans and Moon Under Water will arrive next week.

    There may not be any CAMRA discounts at this point, but their is a VIP program that collects points.

    Lundy -Beer Manager/Value On Liquor


    2 May 12 at 13:38

  7. Great Post Thank you so much for sharing


    3 Jan 14 at 21:06

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