Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘CAMRA_YVR’ tag

The BC LCLB Speaks!

with 2 comments

I just received this little note in response to my rantish letter a few weeks back about Bring Your Own Wine:

Thank you for your follow up email. Minister Coleman has requested that this branch, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch respond on his behalf.

There is a lot of legal, policy and committee work involved in changing legislation. When bring your own wine was being contemplated government had been extensively lobbied for bring your own wine, with very little call being made for bring your own beer from either restaurant associations, the public or business. This is still the case. There is no plan to allow bring your own beer.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to write back to this address or to call our Help Desk, toll-free, at 1-866-209-2111.

Now, before y’all get worked up into a tizzy over this, I should say that I like this answer. Well, at least I like it a lot more than the previous one, which frankly was both baffling and insulting.

This answer, on the other hand, makes sense. It plainly outlines a reason for not including beer in the legislation, and as sucky as that reason might be, it is logical. Why wasn’t beer included? The answer is right there: the beer lobby wasn’t loud enough, and a quiet lobby isn’t worth spit in politics. That’s just the name of the game.

However, this letter cuts both ways. Now that we know why beer was left out, we also know how to fix that and get beer included. If we want craft beer to be taken seriously in this province, we need to get organized and get loud. We kinda suspected it before, but now we have it in writing.

Written by chuck

August 24th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

My Take on Bring Your Own Bottle

with 4 comments

Normally, I don’t really do the whole politics side of beer in BC. Instead, I tend to leave that sort of competent reporting up to CAMRA, and CAMRA YVR’s President Paddy Treavor. You can read his recent coverage over on his site, the VanEast Beer Blog.

On the rare occasion that I do talk about the LDB, it’s usually in profanity strewn rant form, which I post here and then leave it at that. However, when Paddy recently appealed to BC beer consumers to write the government in support of including beer in the BYOB initiative, I changed my stance slightly and sent them a very polite, and very un-Chuck letter. Here it is:

To: Karen Ayers (General Manager of BC LCLB), Rich Coleman (Minister Responsible for LCLB)
Subject: BYOB — Inclusion of Beer

Hello Karen & Rich,

I am quite obviously writing to you today to express my support for the inclusion of beer in the potential upcoming legislation change to allow consumers to bring their own bottles of wine to restaurants. That this discussion is proceeding with only consideration for wine is as much a testament to the quality of the BC wine industry as it is a slap in the face of the many hard working British Columbians who are engaged day to day in investing in and improving our still-growing local beer industry.

But perhaps my case is best illustrated via anecdote. Recently I had the privilege to receive an invite to an underground restaurant not far from where I work in Gastown. This endeavor was the result of two young chefs eager to branch out from the bland menus of their day jobs, and their enthusiasm was plainly evident in the quality of local food they elected to present.

The reason I mention this encounter at all is their liquor policy. They not only allowed, but actively encouraged guests to bring along both wine and beer to pair with their excellent menu of locally sourced game and produce. With a bit of research, I took their BC-sourced theme and produced a selection of BC wines and beers that was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.

The fact that this gastronomic celebration of everything BC could only be offered by an off-the-grid restaurant is largley due to our overly restrictive liquor laws should be a point of shame for anyone in a position of governance.

British Columbia has much more to bring to the table than just an excellent wine; we have the whole meal, and I hope you will make the correct choice and allow us to do just that.

Perhaps even more surprising than my out-of-character civility is the fact that I got a response! Yup, I open my inbox today and take a look, and it turns out that message I thought was spam (seriously, check the from and subject) is actually a mass mailed form letter to everyone who wrote about in about beer in BYOB. Given how reclusive this branch of the government tends to be, even a form letter can be considered a massive improvement. Here’s the response.

From: Minister, EMH EMH:EX
Subject: 483035

Dear Mr. Hallett:

Thank you for your June 22, 2012 e-mail regarding allowing customers to bring their own beer into a licensed establishment, in addition to wine. Your comment is noted and we appreciate the time you have taken to make us aware of your view.

As you know, the public may bring wine into licensed restaurants that wish to offer this option. Government has received a number of requests over the past several years to allow customers to bring their own bottle of wine to a restaurant. In some cases, people have purchased wine while travelling or are saving a particular bottle of wine to allow it to age and would like to bring it out to mark a special occasion. The Canadian and BC restaurant associations have also written in support of this “bring your own wine” initiative.

One of the significant considerations for government is also the huge number of wine varietals available from around the world. The Province has substantially more active listings for wine than beer. While we appreciate the evolving nature and uniqueness of the variety of beer, it is not in the same category as wine. Therefore, as in other provinces, there are no plans to allow “bring your own beer” at this time.

Thank you for writing.

Sincerely yours,

Rich Coleman
Minister of Energy and Mines

The fuck? Raise your hand if that makes sense. Yeah, me neither. More active listings at the LDB for wine means… that… you shouldn’t bring beer… to a restaurant? Um… ooookaaaaay. Rather than summarize my thoughts, I’ll just include the email I wrote back. I fully understand that I’ll never, ever get a reply to this email, but perhaps by posting it here I can at least start the discussion with someone.

Hello Rich,

Thanks for taking the time to respond to me.

While I understand that the law has been written in such a way as to be wine-specific, I really wish your argument as to why this was done made sense. In effect, you make two points in support of a wine-only law:

1. That customers privately import and cellar special wines, and wish to consume them in restaurants.
2. There are more wine varietals listed in the LDB than beer styles.

To point 1, many customers also privately import and cellar special beers to enjoy during celebrations. I am one of these people; my beer cellar currently has almost 200 bottles from a mix of BC, Canadian, American and European producers. Without exception, all 200 of my bottles are not available for purchase in restaurants, and have never been listed by the LDB. To be able to bring a bottle of my cellared beer to a celebration at a restaurant would be fantastic, especially considering that some bottles I have cellared based on important dates in my and my friends’ lives (marriages, birth of a child, etc).

To point 2, I suspect the aim of this statement was to say that the larger variety available for purchase means that the restaurant could not possibly offer sufficient wine selection to satisfy the public. I concur, but I also believe this when it comes to beer. Very often I find myself in an excellent restaurant that has a truly pathetic beer list. This has caused me to not patronize certain restaurants in the past, and will do so again in the future.

Even though the LDB only has 560 listings for beer, the private stores provide easily 10x this selection, meaning that thousands of BC residents will be forced to leave that special purchase at home because it was made with barley instead of grapes.

However, these are all soft arguments and we can go back and forth on them all day without making much progress. The one thing I’m curious about is if I’m missing something here. Would including beer in the BYOB initiative have been as simple as having added “and beer” to the legislation when it was drafted, or is there a massive amount of work behind the scenes to include beer that I’m just not seeing?

I could absolutely understand basing this change upon existing legislation in other provinces, and thus causing an easily overlooked lapse to propagate further. However, I cannot understand the notion that beer was given serious thought, and left on the side of this change simply because “it is not in the same category as wine,” leaving thousands of BC residents to wonder if their government even takes their professions and passions seriously.

Thank you for your time,

I truly want to believe these guys have a good reason to have omitted beer, or that they just honestly forgot and by the time someone pointed it out it was too late. But with responses like that, which verge on ludicrously grabbing at any reason at all to justify keeping beer at home, I have to seriously consider the possibility that these folk fall into the group of people who just cannot possibly imagine beer being anything but what’s depicted in macro beer ads.

Sure, wine has a much better consumer lobby, and we have them to thank for even getting this discussion on the table. However, once the bill was drafted it would have taken just a few seconds to open the file, put the cursor after “wine” and insert “or beer.”

Yet they didn’t. Why? Because fuck beer, that’s why.

Written by chuck

August 8th, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with ,

Members with Benefits

with one comment

A CAMRA card isn’t just a form of elitist ID that gains you access to the very upper echelons of society. Oh no, it also gets you special treatment at any number of high end establishments all around town. And by “special” I mean “the same as everyone else, only slightly cheaper.” It’s true, have a look.

And that list isn’t even complete. There are a few liquor stores missing (like Viti), and definitely a few establishments (like Sharkey’s), although I expect the PHP error barfed in the middle of the page might have something to do with that. But, whatever, PHP is hard and the site admins have drinking to do!

A cat sys admin is a lot less cute when you realize the cat has been pissed since, like, 8am.

Usually when I show people that list I get a confused look back, and then the question: “Wait… you get 10% off BEER? At a liquor store?” They get the restaurant discount (sorta), but the discount on booze at LRSs flummoxes them completely. It took me a while to get used to the idea myself, but happily yes, several stores that carry good beer have decided the exposure they get via CAMRA is worth 10%, in addition to deciding that CAMRA is an organization worthy of their support.

Also, it should be noted that a CAMRA buyer is an educated and high value buyer. This is not a person who will give your store the shaft to save $2 on a 12-er of Corona. That guy is a jerk. In addition to buying elsewhere based on price alone, he doesn’t even have enough common decency to buy a high margin beer. The margin on Corona is less than 10% precisely because these guys are so price sensitive. But our CAMRA guy isn’t.

No siree, a CAMRA buyer is a person that will purchase 6 bottles of high-end beer at $10-$20 per bottle, and then come back next week to do it again. You want this person in your store as often as possible, even if you have to give them 10% off.

Sure, you’re not making as much on that bottle of Central City Double IPA from the CAMRA guy as you do from the next bastard buying that same bottle, but the CAMRA guy also bought 5 more bottles. Even if the profit on the bottle is lower, the profit per transaction is higher. And so long as your product keeps moving out the door you don’t have to worry too much about inventory. Also, Mr CAMRA might have grabbed some of that $30 Deschutes Stoic you’ve been having trouble moving.

So, it’s all good, right? The store gets more profit and can stock more interesting beer without worrying about it stealing shelf space, and our fictional bearded CAMRA guy can buy lots of interesting beer and write about it on his blog. Win/win.

Well, it’s fine and good until Corona-guy stands behind Mr CAMRA and sees him getting 10% off his beer purchase. Next week when Señor Corona buys his shitty beer and a bag of skunk-reducing limes, he’s brandishing a brand new CAMRA card and asking for that sub-10% profit margin on his awful alco-pop to be dropped straight into loss territory.

And then this happens.

The first time I saw this sign at Viti I thought it was a bit of a joke until manager Ralf told me that this is exactly what has been happening*. I was shocked to hear this had been happening, but ultimately not very surprised when I thought about it. To be clear: I 100% support Viti limiting the discount to craft beer. Heck, I even suggested that they confiscate offenders’ membership cards.

The trick, though, is what IS craft beer? Yeah, we can all agree that those brands are not craft, but what about other very large brewers? What about Guinness? Leffe? Chimay? Granville Island? Some of those are pretty big breweries producing mass market beers.

Each store can come up with their own list, and we could decide if the store had gone too far by voting with our wallets, but perhaps CAMRA should create an exception list for membership discounts? Because let’s face it, if you’re buying Molson you probably shouldn’t have the card in the first place.

* Aside from the margin numbers. Those smell like ass because that’s where I pulled the numbers out of. Well, they’re not entirely made up; they are a decent guestimate based off my experience with importer and LRS pricing.

Written by chuck

June 6th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with ,