Around twitter this past week there was some conversation over the fact that new breweries opening here in Manitoba will not be able to list any product which is packaged and sold at Liquor Marts on growler bars at Liquor Marts or Beer Vendors. There was quite a bit of concern raised over this matter and so I figured I’d ask Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) about it.
When the pilot project for growler bars launched, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries had no idea it would be as popular as it was. Luckily this had been taken this into consideration and was part of the reason behind only listing Half Pints and Fort Garry. Should the growler bar prove to be popular, they could easily get access to more beer.
During this pilot they allowed both the core and seasonal beers from Half Pints and Fort Garry to be listed. When the MBLL started making plans for the future of the growler bars they reviewed all the feedback they had received during the pilot run of the growler bars. One thing that I was told they had heard time and time again that people want fresh, unique and interesting beers. If a listed beer did extremely well on the growler bar it is then possible that they may be able to get it listed as a packaged product at the Liquor Marts.
“We have consistently heard from customers that they were looking for fresh, unique and seasonal beers, so this was an opportunity to provide customers with a selection of products that they would not be able to necessarily get in another format.”
In response to this desire, they made a choice to only allow beers not already available in the Liquor Marts to be listed on the growler bar. This would allow for consumers to be able to have access to something that they normally don’t. What I did learn was that this rule only applies to the Liquor Marts and the Beer Vendors and that “brew pubs and microbreweries can sell whatever they want at their own growler stations.” So, those breweries that are opening and will have growler stations will be able to have any of their core brands, core brands of other breweries as well as seasonal beers on their growler stations. To be honest, I believe that once the brew pubs and breweries start opening we will see many more people trying to get it from the source.
The other concern that I know I and others have had is that a number of breweries owned by AB In-Bev have been listed. The MBLL is required under trade agreements to follow a non-discriminatory practice in their listing process. What this means is that if a brewery meets the criteria set the MBLL to fit within the “craft-style beer” category (This includes the type of ingredients used, brewing methods, the use of adjuncts, batch size, etc.) that they are required to consider them for listing, “ownership does not matter.”
“As long as their product meets the criteria, the listing application offers a fair process for all eligible suppliers to compete for participation; ownership does not matter.”
While the growler bars at the Liquor Marts and Beer Vendors have been our only real opportunity to get access to beer in this way, with the coming opening of Peg Beer Co. (Hopefully next week! Please!), Barn Hammer, Torque and the number of other projects on the go, I think we will see a great deal more variety available to us in the near future. So, while the new breweries in the city may not be able to list any of their packaged beers at the Liquor Marts, it will allow for them to diversify, come up with something fun and unique for the Liquor Marts and still have whatever they choose on at their taprooms.
Whether you agree with this practice or not, feel free to contact your MLA and the MBLL directly with your concerns. I’m looking forward to continuing to support the growing local craft beer industry.