Tag Archives: Nicole Barry

Beer and Running in Canada

I was recently asked to put together an article detailing 42 ways beer & running play together in Canada. Unfortunately the final copy turned out dramatically shorter and quite a bit different from what my editor led me to believe. So here’s the full article, pretty much as it left my word processor.


Maybe you’ve seen the conflicting studies about the merits of beer as a recovery drink. Does it really help with re-hydration or are you actually undoing some of the positive effects that come from a good run? The simple truth is a beer after running isn’t going to do you a world of harm, nor is it going to make you significantly more prepared for the next time you lock your laces. So just drink it and be happy.

Beer & running go together like race kits & Instagram. And in Canada, we pair a race and a chaser very, very well. From West to East, in downtown cores, country lanes and wooded trails, Canadian Milers love beer as much as Canadian Marathoners love beer. You probably don’t need any more reasons to put the two together, but the next time you’re sitting at a pub, trying to rub the knot out of your aching calf, here’s 42 things you can ponder about how beer and running intersect in the Great White North.

  1. The Beer Mile is Canada’s gift to the rest of the beer running world. Back in 1989, seven friends in their late teens and early twenties got together for the first unofficial run, in Burlington, Ontario.
  2. One of those seven was 17-year-old (underage drinker) Graham Hood, who would go on to finish ninth in the 1,500 meters at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
  3. Members of that original seven brought the Beer Mile to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, where the Kingston Classic set down the official ground rules – known as the Kingston Rules – which still govern the sport today.
  4. In 1997, Canada’s Seanna Robinson set the Women’s world record in a time of 6:42. Her world-beating mark would hold up until 2014. Not surprisingly, Robinson was a student at Queen’s.
  5. American James “The Beast” Neilson, who brought the Beer Mile to new prominence when he ran sub-5:00 last year… is actually born and raised in Canada.
  6. On August 8th, Mississauga’s Lewis Kent ran the fastest beer mile ever – a blistering 4:55.78 – breaking the record Australian Josh Harris set just one day earlier.
  7. I spoke to Kent two days prior to his world-beating mark. The 21-year-old (get your head around that – he still gets carded every time he buys racing supplies) is confident he can still go faster. “I haven’t hit a plateau yet. Since October I have shaved over a minute off my time and continue to cut off big chunks of time. I feel I still have quite a bit of room for improvement, and aim to break 4:55 by the end of 2015.”

    Lewis Kent at the Toronto Spring Beer Mile. Photo: Koray Salih
    Lewis Kent at the Toronto Spring Beer Mile. Photo: Koray Salih
  8. Kent and his friends are pioneering a new beer running activity he calls the Pub Run. “We do our best to set fair teams of 5-6, and create a list of pubs you must run to, in order. The catch: each team must finish a pitcher at each bar.” The number of pubs and distance between each is based on the number of participants.
  9. Sidenote: Canadian sprinting phenom Andre de Grasse has to return to Canada if he wants to drink beer legally. The 20-year-old spends most of the year racing for the University of Southern California (USC).
  10. Beer Miles happen all over Canada but the most interesting might be the Trail Beer Mile an hour north of Ottawa… which means it’s in Québec, so 18-year-olds are welcome to join (actually so are the younger set, but they drink root beer, instead of the full-strength beverage from Ottawa’s Broadhead Brewing). Unlike a “traditional” beer mile contested on an oval track, this one loops a 400-meter path in the woods.
  11. Brennan Harvey, one of the organizers of the Toronto Beer Mile (which has run seasonally since 2012) recalls one memorable race when competitors started shotgunning still more brews 100 meters after finishing their four beer in four laps.

    Lewis Kent joins RunTOBeer, 2 days after setting the BeerMile world record.
    Lewis Kent (in orange) joins RunTOBeer, 2 days after setting the BeerMile world record. Photo: William Chaupiz, Night Terrors Running Crew
  12. Two days after recently setting the new world record, Kent and fellow Canadian Beer Mile teammate, Phil Parrot Migas, joined RunTOBeer, accompanying 110 others en route to Toronto’s Rainhard Brewery.
  13. RunTOBeer*Disclosure: RunTOBeer – Toronto’s craft beer running club – started in 2014 when I came up with the idea to get other runners together for a light workout before hitting a pub. Our first two runs, before we ever thought of naming the club, featured a grand total of two runners: Tej Sandhu & me. We now have more than 850 members, run at least once every two weeks and end our runs with free beer supplied by a sponsoring brewery.
  14. Out on the left side of the country, the East Van Running Crew does something similar, hitting up different breweries at finale of each journey. Crew leader Ryan Chilibeck says EVRC tested a couple other meeting points before trying breweries, but the magic just wasn’t there. “We tried Parallel 49 Brewery on a Monday Night in June of 2014 and it just felt right. There was free parking, it was a staple of East Vancouver and people got beer after their run… it was perfect. We have done just over 52 weeks of brewery meetings (with a couple of pizza/beer runs thrown in) and don’t plan on changing the format any time soon.”
  15. Chilibeck also drew my attention to the Bridge Brewing North Shore Growler 10k, wherein runners carry two 1.89l growlers (of water) the entire distance. What makes this particularly awesome is that 24 of the 25 registrants actually finished the run, which entitled each to one month of two growlers being refilled each week, with North Shore Pale Ale. BeerMeBC.com calculated that as “363 litres of beer that was given away, not including a few pints consumed at the event.”
  16. In Calgary meanwhile, the Calgary 5k Run and Beer Fest offers a unlimited amounts craft beer at the end of the short run, for a $39.99 entrance fee.,
  17. At the other end of the Dominion, the Fredericton Beer Run has been around since 2013 and this year attracted more than 300 runners, all of whom ended at a festival featuring 18 different breweries, plus cider and mead. Event spokesperson Lloyd Chambers said the run is staged annually on New Brunswick Day, to cap off summer long weekend. “We actually host the Fredericton Craft Beer Festival in March and the run came out of the idea of pairing our love of beer and running. We planned a small event to keep craft beer visible in the summer and it just took off.” The Fredericton Beer Run has 4k, 6k and 12k distances.
  18. Down the road in Saint John, they saw the success of their New Brunswick neighbours and pulled together the first Port City Beer Run in May of this year. Distances for that race were 3k, 5k and 10k.
  19. You know who else does 3k, 5k and 10k? RunTOBeer. We do things differently from any other club I’ve seen however. Rather than everyone starting at the same point, our 10k runners travel half the distance where they collect the 5k crew. 2k later we meet up with the rest of the runners and all drink together.

    At RunTOBeer, we all drink together... like here at Mill Street Beer Hall.
    At RunTOBeer, we all drink together… like here at Mill Street Beer Hall.
  20. RunTOBeer inspired the soon-to-launch Winnipeg beer running group, PEG Beer Run Club. Headquarted at PEG Beer Co – a brewpub expected to open this December in the city’s Exchange District – runs will take place Sundays, ending back at the clubhouse. Says President & Founder Nicole Barry, “Our run club details will be announced on Twitter @PEGBeerCo this fall. We are also planning a bike club, x-country ski club, and a yoga club. Craft beer and active living fit so well together.” Barry – who hoped to start the running club earlier, but broke her foot – likes to follow her own runs with a Phillip’s Bottle Rocket ISA.
  21. Steve Abrams, co-founder of Toronto’s Mill Street Brewery, has been a runner since high school, when he was active in cross country and track. In 2012, he started taking it more seriously to honour the terms of a New Year’s Resolution. “I woke up with a particularly brutal hangover and decided this was the year I was going to really get back in shape and complete a full Marathon. So I signed up for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, New Years Day and waited until the spring thaw to start serious training. I completed the Marathon with a less-than-stellar time but was proud nonetheless of the accomplishment.” His go-to beers after running: Pilsner in the summer, or a Mill Street Tankhouse or Oktoberfest when the leaves start to change colour.
  22. Another fan of Tankhouse is Canada Running Series Race Director Alan Brookes, whose office is stumbling distance from Mill Street’s Distillery District brewpub (not that he ever drinks during office hours, he assures me).
  23. Last year Mill Street hosted the first “beer run tune-up” in advance of the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It was so successful that other Toronto breweries – Amsterdam Brewhouse, Left Field Brewery and Rainhard Brewing – have also hosted tune-ups with Canada Running Series. Mill Street hosted its 2nd annual, on September 13th.

    Coors Light Half Marathon, circa 1991. Photo: Canada Running Series
    Coors Light Half Marathon, circa 1991. Photo: Canada Running Series
  24. Brookes says his organization’s ties to beer go back to its earliest days, when Coors Light hosted its first Toronto Half Marathon (that year there was no Toronto Marathon). At the time, according to Brookes, the radio market in Toronto was becoming saturated, and classic rock station Q107 came up with a plan to hang on to Molson’s advertising dollars. Molson had got the license to brew Coors Light in Canada when it was still commonly tagged as The Silver Bullet. “It was positioned as a downtown, yuppie beverage.” The radio ad exec had the idea to go to Molson and say that if he didn’t start spreading his beer money around to all the other outlets in town, “he would give them this amazing, healthy lifestyle, six-pack of road races in downtown Toronto as a gift-with-purchase.” Instead of just getting just a bunch of 30-second spots “he would have these unforgettable, run experience occasions.” From that came the Coors Light Toronto Half Marathon and 5k.
  25. Winners in the early days – including American Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won the first ever Women’s Olympic Marathon in 1984 – received trophies that resembled Coors Light cans with runners atop.

    Alan Brookes with Joan Benoit Samuelson, 1991 (note the trophies). Photo: Canada Running Series
    Alan Brookes with Joan Benoit Samuelson, 1991 (note the trophies). Photo: Canada Running Series
  26. Vancouver’s Rob Watson, who finished eighth in the Men’s Marathon at the recent Pan Am games, generously sprinkles his social media accounts and podcasts with references to his love for craft beer. Follow him at twitter.com/robbiedxc
  27. Know who else loves beer? If you believe her Twitter bio, London, Ontario’s Lanni Marchant, who also happens to be the Canadian Women’s record holder in the Marathon.
  28. Canada Running Series is currently working with RunTOBeer to add more beer-related events to this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, including a visitors’ pub guide and post-Marathon festivities.
  29. Another RunTOBeer partnership is Canada Beer Run, which did its Toronto leg in September, starting and ending at the Mill Street brewpub. We did a Father’s Day tune-up run to boost exposure and registration for the Toronto Beer Run. All 500 spaces for the 11.5 km route, which paused at 3 Brewers on AdelaideSteam Whistle Brewery, Amsterdam Brewhouse and 3 Brewers on Yonge sold out. Canada Beer Run encourages costumes, water guns, whistles and plenty of other mayhem.
  30. The Toronto run spun out from the success of the Ottawa Beer Run, which launched in 2103 and now sells out an impressive 1,000 spaces. It’s grown so large that two separate routes – 9.5k and 14.5k options — are mapped to accommodate everyone. Along the way, runners sip from Big Rig, Lowertown, Beyond the Pale, Mill Street, Clock Tower, 3 Brewers and Kichesippi breweries.

    Canada Beer Run
    Canada Beer Run
  31. The model branched out even further this year, with Collingwood’s beer run set to debut in early October. Featuring stops at Side Launch Brewery, The Collingwood Brewery, Northwinds Brewhouse and a station serving MacLean’s Ales (from nearby Grey County), the actual route should be announced shortly. “We were thrilled to add Collingwood as a new event this year,” says Sara Sterling. “The response from the town, the breweries and the local folks has been awesome so far!”
  32. Look for the fourth location – Kitchener-Waterloo – to be added to the 2016 calendar.
  33. Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, doesn’t that region already have a run that coincides with the largest Oktoberfest outside Germany? They do. They have the K-W Oktoberfest 5k fun run. Oddly, it has absolutely nothing to do with beer.
  34. Edmonton’s Hash House Harriers seem to have found a way to include brewskis into any type of occasion, including snowshoeing during the winter and monthly runs on the Friday closest to the full moon. Impressive!
  35. Speaking of monthly runs, the Mikkeller Running Club now has chapters in three Canadian cities. Part of a worldwide network that started in Copenhagen in 2014, members purchase a Mikkeller Running Club t-shirt, which entitles then to a free glass of Mikkeller beer at the end of each run. So if a runner from Chicago happens to be in Toronto on the first Saturday of the month – as happened in August – he can wear the shirt he brought from home and still collect his drink at the end of 5k.

    Alex, with a Mikkeller Running Club shirt from Chicago
    Alex, with a Mikkeller Running Club shirt from Chicago
  36. Montréal launched the first Canadian chapter in May, hosted by Brasserie Harricana. The brewery itself only opened in December. “My partners and I are sports enthusiasts – our beers are numbered instead of named, in honor of our sport jerseys,” explains Head Brewer Mathieu Garceau-Tremblay. “When I discovered MRC on Facebook it seemed natural to host the chapter here in Montreal (I am a big fan of their beers). The owner Marie-Pier Veilleux ran marathons a few years ago – when I presented the project everyone here was really excited. We still don’t know what’s going to happen during wintertime. We will conduct a small survey to see if people are courageous enough to run at minus 20.”
  37. Vancouver’s MRC is led by Mark Galvani, a certified beer judge and manager of Steamworks Liquor Store in Gastown. Because Mikkeller Beer is curiously difficult to get into British Columbia, the Vancouver club ends each run at Steel Toad Brewpub, and drinks from the brewery’s own taps.
  38. The Toronto chapter of MRC came about after my RunTOBeer co-director, Tej Sandhu, happened to be in the U.K. when the London chapter debuted. One thing led to another, and we completed our first MRC run in June, starting and ending at the Bier Markt King West. Unlike our friends in Montréal, we already know we’ll be running through the winter.
  39. The Achilles 5k St. Patrick’s Day run starts and finishes at Toronto’s historic Roundhouse; home to Steam Whistle. The downtown brewery cheerfully shares its popular Pilsner at the conclusion of the race.
  40. If you’re looking for something a bit more rural, The County Marathon in Ontario’s Prince Edward County offers runners a free beer from Barley Days at the finish.

    RunTOBeer from Muskoka to Sawdust City, September 2015
    RunTOBeer from Muskoka to Sawdust City, September 2015
  41. Meanwhile, up in Ontario’s cottage country, Sawdust City Brewing organized a September 19th run, from Muskoka Brewery to their own brewery, some 13km away. RunTOBeer took 20 runners from Toronto, on a bus provided by Sawdust City. Brewmaster Sam Corbeil is a very active runner himself.
  42. Another trail run in the same area falls on October 4th, sponsored by Muskoka Brewery. It, too, is connected to RunTOBeer. We’re did a series of three “Venture Off the Beaten Path” trail runs in Toronto’s ravine and trails, with free pints of Muskoka Detour at the end of each session. Participants’ names were put into a draw for passage to the Muskoka run, with each additional pint of Detour purchased earning runners another entry into the draw.
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Bringing Ontario Up-To-Date

Despite the LCBO mandate to encourage responsible consumption, it must have crossed someone’s mind to launch a “Drink ‘til you forget” campaign. Forget the narrowly-averted strike that threatened to ruin many a May Two-Four long weekend. Turn your mind off to those massive in-store lineups that happen on the eve of every holiday and big game. While you’re actively not remembering, also try to overlook the fact that the Auditor General called out our Control Board in 2011, for not using its vast bargaining power to get better deals for the population it’s mandated to serve. Mostly though, stop thinking about how your own government suppresses a private sector that would create more jobs, a better retail environment for consumers and a broader tax base.

Please don’t do any digging around or you’ll find a liquor store in Edmonton that has more kinds of beer than this entire province. Don’t go price checking either, or you’ll learn that those stats that show Albertans pay more for booze aren’t supported by shopping around.

Another rumour that doesn’t hold up: the one that says privatization will harm the craft beer market because individual outlets will only buy from the bigger breweries. Step into Québec or Alberta and you’ll quickly learn that in a competitive environment (what Ontario isn’t) entrepreneurs actively seek ways to stand out from the shop down the street. What you get is more selection, more convenience and staff that have incentives to make sure your shopping experience is a positive one.

In my current job I travel a lot within Canada; so much so that I was recently able to talk with my father-in-law in Calgary, about four different Pumphouse beers, not because I’ve tried them here – three of the four aren’t available in the Centre of the Universe – but because I’ve parked myself at the New Brunswick brewpub where those beers were produced.

I know a thing or two about shopping for beer in this country.

I also know about the business of government. In 2005, I packed away my necktie collection and resigned my position as a Business Analyst at the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services. After working with IBM specialists to architect a children’s portal for the province (which was then poorly maintained and ultimately unplugged) and leading a push to get government services delivered on reserves, the day-to-day head bashing got to be too much. I have a lot of respect for the well-intentioned people that stick with it, but after three years fighting through various shades, strengths and tactilities of red tape, enough was enough.

Ontario’s system is outdated and that is the result of a government that is either lazy, incompetent or both. The current leadership doesn’t understand that “leadership” is more than a title. This government, rather than making any meaningful reforms to an unpopular crown corp, took the easy route in its recent labour negotiations and found a loophole in its own policy. Instead of holding the line on public sector raises, Queen’s Park rewarded thousands of cashiers and stockpersons with generous signing bonuses.

Just last month the province’s former Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan (he who so vigorously defended the current model just last year), came clean to reveal even a partial sale of the crown corporation could net the province billions of dollars right away, without diminishing long term revenues. There’s no way the new administration hasn’t seen the same evidence.

This isn’t just about money however. It’s also about serving the population. In December, the Toronto Star’sMartin Regg Cohn offered up an opinion piece that stated Albertans discovered privatization did not lead to better service. Interesting, but not at all accurate. Aside from 18 months in Saskatchewan, I lived in Wild Rose Country from 1985 to 2001. Allow me to tell you how things actually are.

Albertans, who saw the shift away from government controlled liquor stores twenty years ago have since realized related growth in employment, revenue, selection and convenience. Sure there were some sacrifices, like less bureaucracy, but most of the population seems open to fewer jobs on the government books and less strike votes.

Prior to 1993, I had to drive to the nearest government shop, pick from whatever the board deemed saleable, then stand in line for whichever clerk wasn’t on her or his break. Sound familiar? There were 208 Alberta Liquor Control Board Stores prior to privatization. As of April 2013, there were 1,312 retail liquor outlets.

Today, you can go to the Real Canadian Liquor Store if you want a small savings on your beer. It’s competing with the Co-Op liquor store, which has a bit more local selection, and Safeway Wine & Spirits if you want your Air Miles. They’re all within blocks of each other, and between them is a smaller independent that specializes in craft beer and prides itself on customer service and more consumer friendly hours.

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Weekly flyers increase competition in Alberta. Source: Sobey’s Liquor (June 18, 2013)

What about all the money liquor sales used to generate for Alberta’s public coffers? Revenue to government actually climbed from $405 million in 1993, to $687 million in 2011. That’s an increase of 69%. In context, the province’s population rose from 2.6 million to 3.6 million, or 37%, in the same period.

Not only does the Alberta government continue to syphon its share from all the alcohol sold in the province, it also collects more in income taxes and more in business taxes by virtue of all the private sector jobs created. Thousands of government salaries at the retail and administration level dropped from the books, along with the upkeep on more than 200 crown properties.

Consider this: the Ontario government, Monday, announced the LCBO brought in $1.71 billion in annual revenue in its most recent fiscal year, for a province of 13.5 million people. The Alberta government draws $687 million in a province of 3.65 million.

While in Montréal, I typically frequent by a rather ordinary looking depanneur in Mile End that stocks more than 250 kinds of beer from Quebec alone. This particular shop – Depanneur A/S, in Mile End – is only a few blocks from another impressively stocked convenience store. If the lineup is too long at one location I can easily walk to the other. Even though A/S usually only has one employee working when I’m in, that person is generally quite happy to help me navigate their vast inventory. Why? It might just be they really like unilingual Anglos in Québec, but I suspect it’s because competition breeds better service.

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Depanneur A/S — that’s ALL Québec craft beer.

These past few months I’ve been talking to people (beer people, mostly), about their experience with the LCBO. Some of the better craft brewers in Canada don’t sell their styles in Ontario because they feel the hassle of dealing with our liquor control board isn’t worth the return. So who loses there? The beer drinker.

Nicole Barry co-founded Half Pints in Winnipeg. The brewery she manages does have a presence in this province, but Barry’s assessment of dealing with our board goes like this: “So, Ontario is a pickle to deal with. A pain in the ass. And that is the major reason I stopped shipping beer out to that market a few years ago.” A CGA by training, she says she can deal with the bureaucracy, but her beer is not so patient. That’s why Alberta will enjoy Half Pints’ Weizenheimer (a Hefeweizen) next month, and we won’t. “The whole process of registering the product (in Alberta), shipping it and getting it to stores is about three weeks – with shipping and distribution about ten days total. Perfect. It is much longer when dealing with LCBO, and that’s why I won’t be sending out this beer – it begs to be enjoyed fresh.”

Although Half Pints is shipping other labels to Ontario through Keep Six Imports, nothing from Manitoba is listed on the LCBO website.

Edmonton’s Alley Kat Brewery has no plans to ship to Ontario. “From Alberta, the system looks overly bureaucratic and expensive,” says co-owner Neil Herbst.” Getting a listing in The Beer Stores would be exorbitantly expensive, the time frame for getting a listing and selling to the Ontario Liquor Board seems overly long, and selling through an agency listing seems overly vague. As well the Ontario pricing model is not at all transparent, so figuring out if our beer could be sold profitably into Ontario seems indeterminable.”

That last part is because the LCBO sets the prices in Ontario. If you compare beers available at both the LCBO and The Beer Store, you’ll see they retail for exactly the same price.

Not that Alberta’s system is perfect. What Barry calls the “Wild West” approach means that pretty much any company can send beer to cowboy country. Reps are in constant competition with one another to get taps and shelf space. The province, she feels, is flooded with beer, much of which dies on the shelves.

Herbst echoes that sentiment. “It is always a battle for shelf space. Many of the stores are small, so only have room to stock higher demand products.” However… “At this point there are no slotting fees in Alberta such as in the Ontario beer stores, so for the most part, we have decent access to shelf space. Could it be better? Yes. Do the multinationals throw their weight around? Yes.”

When asked if he would prefer a system more like Ontario’s, where a central purchasing body decides what gets in, Herbst says no. “In the current system, we can market and sell our beer to individual stores and to chain store head offices. Sometimes we get into a store, sometimes we don’t. If the system was controlled by the government, depending upon the rules, we might be shut out of stores that we now have the opportunity to be in. In the previous system in Alberta, as I understand it, small breweries were automatically listed in every government liquor store within a certain radius of the brewery. Outside of that area it was up to the manager to decide what to carry. In my experience, they generally didn’t want to take a risk on a product that might not sell. So I’m not sure that we would have fared any better under that system. “

“So, neither the public or private model works perfectly,” says Barry, however “based on my experiences of nearly ten years in this industry, the private model is much easier to deal with.”

Listen, I don’t want to see anyone thrown out of work. This is not about cutting government positions as much as it’s about creating far more private sector jobs, while reducing bureaucracy. Privatizing liquor distribution means more selection for the beer drinker. It means more locations from whence to purchase your beer. It means competition (read: better offers). It means more consumer-friendly hours.

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Lining up at the “competition” (Queen West & Markham, June 2013)

In essence, it means a reversal of what we [air quote] enjoy [air quote] now in Ontario. The market will react to what the consumer demands, rather than dictate what the consumer should expect. I’ve seen it, my friend, and it’s a better world where – no matter what your beverage of choice – you can get it either by stopping by a nearby outlet, or asking someone who cares about customer loyalty to order it for you.

Sure, I’m a beer writer, but I’ve also been a lover of Scotch since my first (and to date, only) divorce. In Calgary, I can walk into Kensington Wines & Spirits and pick up bottles that are unique within North America. Willow Park Wines & Spirits competes with Kensington in the same category. Want to see what a Scotch event can look like in a private liquor store? City Style & Living has a good photo reportage.

But if beer is your thing you really need to know about Sherbrooke Liquor Store in Edmonton, which carries 1,400 of ‘em. That’s not 1,400 bottles of beer, according to Director of Marketing & Communications, Anna MacLeod, but 1,400 different labels you can pull from its remarkable, walk-in beer fridge. When I typed “beer” in the LCBO’s search engine just now, it came back with 982 results in its entire database… and many of those are discontinued.

There are other arguments that have been tossed around to try to keep the LCBO solidly in place, like insisting that private retailers can’t be trusted to sell responsibly. Yet when held up to The Beer Store’s and convenience stores’ records for checking ID on age-restricted products, the LCBO appears to be the least responsible. It stands to reason that most small business owners tend to take those issues rather seriously when faced with losing their license and not having a union to prop them up.

Another reason some are sceptical about making beer more widely available is the possibility of increasing impaired driving rates. Fair enough, but again the research doesn’t support it. An independent study by the Center For Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, examined Canada’s fourth largest province. The resulting report, “An investigation of the effect of privatization of retail sales of alcohol on consumption and traffic accidents in Alberta, Canada,” concluded “There was no significant effect on the number of fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents.”

That was 2005 research. A look at more recent numbers suggests things have actually improved. In 1993, alcohol was a factor in 1,492 casualty collisions (those causing injury or death). That was 12.6% of all collisions in the province that year. By 2010 – the most recent stats available – that number had dropped to 980, or just 7.1%. It’s not surprising. By putting beer closer to where people live, they don’t have to drive (or if they are foolish enough to drive impaired, at least they won’t be travelling as far).

The only, only, downside I can see to privatizing Ontario’s liquor distribution system is displacing some people from jobs into which they’ve grown comfortable. I hate to think of taking away the lifestyle and benefits someone depends on, but in a competitive environment LCBO-trained employees would be among the very few experienced applicants for all the many new jobs created. Some of the more motivated might even be tempted to open their own shops.

But I bet the LCBO would rather you didn’t think about that, either.