My LCBO Wish List. Part I.

Our provincially-controlled liquor distribution system in Ontario affords us a sizeable choice of domestic and imported beer. Added to this is the selection of the privately-owned, but government-supervised Beer Store network.

Then there are the shops connected to Ontario breweries, many of which now deliver their product to the doorstep. And of course beer on draft, domestic and some imported.

While some may, and evidently our government masters do, consider this enough choice for the people, there are still countless beers many would like to see here, that aren’t. Thousands potentially. If the system was completely privatized, then each merchant would decide what to import, following the wishes of their clientele or own predilections.

This system of course exists in many countries world-wide. It exists for many American states, but not all – some are “control” states, as in Canada*

The desirability of privatization is self-evident to me. While I will devote another blog post, sooner or later, to that issue, one thing I want to say here is, people often say our beer is remarkably cheap, on average, compared to that of free-market jurisdictions.

Even if that is true, it is a complex question, as some beer will be cheaper, some the same, some more under privatization. What is often forgotten too is that quality and choice are additional components of a free market system, independent of price considerations.



In a nutshell, I may be willing to pay more to get what I want, and in a free market, should have that option. Put differently, it is not the function of the state to assure cheap beer for the people. Indeed this is so for a number of reasons, not just economic.

But anyway I’ll leave that discussion in its full amplitude for another day.

Here are 16 beers I’d like to see in Ontario.

  1. San Miguel Dark Beer (Philippines)
  2. Guinness Foreign Extra Stout (Ireland. And other Guinness line extensions never available here)
  3. Klosterbrauerei Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel (Germany. Ditto extensions)
  4. Kernel Export India Porter (England)
  5. Adnams Tally Ho Barley Wine (England)
  6. New Albion Ale (and Porter) (U.S.)
  7. McDouglas Scotch Ale (Belgium)
  8. Carnegie Porter (Sweden)
  9. Sinebrychoff Porter (Finland)
  10. Anchor Porter (U.S., + extensions)
  11. Ridgeway Oxfordshire IPA (England, + extensions)
  12. Cristal Alken lager (Belgium)
  13. Traquair House Ale (Scotland)
  14. Worthington White Shield (England)
  15. Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout (U.S. Plus extensions)
  16. Newcastle Brown Ale (U.S.-brewed version)

This is just a sampling. It could be another 16 as easily. It could be focused just on Canada outside Ontario. Or just on U.S., Germany, U.K., etc. It could be …

*Alberta is a special case, which I’ll discuss anon. Also, in this post I deal with beer but the logic applies to the other alcohol beverages, wine, spirits, etc.




8 thoughts on “My LCBO Wish List. Part I.”

  1. One of the frustrations of the beer world is how much it teeters between excessive government control and excessive private control. In some US states there are state run retail outlets and there’s a long history of lack of choices like in Ontario.

    But in others there are running battles with big retailers like supermarkets and major wholesalers, and there can be major struggles for smaller brewers to get their products carried or properly stocked. Even if a store manager is sympathetic, someone at the HQ level or at the wholesale distribution level may decide a few six packs a week isn’t worth the bother.

    Or even more ominously, contracts with other brewers may shut out competitors. Stores may be bound to hand over large shares of shelf space to certain brands, and some brands inevitably end up lost in the shuffle for the remaining space.

    And unfortunately, beer is expensive to ship to individual consumers.

    • Points taken Clark but all things equal I’ll take the privatized system. I’ve seen the literal proof of its superiority, in Florida, in New York, in Virginia, California, etc. Also, I was looking at it in part from a specialist retailer’s viewpoint, the maven like us. He can have free reign eh? Like Beers of the World did, say, in Rochester, NY and maybe still (not sure if still operating). But I’ll take the chains too because they offer so much especially between them. I used to go to two or three such chains in Fla, plus Aldi, plus the different supermarket chains. In totality what we have in Ontario cannot compare.

      • No question the worst state stores are horrible. Pennsylvania for years had terrible ones, with miserable choices, limited hours, and awful service, although the laws have loosened up somewhat in recent years. They’re still subpar, and even better state stores feel filled with odd choices of stock.

        One thing that is interesting but unfortunate is the way in many areas in the US private businesses work with state and local governments to ensure bad selections. In some states small liquor stores are very powerful politically, and they work together for anticompetitive laws which block large stores with better selections and push for restrictions on when and where stores can be opened. Sometimes there are legitimate private citizen concerns about deluges of liquor stores, but often the driver is established stores who don’t feel like taking on the capital and staffing investment of expanded service. They’re happy pushing just Bud and Jim Beam.

        Liquor licenses can be valuable saleable assets but they lose their value if the number expands, so stores will do their best to keep their numbers small and their demand high. In many rural areas and large cities you can face a significant trip for a decent six pack, thanks in part to this unfortunate public-private alliance.

  2. Be careful what you wish for. Wide choices and more outlets will likely result in an increase in stale product. This month I ran across a two year old half-case a well-known IPA in the cooler of a typical New York beer store. A fair fraction of packaged beer available in the US is not dated, so in some cases you aren’t able to tell how old your purchase is. A good fraction of craft beer for sale in our area is not at peak quality.

    • But the advised purchaser can avoid this by patronising retailers meticulous on proper inventory control. It is in fact a point of differentiation, a way to compete more effectively. In most cases I can tell the age anyway. I’d rather have the choice. BTW in corners of our state system we run into same problem. State control is not a guarantee against it.

  3. Must be the only benefit of the otherwise rather ludicrous system and prices here in Finland: Koff porter is available at the state monopoly Alko!


    • Point taken, thanks. What a great beer. I once had it unfiltered on draught at Gingerman in New York. 10/10. I hope Koff still holds to its classic formula (whose own history is very interesting, I know well).


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