The Quebec Liquor Board: 100 Years of History

The Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), the Quebec state liquor monopoly, is an equivalent to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Each province has something similar.

With the SAQ celebrating its 100th year, its glossy magazine currently is devoted to this history. Many aspects are covered such as what people drank and ate in different decades, interviews with long-time staff, and coming trends (e.g. natural and orange wines are cited).

Much of the content, and more such as video presentations, can be found in the SAQ’s website, see this link.

There is good information in particular on the lead-up to the creation of the SAQ in 1921 including the period of partial prohibition from 1919-1921.

There is an interesting interview with the French-born pioneer of modern Quebec viticulture. He also invented ice cider, a product that has great potential in my view, to develop especially the kind of niche international market Ontario Icewine has.

The one thing I noticed, unless I missed it in a corner of the website, is sparse if any information on beer. The site explains well the growth of wine consumption in recent decades. It parallels a similar development elsewhere in North America, but again little on beer.

One reason perhaps is the SAQ, while it does offer a selection of imported and craft beers, was not given responsibility in 1921 to bottle and distribute domestic beer. That remained within the brewers’ domain.

With the French European heritage too of much of Quebec’s population, wine holds a special place in Quebec’s affections. Beer cannot compete, in the same way.

There is of course a vibrant craft brewing industry in Quebec. It distributes through grocery stories and other channels, so it’s two streams so to speak, at least as I see it.

Overall an excellent treatment of an interesting subject. Rare it is that a state liquor corporation will take such a deep interest in its own and beverage alcohol history in the jurisdiction.

Good to see this initiative, and lots to ponder in the content.

Pictured below is the cover of the print version, a special issue of the SAQ magazine Le goût de partager.





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