Ontario's beer scene in 2015: discussions

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atomeyes
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Ontario's beer scene in 2015: discussions

Postby atomeyes » Sun Jan 18, 2015 11:13 am

Thought it would be cool for people to opine on the direction our beer scene's heading. This year should be an incredibly interesting year.

Internally: more micros and brewpubs are opening. the LCBO has limited shelf space. Will we reach saturation? Will there be any differentiation between breweries? Or will we continue to grow with people being interested in new mom n pop micros that may literally pop up in every neighbourhood?

Toronto: we're getting Big Rock and the new 3 Brewers. Left Field and (i think) Sweetgrass are opening in the east end. Bim (ex-Dieu du Ciel) moved to Toronto. Does the city have the real estate to allow more Bellwoods-sized breweries to open? Have we hit a wall or is this just the beginning?

Quebec: expect a greater presence from Trou du Diable to go along with our Dieu du Ciel presence. TdD will be on tap regularly across Toronto. will that push out some local guys?

International: we're seeing more international draught presence. BrewDog's starting to be available. Rumour is that Sierra Nevada's next. Stillwater's not far behind and is Sierra Nevada coming this year as well? Lagunitas just opened it's Chicago facility and Founders is expanding. Will they also look at Toronto? Are the draught beer agents going to be (finally!) bringing in quality international beer to meet with our demand? What will that do to taps available to local gypsy breweries, like Liberty Village, etc.?

We may hit the point soon where only the best and strongest local breweries survive. the Me Twos and Me Threes (another local lager? yes please!) will possibly not survive.

so where do you think we're going?
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boney
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Postby boney » Sun Jan 18, 2015 11:52 am

Excellent topic!

My thoughts specific to Ontario in 2015 and the near future

I see craft beer continuing to expand exponentially with new Ontario breweries and overall growth following the same trajectory, but with a few new twists Ontario hasn't seen before. Limited shelf space at the LCBO and additional competition from importers will result in many new start-ups failing within the first year or two....maybe 6-12 breweries every year, maybe even up to 25% of new start ups. Who will succeed or fail will be very situational and depend on the initial quality of the product, the area they intend to service, the demographics and "craft-IQ" of their population and their business plan in terms of volume and distribution (draught only vs bottles and draught, service area, desire and ability to utilize provincial retail etc.). I don't see this as a bubble as overall growth will continue, but there will be definite winners and losers.

I think the majority of new breweries will have to focus on staying small and servicing their local community. Every town in Ontario and every borough in the larger cities will have a craft brewery. They will need to foster community loyalty to succeed, as wider distribution will not be a viable option for most. I see it as very much like the pre-prohibition US. Quality and adventure will be the only variable that will allow a select few to grow big enough to have a larger provincial presence, if desired.

In terms of how new breweries will become successful and with what products, i think that might change too. Now launching with an IPA, saison and a seasonal impy stout and a pumpkin is the new blond, brown and stout of 5 years ago. They will either have to be outstanding to succeed or they will have to be content servicing only their small local catchment area. Focusing only on barrels (it's coming), sours (it's coming too), interesting under brewed german styles or even just lagers like Jack's Abby might be more viable business models.

This will be a very interesting next few years, especially with potential changes to the retail system (I don't want to get too far ahead with these changes, because who knows how much or little will actually happen).
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Postby J343MY » Sun Jan 18, 2015 6:49 pm

In Toronto, sooner rather than later breweries making mediocre products and relying on 'being local' will start to struggle. Especially with the influx of Stone, Sierra Nevada, brewdog, etc. The beers that are apparently coming in from these guys are not world beaters, but are going to draw a lot of people away from some uninspired local options based on name alone.

Outside of Toronto, at least KW area despite having several new breweries (of varying quality) open up in the past year we are still fairly starved for craft beer. The education here is still lacking a little bit, so until it catches up being local is good enough for now.

In general, any new brewery opening up is going to have to do something to set themselves apart from the rest. Making the same stuff as everyone else is not going to cut it for much longer, unless you are the only game in town.
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Postby Kel Varnsen » Mon Jan 19, 2015 8:02 am

J343MY wrote:In Toronto, sooner rather than later breweries making mediocre products and relying on 'being local' will start to struggle. Especially with the influx of Stone, Sierra Nevada, brewdog, etc. The beers that are apparently coming in from these guys are not world beaters, but are going to draw a lot of people away from some uninspired local options based on name alone.


I am thinking the same thing will start to happen in Ottawa. At least I kind of hope it does. I mean a ton of breweries opened in the last year or two and it seems that there are more in the planning stage. For the most part I haven't heard anything amazing coming out of these breweries. At least not to the point where I am going to drive half an hour to the other side of the city to buy a growler of average tasting beer (then be stuck with another growler). Especially when there is a very well stocked LCBO a 5 minute walk from my house. Part of this is probably just because I am getting old, but driving around the city to a random looking industrial park, where they make average tasting beer doesn't really interest me as much. Two of them in Ottawa for example are just down the road from the sewage treatment plant.

And your right I wonder how many of them are just relying on "being local" as their main selling point. There was an article in the Ottawa citizen about the explosion of breweries in Ottawa, and Steve from Beau's said that back when they opened, being the new local guy (kind of the novelty effect) was something they had for years. Now if you open, you maybe get that for a few weeks or a month, before the new guy opens and it transfers to him.
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Craig
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Postby Craig » Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:31 am

I'm not convinced that the name appeal of guys like Stone or SN is as strong as you might think up here. For people into craft beer, sure, absolutely. But selling beer in Ontario is still a mass-market gig and I think the appeal of local is still quite a bit stronger than the appeal of the big craft guys from the US for most of the market. It will probably put a bit of a squeeze on the number of craft taps available to locals in craft pubs around Ontario, but I doubt it will have much of an impact on local support for brewpubs or small brewers.
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Postby toweringpine » Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:53 am

Craig wrote:I'm not convinced that the name appeal of guys like Stone or SN is as strong as you might think up here. For people into craft beer, sure, absolutely. But selling beer in Ontario is still a mass-market gig and I think the appeal of local is still quite a bit stronger than the appeal of the big craft guys from the US for most of the market. It will probably put a bit of a squeeze on the number of craft taps available to locals in craft pubs around Ontario, but I doubt it will have much of an impact on local support for brewpubs or small brewers.


I am in agreement with this. I am more interested in having a nice local made brew at whatever pub I happen to be at than seeking out the latest adventurous one off from a select few better breweries. I will make an effort to find Stone or SN once in a while but I would rather support my local most of the time. If the beer is no good I won't buy another but assuming the standard offering is well made I am perfectly happy to enjoy a few pints of local lager even if it is not particularly adventurous in its flavour. I think it will be easy for pub owners to work with one or two local brewers to have a few craft options on the tap tower and get into the world of craft without making a big effort or expense to keep up with the one offs and a bunch of different brewers.
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Postby Masterplan » Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:59 am

I agree that many of the new guys will start to struggle. Being the new local guy is good and all, but without a better then average product to keep people coming back you get forgotten.

So predictions, we continue to see new startups, but we'll also start to see closures, which will seesaw for the next half decade until we have established our top craft brewers, which will dominate the beer sales, make back room deals to own and monopolize the new craft licensing stores, and squeeze out the little guys for another 100 years, while diluting their products to increase their profit margins, till our grand kids wake up and want real craft beer again...
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Postby El Pinguino » Mon Jan 19, 2015 10:59 am

Great discussion. Everyone is going to have to find their "spot" to succeed. I agree that staying local (outside Toronto) to serve your own town/city will be key for some. I'm thinking recent breweries like 5 Paddles in Whitby, Block 3 in St. Jacobs and Stack in Sudbury are more secure and in a better position than new Toronto breweries like Lansdowne. (Which I dont think is open yet?)

What I will want to watch closely are places like Duggans and Louis Cifer.

Louis Cifer is an interesting one. It may not appeal quite as much to the beer snob community...but it is a step above your basic bar experience in terms of beer. I would say the same for Duggans. There is obviously a market for this...not every bar is going to run out and grab Stone, Sierra Nevada or even every new bottle from Bellwoods or Great Lakes.

That "brewpub" experience is riskier, but also gives you a captive audience. If you find the right location, then you're probably in a good position.

Imagine if Mill Street was new today. Their beers are nothing spectacular, but they have a great location. Would they survive today if they hadn't put in their time already?

Indie Ale House, to me is a friendly, great place, with average beers. But I go there because their food is great...enough to make up for them not usually having anything new or great on tap when I visit.

Shelf space...a potential huge issue for retail distribution. We really need an alternative retail option for new guys to succeed. I think we're close to saturation given the framework we have to work in...but with more selling options, more people could succeed.

With that said, there are still some big voids in our market. What breweries are making solid sour beers? People still complain about great beer options up in North York or over in Oakville/Mississauga....

I am excited that cities like Guelph and Hamilton are starting to come along too though...Toronto beer scene could get messy, but the rest of the province seems like it will be fun times.
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Postby Kel Varnsen » Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:11 pm

I think branding is going to become a lot more important too. Which goes to what I said you can't just be a new local guy anymore and expect the sales to come to you. And with shelf space at the LCBO being harder to come by you need something to stand out.

I think along with that you need to have some kind of reason to make peopel want to come to your brewery. I mean like I said above, the non-descript brewery in an industrial park that is out of the way and kind of hard to find doesn't really interest me anymore. And I am a beer fan. I like Broadhead, but finding the time to get out to their brewery is a pain. I think breweries will need to try harder to make there location a place people want to go to.

For both those things, the branding and the brewery as a location, I am always surprised that more breweries aren't copying what Beau's has done. Remember those ceramic bottles. Those were really eye catching and I am sure drove a ton of sales. And they are out in Vankleek Hill, yet I have been there more times (even in the past year) than I have Whprsnapper or Kitchsippi brewery which are both a 5 minute drive from my house.
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Postby mahcinesquad » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:20 pm

It'll be interesting to see with SN and Stone coming into the province and how much of a push they make. Are they going to push hard to dethrone Mill St. as the default "craft option" in so many bars/restaurants? They have the budgets.

Really I hope 2015 is the beginning of when good beer is available at all restaurants and bars - as opposed to those that really focus on it.
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Ale's What Cures Ya
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Postby Ale's What Cures Ya » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:46 pm

So Stone coming to Ontario?

Is this a bars-only thing?
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Postby TheSevenDuffs » Mon Jan 19, 2015 1:51 pm

Ale's What Cures Ya wrote:So Stone coming to Ontario?

Is this a bars-only thing?
Stone will be here soon enough. I have heard the same about New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. Not necessarily 2015 though. I am unsure if this will be draft only or will also include retail sales.
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Postby atomeyes » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:17 pm

TheSevenDuffs wrote:
Ale's What Cures Ya wrote:So Stone coming to Ontario?

Is this a bars-only thing?
Stone will be here soon enough. I have heard the same about New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. Not necessarily 2015 though. I am unsure if this will be draft only or will also include retail sales.


New Belgium, strangely, started by pushing in BC. likely due to our idiotic LCBO.
i expect to see Fat Tire popping up here within a year. it's everywhere in Vegas. strange that it's the go-to ale.

Stone is coming. SN will likely be coming. both will demand that the LCBO treat their beer with respect (i.e. fridges, immediate shipment to stores). will the LCBO play ball? will Stone and SN give them financial incentive to play ball?

There will be a huge US push up here. It's up to bars to decide what's best for them. "best" is either "$$$$" or "good product" or, possibly, both.
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Postby TheSevenDuffs » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:25 pm

atomeyes wrote:will the LCBO play ball? will Stone and SN give them financial incentive to play ball?
.
That may be a moot point. The reason all 3 of these breweries on Ontario's radar is because all 3 have recently added second breweries in eastern US, meaning that production capacity will be more than sufficient to expand ~ not only in to whichever of the 50 states they currently don't distribute to, but to new markets outside of the US. Ontario is ripe for the picking in this scenario.

Playing ball with the LCBO is less relevant when there aren't easy alternatives. For example, Founders can't be bothered to continue to distribute to Ontario, but they continue to expand stateside.

Speaking of Founders, with their current expansion, I think they will be a permanent fixture in Ontario in the not-too-distant future.
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Postby Craig » Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:30 pm

So much hinges on how the coming LCBO/TBS shakeup plays out. If we get private beer retailers (I know, dream on) we might see all kinds of people who previously said no way to the market showing up.

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