PREMIER GOURMET, Kenmore, New York


3465 Delaware Ave.
Kenmore, New York (just north of Buffalo)
Tel. (716) 877-3574; Fax. (716) 873-9019
[Get Map]

Incredible. Fantastic. Unbelievable.

These words are apt to describe my feelings upon entering Premier Gourmet, a beer, wine, spirits and food superstore in Kenmore, New York, just north of Buffalo.

Premier Gourmet is, simply put, the greatest selection of beer I have seen with my own eyes. This store puts Vintages, the LCBO and the Beer Store, our only sources for purchasing bottled beer in the province, to shame.

The Premier Group is an unassuming store, located on a commercial street north of Buffalo, New York. Upon entering, sub-doors lead into two main sections, Premier Gourmet and Premier Group. Premier Group is the wine and spirits section, in its own right a fantastic store.

Premier Gourmet is not simply a beer store, but a superstore for all things gourmet. It is a heaven for connoisseurs of fine foods. They define the store as "Where Buffalo Meets The World", and this billing could not be more appropriate. Their website boasts that the store stocks "550 varieties of beer, 400 types of cheeses, 90 flavors of freshly-roasted coffee, 100 different mustards and more than 100 kinds of hot sauce". I have no doubt of the accuracy of these figures; in fact, they may even be understated. As well, they have meats, bakery products, desserts, housewares and art.

Upon entering the store, I wandered to the far back corner where the beer section is located. As I approached, the size of the beer section seemed to increase. The section included head-to-toe shelving units and coolers featuring bottled beers from all over the world. I had stumbled upon the largest selection of bottled beers I had ever seen, with huge selections from the United States, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the rest of the world.

Not only was the selection tremendous, so too were the quality of the beers. All of the beers I had only read about but never tried were on the shelves: the famous New Glarus Belgian Red and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine from the US; the Boon Mariage Parfait Kriek and Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus from Belgium; the Kulmbacher Eisbock from Germany; and Thomas Hardy's Ale from England.

There was so much for a beer lover at Premier Gourmet. Also featured in the beer store are different vintages of various beers, such as the Samichlaus, Thomas Hardy's Ale and Stille Nacht from Belgium - enabling beer lovers to have a vertical tasting without having to wait many years. As well, the breweries' beer glasses, something sorely lacking from the LCBO, were also available. And if that's not enough, I even sampled the cheeses made at the Chimay monastery and brewery in Belgium!

I was aided at the store by their official "Beer Buyer", Lyle Ostrow. He was extremely helpful, and knew a tremendous amount about beer, both brewing and tasting. He recommended beers and even specific vintages to me. I have never met anyone at Vintages, the LCBO or the Beer Store who was so knowledgeable and passionate about beer.

However, as a beer lover could easily spend hundreds of dollars on fantastic beers at this store, one must be very careful and mindful of the laws associated with the importation of beer from New York to Ontario. Currently, you can bring across the border the equivalent of one case (8.5L) duty and tax-free after a 48 hour stay in the United States. However, if the stay is less than 48 hours, a series of duties and taxes will be collected on any beer brought across the border. Unfortunately, beer does not fall under the NAFTA agreement, and US-made beer is not duty-free.

Please see the following example of the duties and taxes charged on beer importation. In this example, the New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red is used, with a retail price of $8.99 (US$), which is packaged in a 750mL bottle.

Retail Price (US$) $8.99
State Tax (8%) $0.72
Subtotal #1 $9.71
Cdn$ Value of Subtotal #1 (1.46 exchRt) $14.18
Import Duty ($0.008 cents/litre) $0.006
Excise Tax/Duty ($0.27985 cents/litre) $0.21
Subtotal #2 $14.40
Ontario Retail Sales Tax (12% of Subtotal #2) $1.73
GST (8% of Subtotal #2) $1.01
Border Levy ($0.676 per litre) $0.51
Total tax to be paid $3.47

Since this duty and tax structure is partially based on quantity of beer imported, this favours more expensive beers over cheaper brands. For the Belgian Red, the total duty and taxes amount to approximately 25% of the Canadian value. Considering the quality and selection of beers available in Buffalo, this is an acceptable cost addition. As well, keep in mind that there is a 45 litre limit for personal importation of alcohol.

Download an Excel workbook to assist in the calculation of the duties and taxes for a beer day trip to Buffalo!

I was simply overwhelmed by this store, and afterwards it was extremely disappointing to again reflect on the beer system in Ontario, when such a store can flourish in a smaller city like Buffalo, but is prevented from even opening in a cosmopolitan city like Toronto. The fight for beer freedom will definitely continue.

Click here to view Premier Gourmet's Beer Listing from September 2002 - PDF

Click here to view Premier Gourmet's 2002 Christmas Seasonal Releases - PDF



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