Follow beer writer, Troy Burtch, as he explores the wonderful world of craft beer and the pubs that serve it. Great Canadian Beer is a place to come to catch up on beer news, read tasting notes, check out event listings, and for pub previews and reviews.


Friday, March 6, 2009

LCBO's The Inside Story: Meet the Makers

The LCBO is currently running a month long promotion aptly named ‘The Inside Story,” an initiative where consumers will have the opportunity to “Meet the Makers” – as in the individuals behind some of the biggest companies in the beer, spirits and wine business. Started on March 1st and running until the 28th, brewers, wine makers, distillers, brand representatives and company owners will be visiting various LCBO stores province wide to meet the people who purchase their products, offering personal tasting notes, sharing some history on their products, and discussing the art of their profession.

Last night I was invited to attend the launch party for this promotion at Reds Bistro and Wine Bar where each of the 30 companies who are participating in the promotion were serving their products. Mill Street, Creemore Springs, Sleeman’s, and Pilsner Urquell are the beer companies featured, and Joel Manning (Mill Street), Gordon Fuller (Creemore), John Sleeman (Sleeman’s), and a Pilsner Urquell representative were on hand pouring beers from their portfolio.

“This is a great promotion for beer drinkers in this province as they’ll be able to meet with some of the people responsible for brewing the beer they buy,” stated LCBO Media Relations Spokesperson, Chris Layton. I agree.

Here in Ontario, especially Toronto, and probably other craft brewing friendly cities nation-wide, getting to know the brewers or brewery owners of a small operation is not that hard to do. Show up to a local beer event and chances are you’ll be able to talk with the person who throws those hops in the kettle while enjoying a pint of their beer. However, for the general public (not the hardcore beer enthusiasts’), this promotion will provide them with a unique opportunity to meet the individuals at their local LCBO store in person.

There will be 28 tutored tastings, and more than 40 consumer tastings taking place at select stores throughout the province. For example, Sleeman's, Mill Street, and Creemore will be in Ottawa on Friday March 13th from 6:30pm - 8pm to share their stories. A ticket for $40 will get you access to samples. Click here to see events taking place in your area.

Back to the launch event. Looking around I noticed that I was the only media person there representing any sort of beer publication. There were wine writers, spirit writers, photographers and food and drink writers covering the event, but only I for beer. So how did I cover it? Well, I hung out with the brewers and brewery representatives and drank their beer for free and chatted about new developments at two breweries, which will be confirmed here later this month.

I met John Sleeman for the first time and had a great discussion about Ontario craft beer, specifically discussing the beers from Grand River and Mill Street. He was a very interesting man to speak with, very enthusiastic about beer and certainly optimistic about sales during this recession we’re in. I asked him about Sapporo buying Sleeman’s and he said everything has been going great and he is happy with the way things have gone. While I wanted to bring up the Dead Frog lawsuit and the Mill Street issue that happened in the summer, I thought it wasn’t the proper venue to hold such a conversation, and it would be better to keep listening to him talk about his passion for beer.

There were LCBO beer category representatives in attendance as well, and a game of ‘name your six desert island beers’ came up. Pretty hard to do on the spot. During this discussion it was announced that Propeller ESB (brought to you by the Roland and Russell Import Agency) will finally be coming to the LCBO soon as a general listing. More details to follow.

It was a good time catching up with some of the brewery representatives and the LCBO employees, and the media relations and marketing team did a good job blending all the makers together. There were some good appetizers (oysters and lobster corn dogs rocked) and the beer served spoke for itself. Share the 'Inside Story' with co-workers and encourage them to get out to one of the tastings in your area.

* Photo 1 - LCBO's Chris Layton addressing the crowd
* Photo 2 - John Sleeman
*Photo 3 - The entire group that will be part of the Inside Story


Lager Bore said...

I wonder how much each brewery had to pay to be part of this campaign?

Lager Bore said...

Strangely conspicuous from its absence in this morning's big, splashy LCBO insert in the Saturday Star, is any mention Joel Manning's Mill Street Brewery. There certainly isn't a big full-page advertorial as there is for Pilsner Urquell and Sleeman's, and he isn't even mentioned on the back "thumbnail" page. Interesting!

Alan said...

Wow - "throughout Ontario" seems to mean Toronto, Ottawa, places where people from Toronto go on a weekend or places where people who work in Toronto live. What great service from the LCBO!

Troy Burtch said...

LagerBore - not sure how much :) and weird not seeing Mill Street mentioned in the Star?

Alan - I haven't looked over where the events will be staged, but from what you've said - not good.

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