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Thursday, July 23, 2009

LCBO's Beer Selector - Huh?

The idea behind the LCBO's new summer beer program, Beer Selector, is a good one; however, when the site became live today it was, and still is, rife with many, many errors. Errors in beer descriptions, errors in styles, errors in packaging formats, and errors with pricing. How could 1 of our 2 alcohol retailers screw up the start of a province-wide promotion this bad?

What am I talking about? Well, if you haven't been following the discussion over at Bar Towel let me introduce you to the Beer Selector. Head over to the LCBO's website and click anywhere on the floating beers. This will lead you to the new beer promotion that the arms-length government run liquor retail system is currently running - The Beer Selector.

Now here is where the hair on the back of my neck rises. The website breaks beers down into two categories: Ales and Lagers. Click on the Ales and start scrolling down the page. You'll notice a number of beer bottle shots. Here's the fun, yet heartbreaking part of this journey I'm sending you on: Try picking out all the Lagers listed under the Ale category. Shocking isn't it? Or is it?

On a rough count I immediately found 20 lagers under the Ale section, with notable inclusions of Brooklyn Lager, Creemore Springs Traditional Lager, Cameron's Dark 266 Lager, Moosehead Lager, Nickel Brook Organic Lager and many more. Creemore Springs Traditional Lager is now an Ale? Nickel Brook Organic Lager an Ale? Frankly I find this whole mess to be quite embarrassing. But it doesn't end there.

Click on Lagers now and pick out all the Ales. I could swear that Great Lakes Devil's Pale Ale is indeed an Ale as the name implies; however, it appears that the LCBO thinks it's a Lager and they want you to believe that too. La Fin Du Monde is not a Lager. Neither is Neustadt 10W30 Brown Ale or Mill Street Tank House or Dogfish Head 60 Min IPA or Fullers ESB or Hockley Dark Ale and so on. Who looked this over before it went live?

Then it gets even more humourous. The actual descriptions of some of the beers. Take Unibroue's La Fin Du Monde for example:

Lager | North America | Canada | Light
4.8% Alcohol/Vol.
Created by monks of the middle ages, this 9% ale is triple-fermented for three times the glory.
6x330ml bottles
927350 |$5.45

At least they got the product number right for anyone who wishes to enter it into the product search function on their homepage. It will give you clearer tasting notes if you're interested.

Or how about the tasting notes for Southern Tier IPA: "This beer features a fantastic aroma of fresh raspberries. The taste is tart & crisp, with a raspberry flavour dominating, but also with a nice dry, slightly hopped finish. A very light & refreshing summer ale that can be paired with a variety of dishes." Sounds like the Southern Tier Raspberry not the IPA.

We have two options in which to purchase beer here in Ontario and the government run LCBO is showing how little interested they are in the beer segment. Would this happen for a wine promotion? Definitely not, no way. As a good beer drinker of this province, and as a stakeholder in the LCBO, there should be higher standards than this in place. It is embarrassing to see the world's largest purchaser of alcohol put a world class beer like La Fin Du Monde in a category it should never be in. Just shouldn't happen.

I can also see it being a bit disconcerting on the brewers behalf that the beers they work so hard to produce can get mis-labelled this badly by the LCBO.

The LCBO has made some significant changes in the last couple of years, bringing in and offering some top quality beers, winning back some LCBO naysayers. It seems that they have been listening to customer requests and have become somewhat more flexible than they've been known for in the past. This seems like a step back, right to the basic understanding between what constitutes an Ale from a Lager; and it shouldn't be that way. As I said, the idea behind the 'Beer Selection' is great and if the information was correct it would be a great way for people to learn about new beers. Get back on track LCBO.

1 comment:

Alan said...

Good. Lord. That is almost as bad as seeing my 55 buck LCBO bourbon for 25 bucks at a Maine grocery store.

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