A movement for the rest of us - #freemyhops and #freethebeer

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As of late, the Manitoba Liquor Commission has did a very fine job with bringing beer to Manitoba. Seeing as I'm a huge Unibroue fan, I can get just about any Unibroue beer I crave only 5 minutes away from my apartment. Thanks to this blog and Twitter, I have made several new friends, some locally, some out-of-province. One thing I noticed that is consistent in every region of Canada - beer selection. I'm not talking about every part of Canada has the exact same selection - I'm talking about how restrictive it can be to find beers at times from other provinces.

One great example is in Quebec, while they have arguably THE best beer scene in all of Canada, they don't get access to many beers from outside of Quebec. So with this, they don't get to try beers from the fine breweries such as Cannery, Muskoka, Half Pints, and Flying Monkeys. Due to the lack of bieres hors-Québec in Quebec, I know many beer geeks from Quebec who would give up lots of their Dieu du Ciel or Ptit Caribou hoards just so they could try beers they just can't simply get. The same thing happens in other regions in Canada - Here in Manitoba, while I have plentiful access to Half Pints beer (excluding the brewery-only releases), I can't go to a beer vendor or a liquor store and pick up beer from Driftwood, Alley Kat, Beau's or Dieu du Ciel as they don't have distribution rights here in Manitoba. I could possibly do a large custom order of beers through the MLCC, but that is costly - A friend of mine custom ordered some St Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale through the MLCC this past fall, it cost approximately $72 before tax for 24 bottles. As you can see, custom ordering is incredibly expensive as they do have to make money off of the product in order to make it worth their while.

Right now we are seeing Bill C-311 taking place, which is a private member's bill related to shipping/bringing wine from one province to another. Terry David Mulligan first brought this issue up last year when he discovered that there was a law in effect since the end of prohibition that if you were to transport wine or other alcohol substances from one province to another, you could be fined or face imprisonment. He challenged the law by purchasing a case of wine in the Okanagan, calling up the closest RCMP detachment in Alberta letting the police know that he is headed their way and asked them to charge him for bringing the wine. Of course, they didn't, as it is an incredibly archaic law that nobody really realizes still exists. Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas immediately pushed for changes by introducing Bill C-311 last fall as his own constituency is in one of the most important wine regions in Canada.

For wine, if the bill passes, it would allow for a person to bring back wine for personal consumption to their home province. Also, it would allow for wineries to sell wine online directly to the customers for those who can't find the wines in their local stores. This is great and all, but I'm a bit disappointed that it does not include beer.

For me, beer should be part of the bill as we are currently seeing a microbrewery renaissance across the country. In every region of Canada, peoples' beer palates are changing as they're getting tired of the old lagers of their father's generation and now they want something with a lot of hops, coffee, spice and other flavours - something that could be an alternative to a bottle of wine. A small microbrewery should have the ability to set up an online store and allow customers from across the country to purchase wine, because hey - if they don't have the ability to ship to several dozen stores, they should at least be able to ship directly to the customer. I could see it now, order a 650mL bomber off of the brewery's website and it comes directly to your door. If you have ever received beer in the mail, even discretely, you generally have to show identification when receiving the parcel in the first place, so there's slim to nil way that an underage drinker will be tampering with your mail in the first place.

The idea of a brewery shipping beer to the customer could potentially increase sales as for someone like me, I'd absolutely LOVE to try beers from small rural micros such as À la abri de la têmpete, which is a small micro located on Île de la Madeleine (Quebec).

The fact is that if you go to another province, pick up (or MAIL) a bottle or case of beer, bring it to a different province, it's against the law. Thankfully I have never seen anyone get charged with it, especially as I've brought back lots of beer from my Quebec trips over the years.

I hope one day the ability to order beer online becomes a reality, and until then, we need to push for change. What can you do to push for change? Contact your local MLA/MPP and your local Member of Parliament.  Also, follow the #freemyhops or #freethebeer discussion on Twitter! 

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Ian Lloyd
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20 June 2012 at 11:37 delete

It sounds like a good idea. It is sad when BC breweries have an easier time shipping their beers to the US than to other provinces. This law also only reinforces the monopoly of the big breweries, as they have their own breweries in each province. I'm sure they would loose considerable sales if great microbreweries could ship their products across borders.

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bcbrews
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20 June 2012 at 13:05 delete

This may also enable Beer of the Month services where you could get a variety of beer mailed to you monthly by subscription -- a less costly way to sample otherwise unavailable brands than having to endure the hassle and expense of a special order.

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