After having spent a large portion of the summer season of 2016 travelling, mainly through Europe, I realized that the beer markets of each of these locations was vastly different. From the huge breweries that dominate the beer scene in Amsterdam and Copenhagen to the small breweries fuelling beer lovers across Iceland, the beer industry differs creating unique beer cultures across the world.
I thought I’d start by sharing something close to my heart and discuss the popularization of craft beer in Ontario. I love craft beer through and through; the adventurous tastes and eye catching graphics on the can or bottle come together to create a unique experience that is so rich you inevitably want more. You can taste everything in these brews which allows the drinker to connect with the brewer creating a long lasting relationship. There are also a wide variety of craft beers that allow beginners to easily find something that they like and gives seasoned craft beer drinkers opportunities to push their taste buds even further.
Ontario Craft Brewers state that craft brewers in Ontario cannot produce more than 400,000 hectolitres of beer per year. If they produce more, then they are no longer considered a “craft brewer” and would be reclassified as a larger commercial brewer. To give this some perspective, Molson Coors produced 73,000,000 hectolitres of beer in 2014. You may wonder how these craft breweries can compete with the established breweries, but in fact they are thriving by banding together under the Ontario Craft Brewers organization to raise their market power. This power has allowed them to create a close relationship with the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) to provide shelf space and craft beer features in LCBO advertisements and publications. In 2015 LCBO craft beer sales rose by 36%! The partnership has gone so far that the LCBO have now begun creating Craft Beer Zones that resemble the setting of a fine wine market more than a beer market. These locations are outfitted with a wide
selection of craft beer and stations where consumers can sample before they buy. The government has helped craft beer in another way as well by changing tax laws. These new laws mean that craft beer is taxed by the litre instead of by the brewer selling price and that micro-breweries pay a lower 30% tax that raises as the brewery becomes more successful. These laws have lead to a boom in the creation of craft breweries. In 2015 alone the Ontario Craft Brewer’s Association added 20 new members increasing membership from 45 to 65.
All of this has been a byproduct of the massive shift in the beer drinking trend with consumers now wanting to experiment with their beers as they do with their wines or fine liquors. Drinking craft beer has become more social with events created around the beer where enthusiasts can discuss the beers and share ideas. This need for creativity in a beer has driven the breweries to become more creative as well. A consumer can easily walk into almost any LCBO and find a craft beer that includes chocolate, strawberries, orange or, if you are so inclined, pizza crust. While craft beer advertisements are becoming more prevalent, a large portion of the growth must be attributed to word-of-mouth. The best beers I’ve ever tried were recommended to me either directly or via a friend’s social media post featuring the beer. These newly created craft breweries have been able to benefit from this social media traffic and have put themselves in a position for continued growth as more people learn about craft beer.