Pabst Blue Ribbon or Old Vienna??

January 31st, 2009

Following is a great little post from Great Canadian Pubs and Beer.

I came across this newspaper article today from the Windsor Star - Draught Beer Switch Earns Licence Suspension.

It appears that a bar in Windsor was serving Pabst Blue Ribbon (Sleeman) from the Old Vienna (Molson) draught line, using the Old Vienna tap handle, without telling any patrons who were ordering the OV.

According to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, the violation happened Sept. 10, 2008. Pabst Blue Ribbon beer was connected to the Old Vienna beer tap and the bartender didn’t tell customers, the AGCO said in a news release.

The bar received a five day liquor licence suspension at the hands of the AGCO because the owner has shown remorse, but nowhere in the article does it say that it was a mistake. Was it? Or was it the work of a brewery sales rep? You know what I mean by that.

But the real question I have is: Did customers notice the difference between the two generic beers? And people still drink this stuff?


A Brewers Perspective

November 6th, 2008

In Ontario, a  Free house is a pub that is free of the control of any one particular brewery or pub supply group. The restaurant chains that dominate the landscape here are typically tied to one brewer under contract or belong to a buying group that limits choice but offers a better selling price based on volume.

Beyond the big ‘contract’, inducements such as tap equipment, furniture, trips and cash are common in almost every chain and most bars I’ve been in (hundreds). I have been told this by franchise operators, bar owners and brewery reps. That being said, the system is tight. You won’t find proof lying around and it seems that there are very few people checking unless a direct complaint is laid. The classic irony is that if a charge is ever laid, I’m sure it will be against a small brewer who is offered an irresistible chance to buy some high volume business but, unlike the big brewers doesn’t have the legal resources to fight a charge.

Clearly, the current set of rules & regs and particularly enforcement has not succeeded in keeping licensee taps open to all players. The big breweries control a significant portion of the sales and I don’t think it would be difficult to say that small brewers have access to less than 5% of taps province wide. There are both exclusive and exclusionary pubs in Ontario and though some chains have uniform products, some allow managers a bit of freedom (very few). The reality is that Ontario is virtually a tied-house province.

As a small brewer, I don’t care much about inducements. They are illegal today and it doesn’t seem to stop anything. If Inbev, SAB/Miller/Coors/Molson, Carlsberg or Heineken want to spraycan money around; so be it. What I would like to have is access to taps and take our chances. If you limit the number of single corporation taps in any house to 50%, what then?

The problem becomes that you need more overpaid government employees to enforce the limits and the last thing we need is more government employees.

Reality dictates that the tied-house system in Ontario is not going away soon. The freehouses we have are gems and have not disappeared despite the efforts of the evil multi-nationals to buy them off. Today’s drinker is increasingly looking for flavour. The chronic Blue, 50, Ex or Canadian drinker is fast becoming a thing of the past. The old-style advertising image of big boobs selling large quantities of alcopops and big-brand lager to large groups of young people is awkward and changing. Our typical drinker at Grand River Brewing ranges from 19 to 75 and does not stay fixed on one brand continually. They are bright and question bland uniformity. The evil empire knows this and sees it in falling sales and price wars on their so-called ‘premium’ brands.

Small brewers are small companies providing jobs across Ontario. We need the opportunity to sell within our communities and somehow we have to make that happen. The freehouse is a concept and location that deserves some serious support.

Rob Creighton
Grand River Brewing
Cambridge, Ontario


It’s never to late to try new things…

October 29th, 2008

It used to be that when a customer asked for a Rickers Red,  Len or I would say “we only serve real beer here,” only to confuse some patrons. Then we would suggest something simular – and would prattle off beers that the customer had no clue to. I find it much easier to just hand them a sample of say McAuslans Pale Ale or Mill-Race Mild from Grand River…99% of the time the customer is impressed and hopefully the experience will embolden them to try other micros.


Enjoy Seasonal Beers with Autumn Dishes

October 29th, 2008

Now that we are into the autumn season,  we should enjoy the seasonal beers out there and incorporate them into food – such as Grand River’s Pumpkin Beer or Berry Wheat etc. Here is a recipe for an autumn soup that I used in a beer matching dinner a couple of weeks ago.


  1. Roast a squash-pumkin, acorn, or kabocha in butter , salt and pepper, brown sugar or maple syrup  and smoke paprika.
  2. aute in oil 1 large onion, garlic , and ginger.( yam and some carrots is an option as well )
  3. Add chicken stock. or vegetable stock, 1 pint of pumpkin ale. or Apricot Wheat, salt and pepper.
  4. Add 3 shredded green apples.
  5. Add the roasted squash and 1 Tbsp of curry spice.
  6. Add 1 cup of roasted blanched almonds and 1 cup of 35% cream- Hand Blend soup.

Judie Owens, Chef – Owner – Golden Kiwi Pub and Grill Cambridge Ontario